Choosing an internet provider and plan can be a challenging task. There are so many options and advertisements that it can be tough to separate what’s good and what isn’t. You see limited-time deals, potentially misleading numbers, and reviews that assume knowledge you don’t have. With so many facets to the decision, what should guide you?
While it’s helpful to know as much as possible, one thing you can often rely on is customer reviews and opinions. People have been in your situation before and have picked out a new ISP or one for the first time. You can learn from their wise decisions and mistakes and don’t need to make the same investment. While a single review should be read with caution, the consensus can be a reliable indicator of quality and eventual satisfaction.
Therefore, we wrote this guide to help you know more about some of the current top internet providers in the United States. We made our choices heavily based on customer satisfaction and reviews and what those providers have to offer customers. With that in mind, we hope you’ll understand everything better by the time you’re done reading.
Things to Consider When Choosing Your Internet Provider
The most important things when choosing an ISP are generally speed, price, reliability, and availability. Of course, there are a few other things, but they pale in comparison to these pillars. You may put one of these pillars as your top priority, but no matter who you are, you must consider all four. Otherwise, you might run into problems and make a decision you regret. Don’t worry if you’re unsure what to look for, as we’ll go into more detail on each of these factors below.
On top of these primary things, you also need to consider your own needs when it comes to internet service. A wealthy family with a large home and plenty of people living in that home will have different internet needs than a recent college graduate living alone in a city apartment. You’ll need to examine your priorities to make the best choice.
If a provider isn’t available in your area, there is no need to research them; it would be a waste of time. Very few providers operate in all 50 states, and only a small handful operate across most of the country. No matter how fast plans from a provider are, they will do you no good if the ISP doesn’t provide service in your area.
Therefore, before anything else, you should learn what providers and plans are available in your area. You can use this website to do so. All you need to do is go to our home page and type your zip code in the internet provider tool. You’ll then get results that tell you your options for providers. From each of them, you can learn more about what plans are on offer.
Outside of price, for some people, speed is the singular most important thing when it comes to picking out a service provider and a plan.
Yet what do you need? Here are the activities a household can expect to do with the following speed ranges.
At this speed, you won’t be able to do much. You can do basic browsing, check email, and maybe stream music on one device, but video will be difficult, and you won’t be able to use more than one device at a time. We strongly recommend avoiding this speed range if at all possible.
This is quite a range in what is possible, though it is still on the slower side. Users may be unable to stream HD video or make good video calls on one device. It might be good for online gaming for one player, assuming there isn’t much else happening on the network. It is best to try and find something better than this range.
This is a good speed for online gaming with multiple people, downloading large files in a reasonable amount of time, and streaming video in UHD. It is above the broadband standard and is enough for a household to handle many of its needs. However, it might not be enough for large households running many devices, so keep this in mind.
In this range, you should be able to stream video in UHD on multiple devices without issue. A household should be perfectly content doing what they please. There might be some limitations on the lower end of this range, but these will be few and far between. And if you’re working on a single device, you’ll be able to do whatever you want on that one device. Large downloads will also happen quickly.
In this range, you can do practically anything you’d like with quite a few devices while downloading large files. Even the largest games will download in less than an hour, and your internet connection will not delay work-related tasks. Your household should be set if you can get a connection this fast.
An internet connection that isn’t reliable is not one you want to have, no matter what else might be advertised or the speed. Consider it much like having a car on the highway that will randomly hit the brakes completely. It can ruin your plans and mess up what you were working on. It can disconnect you from your video call or gaming session. It can set you back on your educational or work-related goals. Having a reliable connection is even more important if your career relies on the internet.
You want to avoid opening your browser and finding no connection. While some outages will occur with every connection due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, they should be kept to a minimum. Read reviews and check resources about outages from a provider in your area. This is more of a regional issue, so there’s no blanket statement to be made about any provider when it comes to this.
Price is naturally a consideration when buying any service. You will want to find the right balance between price and speed with internet service. Note that when considering plans, the price should be more than just the amount you’re paying each month for service or the amount advertised. Also, look at the equipment fees, potential monthly service fees, installation costs, and more. These things can add up quickly. Also, check out promotions, deals, and bundles to see if you can save money.
