What Customers Look for When Picking Internet Providers

There are plenty of things to talk about when comparing internet service providers (ISPs), and there are similarly a bunch of different things that people are looking for. For the most part, these things are one and the same, but there is also the issue that people are not all experts, and instead focus on the fundamental of service. Yet what are these fundamentals? What are the things that ISPs want people to focus on? And what are some of the most important things that will be coming down the pipeline?

These are complicated questions with multiple answers, given how complicated the internet can be in some ways. Yet they are answerable questions. We can look at reviews and buying habits of customers and make conclusions from them. And most of the time, if you’re listening, customers will tell you exactly what they are looking for.

If you are someone who is interested in internet providers in general or want to know more before you dive into your next purchase or service signup, then this article is for you. We’ll be talking about all the things customers think about (or should be thinking about) when picking out an ISP. 

Here is everything you need to know on the topic before diving in further:

People Look for Plans Alongside Internet Providers

Before anything else, we need to stress the point that people not only shop for internet providers but also for a specific plan from an ISP. Those plans are what people are comparing just as much as the ISPs themselves. The provider will be incidental to many people, at least so long as the ISP does not have a specific negative reputation to contend with. People will compare plans within an ISP and plans from any ISP. Brand loyalty is at a minimum, and there is a good reason for that, which we will go into later.

Suffice it to say, just note that the factors we talk about will not be concerning strictly ISPs. They will be concerning the type of service people get and the details of each plan. Charts will be used, and so will websites much like this one. Such tools compare plans more than ISPs, as ISPs will not be the same countrywide. A plan is a bit more permanent and knowable.

The Major Factors

There are likely hundreds of minute factors that will go into a customer's decision, from individual marketing campaigns to what mood a person is in on the day they are shopping. Yet it all comes down to some key factors. Here is what you should look for when picking an ISP if you are a customer. If you are someone who works as an ISP or a marketer, here is also what you should keep in mind:


Unfortunately, the factor that matters most is the one most people do not think about and have little control over choosing. If an ISP isn’t available or operating in an area, it can’t be chosen, no matter how great the plans are. So people first have to see what ISPs are operating in their area and then what plans are available in their area.

If you’re a customer, you can use this site, among other tools, to learn what is available in your area.

Unfortunately, availability remains a huge issue in the United States for tens of millions of people, depending on when you count it as a problem. Tens of millions live under a complete monopoly with only one service provider available. Furthermore, tens of millions of other citizens effectively have to choose between a decent internet speed and their only competitor, which will be nearly worthless in comparison. 

If someone lives in a major metropolitan area, they will likely have enough choices to work with to feel like they can make an educated option. Otherwise, there might not even be three choices for a customer to work with. It is not unheard of for people to move just to get better internet for this reason.

Price and Value

Naturally, people will compare prices between plans and the value they are getting from a particular plan or internet provider. Some people might measure value differently, and people will have different price points, but the simple truth is that all else being equal, paying $60 a month is better than paying $80 a month.

Some ISPs are better in this department, yet an ISP can often differ between regions and what is provided. This makes the situation more complicated to look at on a nationwide scale. On a local level, however, it makes no difference when someone is only looking at the options available to them. Why should someone concern themselves with the price of internet halfway across the country?

Prices aren’t concrete, which is why some internet service providers will offer locked-in prices for a time or even guarantee they will not change unless the customer wants to change plans or providers. Such deals aren’t perfect (plans need to be changed from time to time), but they are effective at making customers take notice. Given inflation and the expansion of some services, we can expect price increases from some major providers in the coming year.

And yet price and the cost of a plan aren’t all about what is advertised. Additional fees, taxes, and charges will come into play whether sooner or later. Some ISPs are a bit more forthcoming about these than others, while other internet providers will simply bake such charges into the price of the plan. Some things, such as equipment fees, are not so easy to do, so they remain separate charges. Customers are getting savvier to this, and will be more likely to look at the final price or do some math before getting excited about an ISP or plan.

