Have you considered what your life would be without the internet? Let’s not even talk about trivial things like social media or memes, but there are so many things we depend on the internet for nowadays. If you work from home, an internet connection is non-negotiable. Emails, google searches, keeping in touch with loved ones - it’s all done online.
This is why the most annoying part of moving house, by far, is looking for an internet provider and then waiting forever for them to come and install it for you. The entire process can take weeks; we just don’t have that luxury. Plus, it’s difficult to determine your best option when it comes to price vs. quality of service.
You can just use whatever the previous owner or tenant used or ask your neighbors what company they use. You could also check every provider and see if they offer service in your area. But the most efficient option, by far, is to use an online directory. The hard work is already done, and all you need to do is type your zip code in, and voila - all the options in the world - or at least in your area - are at your fingertips.
The Best Internet Providers Available Near Me
Regardless of where you live, you’re likely to have several different providers offering different connections, speeds, and prices. The best ones hopefully achieve a happy compromise between price, speed, and quality of service. But what is the best provider for you, and what kind of service do they provide?
That will differ depending on your location - are you rural or urban? And what are your internet needs?
Urban Internet Providers
Over the last 30 or so odd years, during which the internet has become a mainstay in every household, many different types of connections have been developed. In an urban environment, you can get them all. It can feel like internet providers abound, and you are free to choose among a wealth of options.
Some are faster, others are more reliable, and prices vary depending on the speed, the provider, and other features. That is because the population density is at its highest. In other words, many people live there, and all of them need the internet. So, there is existing infrastructure for every type of connection you can imagine.
- Fiber internet - The fastest option by far, fiber internet is the preferred type of internet connection. With minimal latency and lightning speed, it’s an increasingly available option, particularly in densely populated urban environments. Its faults, however, are that it is not readily available everywhere, and it can be an expensive commitment to make. It’s typically the most expensive option, so not everyone can afford it.
- Cable internet - Cable is one of the most common and reliable options. Cable serves urban and rural areas if you’re lucky. Its availability is generous, the speeds are high, and it’s one of the most reliable types of internet out there. That also means that many providers offer cable packages at different price points and which cover most needs.
- 5G - While very exciting and controversial - 5G internet is not available in some places. Only a few providers offer it - not nearly as many as other types of internet. The coverage has yet to reach the entire country, so you may struggle to find a provider, depending on your location. This also means that you are beholden to their offers and have more difficulty shopping around. On the bright side, the speeds are high.
- DSL - DSL has been massively popular since the 90s, and with so many users, the good news is that there are more than enough providers. The downside is that it doesn’t fare well in terms of speed when competing with options like cable or fiber. But it’s very reliable and easy to connect since it utilizes phone lines.
Who Offers These Options?
- Verizon - For urban areas, Verizon is the go-to company. No contracts and no data caps have made it very popular among users, as well as the bundle pricing on many of their services - they also offer TV and phone services. However, they are mainly concentrated in the North-East, in densely populated urban areas, and their installation fee is $99.
- AT&T Fiber - AT&T has gained popularity for its reliability, most of all. But flexibility and freedom are also important components, with available month-to-month contracts and numerous packages, making it easy for users to opt for precisely what they need. On the other hand, AT&T Fiber pricing can change after the first year, sometimes, and coverage depends heavily on the location where wires are already present. No wires, no service.
- Century Link - The high speed and variety of internet packages are the aspects that attract customers to Century Link. However, coverage is not great, they only offer wired internet, and some areas get slow speeds that can’t ensure broadband access.
- Spectrum - The primary thing Spectrum has going for it is that it’s present in most of America. It also offers unlimited data, no caps, and no contracts, so you can come and go as you please. Plus, they have other additional services. On the flip side, there’s an installation fee and no end-to-end fiber service.
- Cox - Prices start at under $20 at Cox, which is a big incentive. They have Wi-Fi included, great coverage, and speeds of up to 940 Mbps, so it’s understandable why they’re a popular provider. However, they are very limited to areas where they’ve already installed the cable infrastructure, so users who aren’t in that area can’t benefit.