You need to consider your situation as well. An expensive plan might not be the right choice for a low-income household, as nice as a deal it might otherwise be. Yet, at the same time, a good internet plan is a good investment if you rely on it for work.
Types of Internet Service
While the above factors are important, what determines these factors? Some of it is the responsibility of the ISP and how well they maintain their infrastructure. But much more of it is the infrastructure used to provide the internet service in the first place. There are several types of internet service, some differing vastly from others. What service type you have will effectively determine how much you’ll be paying per month, how reliable and fast your connection will be, and much more. Therefore, when looking up your option, pay close attention to what type of internet service is available.
Here's what you need to know about each of the major types:
Satellite internet is a broadband internet service that utilizes satellites to relay information. The ISP uses a ground station to broadcast data (the internet) into space. This is rerouted by high-bandwidth satellites orbiting the earth back down to earth, where it is then picked up by powered satellite dishes owned by users of the satellite service. A modem translates the signals, and the process regularly repeats itself to create a consistent connection.
However, there are quite a few issues with satellite internet for most users. It is often slow, and when it isn’t slow it is expensive. Many users can only expect download speeds of 25 Mbps, which will be inconsistent. Upload speeds will hover around 3 Mbps. And the biggest problem for many will be the latency or ping rate, which will be in the hundreds of milliseconds. This means that some activities, such as online gaming or video calling, will be nearly impossible.
Additionally, satellite internet plans usually have stringent data caps on them. Most households operating normally would quickly burn through this monthly data allowance, leading quickly to connection throttling. Therefore, satellite internet users must ration their data to a degree and consider what they want to download.
Yet why would anyone put up with all of these problems? Satellite internet is available across the country, making it the best choice for many people living in remote or rural areas that cable or fiber internet providers wouldn’t touch. It is the option available to practically anyone with money and a clear line of sight to the sky. It connects people to the internet who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance.
Note that there are effectively two types of satellite internet: GEO and LEO. GEO is what we have described for the most part, given that it is available across the country and has been around for a while now. However, Starlink offers LEO satellite internet to some areas. LEO is much faster (80-90 Mbps download speed on average), has much lower latency, and is more affordable in terms of value. It is the better option, but it isn’t widely available and remains unproven in some cases.
DSL internet utilizes phone lines to transfer information (the internet). Note that it is distinctly different from dial-up in that DSL uses frequencies that the phone lines are capable of carrying but landline phone service doesn’t use. Therefore, higher speeds are possible, and landline service is not disrupted in any way by a DSL connection.
Yet those higher speeds than dial-up are not as impressive as they used to be. The best DSL internet provider can usually do is 100 Mbps of download speed. This is fine for many households, but this is rare to find. The electrical signals used in DSL internet degrade over distance. This means that about 10 percent of homes in the United States can get such speeds. The rest might get very low speeds, to the point where it isn’t able to meet the demands of a modern internet user, much less a household of them. Upload speeds are universally slow, often maxing out at 3 Mbps.
DSL internet is much more widely available, given that it uses phone lines. Phone lines are set up across nearly all the developed United States. DSL internet is available across much of that space. That's its main advantage.
Cable internet utilizes cable lines and infrastructure to provide broadband internet service to millions of households across the United States. Data travels along the cable lines (yet does not disrupt cable TV service), and the signal is translated by a modem, leading to a working internet connection.
Cable internet is capable of faster speeds than DSL or satellite internet and is generally capable of providing homes with several hundred Mbps of download speed. This is enough for most needs and allows for quick downloads and a good online experience. However, it should be noted that upload speeds are not as good as with fiber, and the speeds are less consistent than with fiber internet. Congestion in some neighborhoods can be a problem, leading to lower speeds during peak hours.
Given that cable lines are installed widely across the country, cable internet is one of the most popular internet services in the United States and the most used, depending on which statistics you look at. This, combined with its speed, makes it a solid choice among most households.