All of this makes the price a complicated thing to look at overall, but it is often the first thing a customer will look at, and otherwise, a filtering metric that will be used first before any other considerations are taken.

Download and Upload Speeds

After the price or before it (the two can be about equal), people want to know how fast their potential connection will be.

The download speed is how quickly it takes for files to be downloaded from an outside source, and it is the main metric of speed used by most people and companies. When you see a speed advertised, it is the download speed.

The upload speed is similar. It is a measurement of how quickly files are uploaded from an outside source. The download speed does not usually need to be as fast as the upload speed, although there is a minimum that’s necessary, and some people, such as professionals working from home, will need a much faster speed than others.

Broadband internet is considered to be a connection of 25Mbps download speed and 3Mbps upload speed. However, this standard is considered to be heavily outdated in the eyes of many and is still very limiting, depending on what one plans to do.

With these two numbers, in the eyes of customers, the higher, the better. It seems simple, but in this case, simple is best. There is no situation where having a slower connection by these metrics is better. Though it is also important to remember that often, the faster the connection, the higher the price.

There is one more important note. There is a difference between the advertised speed and the actual speed for a plan. There will be some differences, and the actual speed a customer will experience and what they got told they will get. Customers need to take the advertised speeds with a grain of salt, although they will be accurate within a range. And not enough customers do this, so the actual speeds don’t play a huge role in a customer’s decision of ISP. 


Not every customer will consider latency, but the customers who had problems with latency in the past will certainly consider it. Latency, otherwise known as ping rate, measures how quickly a computer can send a request and get a response. It’s something that’s constantly felt, but in the best-case scenario, the user won’t notice it. It is usually measured in milliseconds. 

With latency, the lower the number, the better. A latency under 50ms is considered great, and one above 150ms is a problem, often leading to a bad time during online gaming or on video calls. Unfortunately, latency can be very difficult to measure and will have a range even under the best of circumstances. Much of it is tied to the connection type, discussed in the next section.

If an ISP gets a reputation for poor latency, it will become known and be a mark against it in customers' eyes.

Connection Type

Many of the above aspects will be heavily determined by the connection type and infrastructure behind the internet service. There are a handful of different major service types listed below:

  • Fiber internet has the best reputation, and for good reason. It is usually associated with gigabit internet and is also on the cutting edge when it comes to general service. It uses fiber-optic lines to transmit information and can do so faster and more reliably than any other service type. However, it is usually limited to heavily populated areas.
  • Cable internet is something of a middle ground when it comes to downloading speed and can even reach speeds as high as fiber internet in the right circumstances. However, the speeds are not as consistent, speed often depends on how much bandwidth other people in the area are using, and customers will find much lower upload speeds than fiber.
  • DSL internet uses phone lines to provide internet service, which is usually the slowest of the common internet services. Customers will often try to avoid it if they know better and often switch off it as soon as possible. It provides horrible upload speeds, can get very slow depending on how close the customer is to the provider, and is often overpriced for what the customer is getting.
  • Dial-up internet still exists and should never be used. Customers can and should avoid it like the plague it is.
  • Satellite internet is an interesting option and usually the last choice a customer will consider when picking out an ISP. That is because, as of this writing, it is expensive, limited in its data allowances, and has extremely poor latency if not upload and download speeds.

As you can see, there is something of an unofficial ranking of the service types, with fiber at the top and dial-up or satellite at the bottom. And customers, for the most part, know this. 


An inconsistent internet connection is an internet connection that will not serve a customer well. It will only lead to frustration and the customer looking up first options of how to fix it and then ways to switch their service provider. A dropped connection can ruin a video call or online gaming session and interrupt a large download. If the connection is already slow, it worsens an inconsistent connection.