- Xfinity - Xfinity is the biggest cable internet provider in America. Flexibility is also a benefit, with various contract or no contract plans available. In addition, it offers some of the highest speeds in the country. The cons are that there are no wireless connections available, and there are some additional costs for both equipment and installation.
- AT&T - AT&T has no annual contract, which is good news for those who want the flexibility to leave anytime. Plus, its upload speeds are just as fast as download speeds, which is unusual, but a great advantage. Bundles are numerous, and the service is reliable. When it comes to cons, service is limited to where there are already existing lines, and some of these areas can have DSL lines that are limiting in terms of what you can do online.
- Earthlink - One of the major advantages of Earthlink is that there are no limits on data usage, and they offer many different packages to choose from. They are rated very favorably in terms of customer service. The problem is that they require 1-year contracts, and there are extra monthly fees for equipment rental.
- Frontier - You can transform your modem into a Wi-Fi hotspot with Frontier, but that’s not why people choose to become users. They use Frontier because they have a lot of variety in their plans and offer coverage in 25 states. The downside is that speeds can be too low for intense online activity.
- Verizon - Verizon offers the best 5G service overall and just about edges out competitors by reaching speeds of up to 1000 Mbps. If you don’t want to spend time browsing all the options, going with Verizon is your best bet, starting at $50 per month. The downside is that it’s not super present yet, so it’s a better option for urban users.
- T-Mobile - By far, the widest spread availability; if you’re in an area overlooked by other companies, T-Mobile most likely has your back.
- Starry - Starry is very similar to Verizon but with less coverage and availability. The prices are similar.
- Ultra Mobile - against all odds, Ultra Mobile is a good option, even for rural areas, because of its widespread availability. Beware of data caps. Plans start at just $50.
Rural Internet Providers
In rural areas, things get tricky. There are still lots of people living here, but the density is lower, households are more sparse, and providers are less incentivized to set up shop here because the potential for clientele is lower. That means those who live in rural or otherwise remote areas are forced to make do with the options available, which are few and not very fast.
The lack of infrastructure limits users mainly to options made possible not by cables but by satellites.
- Satellite internet - For the longest time, satellite internet was the only option for those living in rural or remote areas. Unable to benefit from fiber or even cable, rural users sometimes must make do with slower internet, which is infamously laggy. This is because the signal has a long way to go before it reaches you. Your device communicates with satellites in space, 22,000 miles away, and the data has to make that journey twice to complete a request. Understandably, that means speeds that tend to be capped at 150Mbps, maximum, and the monthly data allowance only goes up to 300 Mbps, which is quite limiting, especially if you use the internet heavily or you have multiple users. While it’s enough for typical tasks of working from home, it’s certainly not enough if you’ve got 2 or 3 users that want to stream, game online, or download large files.
- New school satellite internet - Luckily, there’s a new kid in town. Satellite internet isn’t what it used to be. The new school of satellite internet, pioneered mainly by Starlink, Elon Musk’s venture, is shaking things up and providing the same convenience but a very different service. For one, the speeds are much higher - 500 Mpbs. There is no data cap, and the latency is much lower. To what is owed this improvement? It’s a different kind of satellite internet. More specifically, the satellites are different and much closer - only 300 miles away! The proximity affords them advantages like higher speeds (because the data doesn’t travel as far) and minimal lag.
- Dial-up internet - Believe it or not, dial-up internet is still kicking and still being used. Today, 0.3% of U.S. households, or approximately 1 million users are still loyal to dial-up, and that’s because it’s lower cost than a lot of other options. If you’re not a heavy internet user and don’t particularly need high speeds, dial-up can be a perfectly appropriate option, especially in remote areas.
Of course, the downside with dial-up is that the speed is very low by today’s standards - just 56 kbps, which means users need a lot of patience.
Who offers these options?
