When it comes to residential internet in the United States, cable is one of the most common forms of access, currently covering over 194 million Americans.
While plans and speeds vary tremendously between areas, all cable service is provided through coaxial cable (the same stuff that traditional analog TV service was provided) to deliver fast and reliable “last mile” internet access to consumers.
According to industry reports, the latest cable technology, DOCSIS 3.0 has been deployed to 85% of households and is capable of download speeds faster than 100 Mbps.
For more details about the number of providers and what communities they serve, we've compiled a full list of a every provider offering cable service in the United States.
Should You Get Cable Internet Service?
If you don’t have access to fiber optic internet in your area, cable internet service may be your best bet for a fast reliable internet connection.
Just make sure to research your cable provider first to understand their reputations with regards to customer service, data caps, and billing transparency.
Large Coverage Area
Because cable internet services leverage the existing infrastructure there is wide coverage cross the continental United States and is a great solution for reliable wired broadband access.
Relatively Fast Speeds
With the latest versions of DOCSIS 3.0 and beyond cable internet is a good solution for delivering fast download and upload speeds that will support most consumer needs.
Cable internet has a much lower latency than other service types allowing for a faster “round trip” of data making the connection much faster than other alternatives such as fixed wireless or satellite.
Since cable technology uses electrical currents to transmit data the bandwidth capabilities and future usefulness of coaxial cables will be pale in comparison to those of fiber optic connections.
Due to the cost of creating a coaxial infrastructure many areas only have access to one cable provider leaving customers with limited selection of services.
How it Works
While much of the backbone of the internet is built via fiber optic connections, but internet service providers often use less expensive or pre-existing lines such as cable TV lines or telephone lines in the case of DSL service to solve the “last mile” problem of deliver the final internet connection to customers.
Because most US homes are already wired to receive cable, cable internet is one of the most common of these “last mile” technologies.
In order to supply, reliable broadband to a region, cable providers generally place central hubs within a hundred mile radius of the area they service.
From the hub, they run data down the existing TV infrastructure to the consumer’s home where a cable modem makes sense of the data.
According to a 2013 report by the FCC, cable service providers deliver 99% of their advertised speeds, though some companies did provide less than that number.
Furthermore, the 2013 report showed that overall the cable industry offers services with relatively low latency (26ms), a key factor in how fast an internet connection performs and how fast it "feels."