Unfortunately, it can be hard to get a clear answer on how consistent a connection will be. While one can check the information available locally about an ISP and ask people who live in the general area, it can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood, and often the ISP isn’t willing to do anything about it.

If a customer gets a hint that an internet provider won’t provide a consistent connection, they’ll consider other options first.

Internet Provider Contract Options

Contracts with an ISP are a double-edged sword, though the side the customer is on is just a little bit sharper. While there can be a lot of savings involved, customers are locked in and can feel locked in. If in an area with few available options, most households will sign the contract because there are savings to be had and no other realistic option. Otherwise, customers might be a bit more reluctant to commit themselves for 12-24 months with an ISP.

Therefore, having more options is something customers look for if possible.

Yet the contract requirement is not as common as it used to be for people just getting internet service, as ISPs realize it scares away some potential customers. And while there are still plenty of contracts for bundles and options for savings with a commitment, even those savings aren’t as great as they used to be. We wouldn’t be surprised if they became the exception instead of the norm in years to come.


Customers like to know that an ISP will not be too rigid along with their contract options. While most customers will not expect too much, some ability to make changes and exceptions in exceptional circumstances will make a customer a lot more comfortable working with an ISP. This mostly comes from customer service and the experience had, but it also can mean how things are handled and how much time people have to pay bills. Some ISPs are a bit more understanding than others, which can mean a lot to some customers.

Potential Bundles

When someone shops for internet, they often do not just shop for internet. If they are moving to a new area or are really sick of their provider(s), they may also be shopping for a TV or phone service (landline or mobile). And ISPs and general telecommunications providers know this and offer bundles to potential customers.

In some cases, a bundle is the only way to get the best quality internet plan, though this practice has fallen out of vogue for some time now and is less common than it used to be. 

This also realistically means that when someone is shopping for one service, they can be shopping for both. That means an extremely strong TV package can make up for lackluster internet service for some potential customers. It adds a layer of complexity to the process, one which many customers might not want to think about too much.

Required Equipment

Internet service doesn’t come out of nowhere. It requires that people use equipment that converts signals into a proper internet connection. And the equipment usually isn’t free, which leads to equipment charges or fees.

Equipment fees can add up over time, effectively adding an extra 25-50% to some bills. While it might not be the biggest expense on most bills, anyone that can save here will do so when possible.

Generally, the requirements for internet are a modem and a router, which doesn’t change from service to service. The specific modem and router requirements can change, but ultimately this makes little difference to the average user. Some internet service providers require customers to use the equipment provided (often at a cost), but others will allow customers to use their own equipment, which is usually cheaper in the long run.

The one exception to this is satellite internet, which will be a lot more expensive when it comes to equipment, ranging from $300 to $600. Customers need to make sure to be able to budget for such an expense. Once they find out about the charges, they look for them.

Additionally, people need space for the equipment. This won’t be an issue for most connection types, but potential satellite customers need a proper space for the dish.


The security of the network and the devices used on it are primarily the responsibility of the users and subscribers, but that doesn’t mean that some ISPs don’t take security more seriously than others and that some types of service are not more secure than others. Generally, it should be noted that fiber and DSL internet services are more secure than other options. However, where security might really matter is in the security of the company itself. If an ISP were to have a major data breach, that would be a huge problem for them and, honestly, a huge problem for society at large. 

Additionally, some companies will add in some security benefits to their internet package. However, given the availability of many excellent options outside of what ISPs offer, this is not a top priority for most customers.


In any business, reputation means a great deal. With ISPs, it is all the more important given how many bad experiences people have and how distrustful telecommunications companies’ potential customers are. And people will avoid a company with a bad reputation and default to one with a good reputation.

Realistically, there is both a local reputation and a national reputation regarding internet service. There can be huge differences between regions even when it’s the same company name, even to the degree that the plans on offer and pricing structure are different.

Reputation is something of a wide and vague concept, but just note that people look for it, and you should consider it as well if you’re looking for the best internet provider.