The best option for most households, though the one that’s perhaps available to the least number of them, fiber internet uses fiber optic cables to deliver internet service. The fiber optic cables quickly transport pulses of light, which are then interpreted by a modem. Fiber internet is much faster than any other internet available today and represents the best possible connection most people can have. Plans with download speeds of 1 Gbps are regularly available, and with many providers, upload speeds match download speeds. Furthermore, latency is generally very low (all else being equal).
Fiber internet is one of the more expensive options for people if you’re just looking at the basic bill, but note that the value provided by fiber internet cannot be beaten. The added speed and reliability of fiber are worth the extra money spent on it, especially when the difference usually isn’t that great. It is truly one of the best innovations related to the internet in recent decades.
Fixed Wireless Internet
A more recent option for some households, fixed wireless internet utilizes the newer 5G infrastructure to get internet into people’s homes. Users will have a receiver installed in their home (though not as big as those used for satellite internet) at a fixed point which will have a good line of sight to the broadcast tower. It then works much like 5G service, using radio waves to transfer information (the internet).
It is currently used in rural or remote areas to provide internet service to people who might not have cable or fiber infrastructure available to allow for those types of service. Download speeds will vary from 25 Mbps to 100 Mbps (slower or faster, depending on the provider). Upload speeds will rarely go above 5 Mbps, and latency will be worse than most forms of internet service but better than satellite. It might be best to think of fixed wireless internet as a middle point between satellite and cable or fiber internet service.
The Best Internet Providers of 2023
Now that you have a better idea of what you should look for and general criteria let’s talk more about specific service providers. Each of these best internet providers for 2023 has good ratings for customer satisfaction. They might not get top marks for every category, and not every plan from them will be worth consideration, but overall, customers are pleased with what they are getting.
If you’re worried about these plans or providers and how they are comparatively priced, we have you covered there. For general information purposes, the average home internet bill in the United States is about $65 per month, though this can vary. Satellite internet is the most expensive at $123 per month, and fiber and cable bills come at a distant second at $59 per month. DSL is the cheapest at $50 per month, but the value proposition with DSL is poor.
Here is what you need to know about these providers:
Xfinity: Best in Value
One of the biggest names in internet, Xfinity, has high customer satisfaction scores, though it might not be perfect when one looks at the options in total. They provide cable or fiber internet to homes across the country, and different regions will have different offerings regarding plans and options. This can make them highly competitive based on the region, though it also means that no region scores a particularly good deal. With that in mind, why does it get good scores? It works and provides great speeds for reasonable prices after all the math is done to figure out what one’s final bill would be.
Major details include:
- Plans will vary, so you will want to check specifically what is available in your area. Generally, users in areas with fiber infrastructure will have access to a gigabit internet plan for about $100-$110. With these plans, upload speeds will usually be limited to 35-40 Mbps. Cheaper plans are often available for lower prices, though often the price difference is a poor value proposition, and the gigabit plan is the best option for many households.
- Some regions do not have data caps, while others do. The areas and plans that do have a data cap will generally put it at 1.2 TB, which is more than enough for the average household though still a disappointment to many. There is a $30 monthly plan for unlimited data for those with a data cap.
- There are many deals, perks, bundling options, and more for Xfinity customers. There are too many to mention here, and they can change frequently. Some are quite useful and add to the total value proposition of an Xfinity plan and pricing, however, so be sure to take a look.
- Among cable internet providers, it is rated first in customer satisfaction. Among all internet service providers, they are among the top five in every region. The only ISP that regularly beat them was AT&T.
- With the perks on offer and the total speeds, Xfinity is a great option for families looking for an excellent internet connection. They’ll be able to make the most of everything for the price, and there is already a strong track record of satisfied customers.
Things to watch out for include:
- The gateway rental (equipment rental) for many plans can be expensive and is required. In some regions, for some plans, it can reach $25, adding a significant percentage to the total bill.
- There is a price increase for most plans after a promotional period. While the overall value can be great for customers, Xfinity can be expensive for many households after a while, and the price increase can come as a shock.
- The prices and services you experience can vary based on your region. Some regions will be better and have better deals than others. You will want to do some comparison shopping regardless of where you are.