Traditional satellite internet
- HughesNet - The main thing HughesNet has going for it is its massive coverage - it serves 98% of the country, which makes a huge difference for rural users. Installation is free; you only need a clear line of sight to the southern sky. On the other hand, the contract is two years long, and online gaming may be problematic.
- Viasat - Of the two, Viasat is the one that offers higher speeds and higher data caps, but it’s also significantly more expensive. Like HughesNet, it has excellent availability, but activities like online gaming are a pain.
New school satellite internet
- Starlink - Starlink is the most talked about satellite internet company as of late, and with good reason - with a 500 Mbps max speed, no data caps, and lower latency than its competitors, it’s an attractive contender. But its main downside is the price, which is higher than its main competitors.
- NetZero - While speeds won’t reach great heights, the package will be affordable, with NetZero offering dial-up service for as little as $0 and up to $30.
- Juno - Similarly priced to NetZero, Juno offers dial-up for a maximum price of $30, but they’re also offering it for less. You can’t expect high speeds, though.
Use Your Zip Code to Search for Internet Providers Near You
Okay, so you’re pretty sure about the kind of internet connection you need, but how can you make sure that the service is available to you? The easiest way is to search using your zip code to ensure the providers you want are near you. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, you can do that with the click of a few buttons on an online service provider directory.
Just access an internet provider directory and look for their search function. The best ones will enable you to search based on your zip code. In this case, you only need to input your zip code, and voila! - you will be served by all the internet providers in your area.
How to Conduct an Internet Provider Search
Sounds complicated? How do you find an online service provider directory? You just need to google it. If you type the exact phrase in Google, “online service provider directory,” you should get several results. Pick whichever one you want, InternetAdvisor.com is a good example.
Once you’re on their home page, see if they have a search function. Otherwise, you should be able to find a different tab that enables you to search by using your zip code. Simply input your zip code in the search bar, and you will be given a list of all the providers currently serving your area. That way, you know for sure what companies to look at.
Keep in mind that these companies will have different types of services available. Some companies will offer cable internet, fiber, and DSL, while others may only provide satellite internet or other services. Keep in mind what kind of service suits your needs best.
How to Read the Search Results
Now that you’ve got a list of providers that serve your area, you’re probably in a bit of a dilemma - which one do you choose? They all seem to offer the same service, so how do you differentiate between them and make sure that you pick the option that suits your needs? You should consider a few key aspects when selecting an internet provider.
- Price - Unfortunately, everything else is trumped by pricing considerations. No matter how much you want or need a certain speed or a certain kind of connection if your budget doesn’t allow it, you’re out of luck. Some options are pricier than others, with some providers standing out thanks to their customer-friendly pricing strategy. Unfortunately, the most inexpensive option is seldom also the one that offers quality customer service and speed. Still, there is also no need to spring for the most expensive option. A middle-of-the-road option suits most people.
- Coverage - Coverage is another non-negotiable. You are limited to the providers who offer coverage in your area, and it’s not something you can change. So even if you’d love fiber internet from a specific provider, your best bet is sticking to the providers with a strong presence in the area. That will ensure that you will get service, no matter what.
- Rating - By no means the least of your concerns; the general customer rating can tell you a lot about an internet provider. Speed and price aren’t everything; customer service is a huge part of the service because it will impact you tremendously. It makes the difference in how fast they will come to set up your connection, whether or not you can get a hold of someone when you need something from them, and the general attitude they have towards customers. The cheapest services will typically not excel in customer service and will have a lower rating.
- Speed - While it seems like everyone is chasing higher and higher internet speeds, the truth is that only some need lighting fast internet or massive bandwidth. It all comes down to your habits and usage. How heavy of an internet user are you? Are you working online every day? In meetings? Streaming Netflix on three different devices? Gaming online? That requires a heftier internet package, and you absolutely cannot do it with less than 100 Mbps. If you typically limit yourself to social media, email, and the occasional bout of online shopping, you can get away with a cheaper package with lower speeds.