Recommendations and Trust

A reputation highly related to an ISP is the recommendations that people receive directly from others, and the amount of trust and goodwill a person has gotten from an ISP in the past, whether directly or indirectly. For example, if a potential customer or family member has worked with an ISP in one area and it is now available in a person’s new place of living, that customer might be more likely to go with that ISP. The reverse is also true; a bad experience will make a customer steer clear if possible.

This is an interesting facet in that potential customers are likely exposed to it before they are even considering getting an internet plan. They might hear a neighbor or relative complain about a company or otherwise hear them brag about how great their new service is. All those impressions leave a mark, which can steer a potential customer towards or away from an ISP.

More proactively, a person might ask people, whether in person or online in their social circles, about the best ISPs or providers in an area. The answers can and most likely will greatly impact their final decision. 

Perks and Extra Options

Depending on the ISP and plan chosen, someone might find the opportunity to get extra perks with their subscription plans, such as a subscription to a streaming service (you have to try out that new connection somehow) and discounts on other services. In other cases, extensive trials are available.

They are not likely to be all that impressive to the knowledgeable customer, especially since most services and subscriptions are available elsewhere, and free trials are abundant. Furthermore, they won’t make much of a difference if the customer is unlikely to use the service in the first place.

Nonetheless, they are there for a reason. They can catch the eye of otherwise neutral customers and also be a way for an otherwise neutral person to get pushed in one direction or another when it comes time to make a final choice.

Customer Service

While it might not be the first thing that most people think of, customer service is still a vital consideration and a more vital one for those who have experienced bad service in the past. It is what makes the difference between an incredibly frustrating experience when something goes wrong (it eventually will) or a minor blip in someone’s day. And a bad customer service experience might be one of the first things that people will remember when considering how they feel about their ISP.

Unfortunately, few internet providers have a stellar customer service reputation. But some are clearly better than others. Customers do look at how ISPs handle customer service and whether there is a bevy of legitimate complaints. Customers that have had a bad experience in the past (and that’s a sizable portion) will likely do so even more.

Remember that the Landscape of Internet Providers is Changing

Whatever internet companies are great today might not be the best in five years’ time or even sooner. Telecommunications companies do merge, split off, or get formed (though this is somewhat rare). Services change, and investments are made. That means that today's companies will not be the same and might not be as dominant. All it takes is a breakthrough to change everything.

Many customers know this, though those loyal to an ISP might not pay as much attention. When looking at stats, information, and reviews, recency is vital. What good are reviews from 2020 to 2022? Outside of some historical interest, they are absolutely useless. The same entity might not even own a brand.

Due to inertia, people are unlikely to change ISPs without a good reason. Yet if they’re already shopping for a new one, then they’ll be taking a fresh look at the field. This is when ISPs that are making strides will find their advantage.

People Will Have Different Priorities

Out of all the different facets listed above, people will have different priorities. Price and speed will be at the top for most people, but it can be up to the individual. And often, the individual doesn’t consciously know what they prioritize when it comes to their future internet plan.

This means that while we can make some predictions about what people will find important or not important, it is impossible to know for certain. It will certainly be a mixture, and there will certainly be changes over time. Even the data that exists on the subject might not be as reliable as we would like. 


When people choose an internet provider, it is a combination of many factors. Many customers don’t have a realistic choice. Others will look strictly at what other customers, family, and friends have to say about the ISP in question. Others are concerned mostly about what bundle they might be able to get in terms of download speed. Each customer is different, which makes the industry dynamic and (partially) varied. We hope that you have learned a bit more about what people can look for when shopping with an internet service provider and invite you to return to this page as needed.

InternetAdvisor Team

We are passionate about aggregating large, accurate data sets and providing it all to our users in an easy-to-use format. Simply put, shopping is easier for the consumer when he/she knows all available options. We are not beholden to any single provider and therefore are dedicated to transparency and giving you unbiased information on all providers.

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