AT&T Fiber: Best for the Fastest Fiber Speeds
Often Customer satisfaction comes down to getting the fastest speeds and the best technical quality of service. In these facets, AT&T fiber comes out on top, providing some of the fastest internet speeds in the industry and relatively low prices compared to other ISPs. AT&T primarily operates in the Southeastern United States, though it can be available elsewhere. They are looking to expand their service and based on their previous reputation (for at least some plans), they will succeed in their efforts.
AT&T fiber notably has excellent ratings when it comes to customer service. If you’re concerned about having a rough time on a call with support, AT&T Fiber should get extra attention from you.
Major details include:
- AT&T provides a large range of plans to potential customers. When it comes to fiber plans, they often range from 300 Mbps download and upload speed for $55 per month to 940 Mbps download speed, and 880 Mbps upload speed for $80 per month. On top of this, some regions might have slightly more expensive plans that offer 2 Gbps or 5 Gbps speeds. This makes AT&T fiber potentially the fastest provider in the country.
- The prices for fiber service don’t change after the first year like other providers. There are no promotional rates to worry about, and the monthly base prices are competitive.
- Given the bandwidth and stability of your connection, AT&T fiber is an excellent choice for smart homes or those hoping to install more devices in their home. This can improve one’s quality of life if they’re willing to make a bit of an investment.
- Fiber plans do not have a data cap. Additionally, there are no equipment fees with AT&T home internet. This makes working with them a more customer-friendly experience, and you’ll be able to download what you’d like with fewer concerns about throttling or overage charges. The equipment provided will also be more than sufficient for most people’s needs.
- While this shouldn’t be a significant consideration in your final choice, promotional offers or deals are often available—at least look before ordering. Bundling services may also be an option in your area if you’re willing to make a commitment. Otherwise, a contract is not required for service or to get the lowest price.
Things to watch out for include:
- Like many other providers, there is a vast difference between the fiber service and other types of service provided. In this case, DSL internet from AT&T isn’t the best option. It can be incredibly slow and nearly useless for anyone hoping to have a normal online life.
- Additionally, while data caps aren’t an issue for fiber plans, there are data caps on those DSL plans (if one can even reach them with the speeds provided).
- While standalone plans do not require a contract or agreement, bundles might. If you’re hoping to get TV or another service alongside internet service, you may want to reevaluate and make sure that AT&T is absolutely the best option for your household.
- Like many other providers, fiber availability is limited. This means that even though AT&T might be operating in your area, that isn’t a guarantee you’ll be getting good service. Pay close attention to the plans on offer.
Verizon Fios: Best for Affordability
Verizon Fios is one of the best providers currently in operation, providing fiber plans for reasonable prices and getting good customer satisfaction scores. Generally, they are only available in the Northeast, though they are slowly expanding to new areas. In those areas, they have garnered a reputation for being the best in the area in terms of price, service, and more, so they are definitely worth your consideration.
We would like to point out that Verizon Fios doesn’t do promotional rates for the first 12 months of the plan. The rate on offer at the start is the same as what you’ll likely be paying in a year. This, combined with the fact that equipment fees aren’t there and other factors, means that it is an affordable option for most, even if the plan details at first glance are on par with other providers.
Major details include:
- There are three main plans available. The Fios 300 plan has 300 Mbps upload and download speed for $50 per month. The Fios 500 plan offers 500 Mbps upload and download speed for $70 per month. Then there is the Fios Gigabit Connection plan, which provides users with 940 Mbps of download speed and 880 Mbps of upload speed for $90 a month.
- There are some plans for a Fios 2 Gigabit Connection plan to be launched in select areas in 2023, but these will be limited and not something to be too concerned about right now.
- All plans have no data cap. You can use the internet as much as you’d like.
- There is no equipment fee that is commonly found with other providers. You’ll get your equipment as part of the plan, and you don’t have to worry about paying extra.
- Some of the best plans are available for fast fiber internet and reasonable prices. We cannot stress enough that these are fair prices for fiber service, especially the lower-tier plans. They are perfect for a household with one or two users that might not need a gigabit plan but don’t need the benefits (and costs) of a full gigabit plan.