Searching for a New Internet Provider
Most people are reluctant to switch service providers, no matter how dissatisfied they are with the service they are receiving. It can be a pain to look for a new provider and make the change, but it’s entirely worth it. Here are some of the reasons why people choose to search for a new internet provider
- They’re moving house - This one is not up to you; if you’re moving, you need to set up all of your utilities, and the internet should always be the first one because you can’t do anything without it, and it usually takes some time to get the connection set up. You probably need the most help in this scenario because you don’t know who offers coverage. An online database is excellent for this situation.
- Their internet package is too expensive - Have you ever been trapped in a contract that is too expensive for what it offers you? That happens very often with internet packages. Providers have gotten used to providing bad service for high prices, and unless they change their strategy, they will be priced out of the running. Lots of people are leaving for greener, cheaper pastures.
- Their internet package doesn’t suit their needs - It may just be that your current provider doesn’t suit your actual needs. What if you need more bandwidth, but the type of connection you currently use has a low-speed cap? You have no choice but to look elsewhere and upgrade your plan to get better speeds.
- Their internet provider has appalling customer service - Too many people remain customers of very bad companies who do not value their business, and they don’t have to. Internet providers are a dime a dozen now, and you can always find someone else who suits your needs and will also offer you quality service.
Don’t be afraid to change if it’s for the better. It’s very easy to find a provider that will suit your needs better, so start searching for a great database to help you find your ideal internet provider!
There are a million reasons why one would be looking for a new internet provider - maybe you’re moving to a new place, you need more bandwidth, or you’re just dissatisfied with your current service. Where do you turn? Is there a one-stop shop for internet providers that can tell exactly who covers your area, what kind of services they provide, and what their prices are?
Yes, that service exists and is an internet service provider index. Not only does it let you know exactly who offers what, but they enable you to search based on your zip code for a precise, localized search that will save you hours of research and inevitable frustration.
Your preferred service may be fiber for the high speed, cable for the ubiquity of the service, or satellite if you’re in a remote location. Now it’s super easy to find out exactly who’s in the area, their offer, and whether or not it’s what you need.
Why do some internet services use data caps?
It’s easy to conclude that data caps are inherently put there to get people to pay up, but that’s not necessarily true. Data caps serve a very real and practical purpose of controlling the data flow in a given network. If these caps did not exist, the network would be at risk of overloading and even outages. Especially as people use the internet more and more for streaming and other high-consumption needs, these caps are more and more necessary to keep things under control and prevent potential issues.
How many internet service providers are there in the US?
On a recent count, there are a little under 3000 internet providers in the United States, 2876 to be exact. Of these, 1,773 provide fixed wireless broadband, 1,608 provide fiber internet, 889 offer DSL, 449 are cable internet companies, 265 are copper internet providers, and 49 offer services like LTE and mobile broadband.
Of course, that’s a national tally, and the providers available heavily depend on your service area, whether you’re in an urban or rural environment, what state you are in, etc. Not everything is available to everyone, but almost all users have several options, no matter how remote.
Why aren’t there very many internet service providers in my zip code?
Suppose there are only a few internet providers in your area. In that case, you likely live in a lower population density area - usually a rural area or a remote, isolated area in the mountains or otherwise removed from a larger community or town. In such locations, the providers who are usually able to serve the areas are satellite internet providers, of which there aren’t many.
What is the difference between 5G and fiber optic service?
5G and fiber optics are entirely different. Fiber optic works via light, transmitting data through fiber optic cables. 5G, on the other hand, transmits data via radio waves. In addition, fiber optic costs more to install. It takes longer to complete fiber installation, too.
How is Starlink different from traditional satellite systems?
While conventional satellite internet companies like HughesNet and Viasat have space satellites 22,000 miles away, Starlink’s satellites are only 300 miles away. That difference in distance impacts everything, from speed to latency to coverage. The closer they are, the faster the internet is - that explains why Starlink can offer much higher speeds. However, the proximity of the satellites to the Earth also means that the coverage is smaller, and they need significantly more satellites to achieve the same level of coverage that traditional satellites can.