- Like many of the other popular and best-reviewed internet service options, no term agreements or long-term contracts are necessary with any Verizon Fios plan. You can cancel service on short notice if they are not a good option for your household.
- If it is under the name Verizon Fios, you can be sure you are getting a 100 percent fiber connection. This means some of the best speeds, consistency, and service possible for consumers, and their plans offer symmetrical upload and download speeds.
Things to look out for include:
- While their fiber service is excellent, DSL from Verizon is something to avoid. Most of the benefits of working with Verizon aren’t there with DSL service, and speeds will be very low. Be careful to note what service types and plans are available in your area.
- Unfortunately, Verizon Fios isn’t widely available across the country. That means that, as mentioned above, you need to pay special attention to what plans are there.
Spectrum: Best for No Contracts
Spectrum is one of the biggest providers in the country for cable internet and internet service in general, and it also is one of the best. It operates across 41 states, though it is active more in the Eastern side of the United States. Yet what makes Spectrum stand out in customers' eyes is that no contract is necessary to work with them. If you don’t like them, you can switch if you feel the need. And you can do so with no penalty. And while they aren’t perfect when it comes to other elements of customer satisfaction, there is plenty to look at and consider for your home.
Major details include:
- Spectrum has three major plans to choose from. The Spectrum Internet Plan has an eventual regular rate of $80 for 300 Mbps download speed, and 10 Mbps upload speed. Then, the Spectrum Internet Ultra plan for $100 per month provides 500 Mbps download speed, and 20 Mbps upload speed. And last but not least, there is the Spectrum Internet Gig choice for $120. This plan provides 940 Mbps download speed, and 35 Mbps upload speed.
- Not every plan will be available in your area if Spectrum operates there. You might be limited to a lower-speed plan.
- As mentioned, Spectrum is an excellent option if you are worried about a contract. You do not have to get an agreement or contract if you want your service. However, depending on your area, something of the sort might be offered for a bundle or a special deal. Weigh your options before deciding on such a commitment.
- There are currently no data caps on plans. Spectrum is a strong option for power users who need or want to make many downloads over time. There are no fears of throttling, which is a clear advantage over many of Spectrum’s competitors.
- The installation will generally cost $60. However, self-installation can be done for a total cost of $40 (service activation and self-installation kit), which is quick and relatively easy. Note that WiFi activation costs an additional $10, which everyone will want to have.
- They have a relatively straightforward pricing structure and are not likely to randomly increase rates without notice or add extra fees, for they worry about their reputation on this point. Prices will likely increase eventually, but this is the case for all providers.
Some things to watch out for include:
- While Spectrum is one of the fastest overall cable providers on the market, it is still a cable provider. That means some users might experience slowdowns and issues related to network congestion during peak hours. We recommend reading reviews about Spectrum in your area to see if it is a pronounced issue.
- While the pricing is very straightforward, Spectrum is rather expensive for a cable provider and an ISP. Its pricing structure somewhat offsets this, but even the cheapest plan is a high monthly cost to some families.
- While Spectrum doesn’t reach the lows of some ISPs and is generally getting better in recent years, they are not perfect when it comes to customer service and customer satisfaction. While customers are overall happy with the plans they are getting and their day-to-day service, some interactions can improve.
ViaSat: Best Satellite Internet Speeds
As we mentioned, satellite internet is a tricky proposition. It is usually best in more rural or remote areas due to its accessibility, but it can be extremely limited and expensive compared to other service types. However, ViaSat has its place as the fastest option among the two major satellite providers, and it stands the greatest chance of allowing users to live a relatively normal (if limited) online life.
Major details include:
- Pricing starts at $85 per month after the promotional pricing period, although this will not get users all that much. This will provide the basic plan of a 25 Mbps download speed, 3 Mbps upload speed, and 40 GB of data allowance. At this lower tier, HughesNet has every advantage over Viasat.
- The plans go up in price quite drastically depending on what plan you get. The best plan on offer provides 150 Mbps of download speed and 300GB of data allowance (still the same 3 Mbps of upload speed), but it will set users back 350 dollars a month on top of the other usual charges.
- As of this writing, there are potentially two sets of ViaSat plans you might be working from. They are the “Unlimited” and the “New Choice” plans. What you have available will likely be dependent on your location. The New Choice plans are based on newer technology and practices and are overall the better option.
- As it’s on this list, Viasat has a relatively decent reputation for customer satisfaction, if an imperfect one, given that it works with satellite internet and with people all over the country, often in harder-to-reach places. They are more responsive than most ISPs, and will at least attempt to solve issues if you have them (though nothing can be guaranteed).
- Note that those interested in satellite internet might also be interested in Starlink. While we would recommend it in most cases for anyone who has it available to them over ViaSat and HughesNet, it isn’t widespread enough for us to recommend universally. However, be on the lookout for it, and research it more if it interests you.
- Being a satellite provider, it is available practically everywhere in the United States, except for some parts of Alaska. Not every plan will be available in every region, but internet service will be possible.
Some things to look out for include:
- As referenced, data caps will be an issue. If you are an internet power user and there is any other option available, then satellite internet and, therefore, ViaSat is not for you.
- Recently there was a bit of a price hike with ViaSat, and there’s no guarantee that prices won’t go up again. Competition from up-and-coming satellite internet providers might keep things down, but the future is uncertain.
- Download and upload speeds are relatively low compared to other types of internet service. And speeds might not always match what was advertised.
- Latency will be a huge issue for anyone hoping to make video calls or game online.
Getting the right internet plan for your household can be tricky, but we have every faith you can do it. You will want to make sure that you know what’s in your area, understand what your priorities are, and remember to take into account the customers that came before you. If there’s a lousy provider, learn from other people’s bad times and don’t make the same mistake. If there is an excellent provider, be more confident in moving forward and getting a plan with that company. Just keep in mind the key factors for getting service, which will guide you to finding the “best” provider.
There is naturally much more to internet service, even with the significant amount of information we’ve already covered. We invite you to do further research, especially if you have unique internet needs, and encourage you to return to this page as you feel the need. Thank you for reading, and may you find the perfect plan for your home.
What is the cheapest way to get internet?
That will depend on what ISPs are operating in your area. Most ISPs will have different plans available, so look for the cheapest one, but make sure you get enough internet speed for your household. On top of that, look for discounts, offers, and deals that can allow you to save money. Many might not be permanent, but every dollar counts.
On top of this, if you are in a low-income household, you should look into the Affordable Connectivity Program, which can give you a monthly discount on your internet bill.
How much does internet installation cost?
It can vary. Professional installation, when it has a cost, usually costs $100 or so. Yet this is with a technician coming out to install the service. Self-installation is generally free or much cheaper. Additionally, many, if not most, ISPs will have free installation deals if you order online or meet another condition. Check your options and see if you can lower your installation and equipment costs.
Note that satellite internet is entirely different, and installation costs can sometimes be higher.
What’s the fastest type of internet?
Generally speaking, fiber optic internet will be the fastest type of internet in practically every way. It is capable of the fastest download speeds. Plans using fiber often have equal upload and download speeds. Latency is, barring other issues outside the ISP’s control, excellent. And while no system is perfect, it is generally the most consistent type of connection. We recommend fiber internet in some form to practically everyone when it is available.
Why is my internet slow even when speed tests say it’s fine?
It could be one of several causes. There might be an intermittent issue with your equipment. There could be a virus on your computer or a malfunction that makes everything run slower, not just the programs that use the internet. There might also be a bottleneck on your router or some devices and not others. Test using multiple devices and try to pinpoint the source of the problem.
Does a VPN slow down my internet speed?
While a VPN doesn’t have to slow down your internet speed, it can. It depends on the VPN, the server you are using, and other factors. To minimize this risk, there are a few things you should do. Try to use a premium or paid VPN instead of a free one you find online (this is also safer). Unless you have a reason not to, use the closest server available to your location. And test your internet speed when you are not using the VPN.