Best Internet Providers of 2019
There are a ton of internet service providers out there, from big names like Verizon Fios and Comcast Xfinity, to smaller brands like Optimum, and even local providers that serve only a single town or region.
So, how do you choose? Which providers are people actually happy with, and which ones have some room to grow?
To find out, we polled thousands of real subscribers across the country to see how satisfied they are with their Internet Service Provider (ISP) across key areas like speed, reliability, and customer service. These are the results.
Overall, we saw fiber providers dominate the key categories, with people having a strong tendency to bundle services from a single provider.
But there’s plenty more interesting details below.
*In select markets. DSL elsewhere.
Overall customer satisfaction
Which provider fared the best overall? There can be only one . . .
Highest in Overall Satisfaction
Verizon Fios didn’t just take the overall top spot. It also claimed the top spots in several key categories: internet speed, reliability, installation and setup, customer support, and value.
And its high rankings are well deserved—the provider offers a lot, including excellent fiber optic speeds and reliable service. This really shows that nailing the basics goes a long way.
Want to know if Verizon Fios is available in your area? Just enter your zip code and we’ll handle the rest:
Lowest in Overall Satisfaction
Spectrum has a bit of work to do in the customer satisfaction department.
While the provider did have a decent showing in the installation and setup category (fourth place), it just didn’t hold up to the competition in the others. And unfortunately, this isn’t anything new: the provider also brought up the rear in our survey of TV providers last year.
So, what’s up? Well, Spectrum is the result of a huge merger between Charter, Time Warner Cable, and Bright House Networks. That merger is still ongoing, and the company is going through a lot of changes as it brings together three different sets of billing procedures, customer service representatives, and company policies.
Now, all that said, the score isn’t that much lower than some of the other providers on the list, and scores have been trending upwards for all providers the last couple years.
So, while this might look like really bad news for Spectrum, we wouldn’t be too concerned if they’re the only option in town. We have plenty of hope that the company can turn things around.
How would you rate your provider’s internet speed?
Best internet speed
We had a very close race here between Verizon Fios and Xfinity, with just .02 points separating the two in this important category. AT&T rounds out the trio.
The secret sauce here is definitely fiber. Verizon Fios and AT&T are both primarily fiber providers, and while most of Xfinity’s packages are cable, its fastest 2,000 Mbps service is fiber, too.
- Verizon offers excellent, fast fiber service—in fact, with its Gigabit Connection speeds you can get download speeds up to 940 Mbps and upload speeds up to 880 Mbps. That gets you faster . . . well, everything.
- Xfinity has a variety of fast packages, and unlike many fiber providers, these plans are available across a large portion of Xfinity’s coverage area.
- AT&T offers very affordable gigabit internet packages, plus several other fiber options in markets where gigabit isn’t available. And you can bundle with DIRECTV.
How would you rate your provider’s internet reliability?
The trifecta returns for the reliability category. Again, fiber seems to be the key to a reliable network.
While traditional cable lines are also pretty reliable, fiber optics take it to the next level by minimizing the potential for signal interference.
- Thanks to its robust fiber network, your Verizon Fios and AT&T high-speed internet signal should be rock solid.
- Xfinity uses mostly traditional cable lines, but its network has built a reputation for being reliable.
- Although cable is technically supposed to be reliable, we haven’t seen this play out with every provider. Cox and Mediacom both scored significantly lower, for example.
How satisfied are you with your provider’s modem?
This time, Xfinity comes out on top. And we can say from personal experience that Xfinity’s modem/router combo is definitely one of the better ISP-provided gateways that we’ve used from a provider. Verizon and AT&T return to round out the top three.
It’s worth pointing out that modem satisfaction doesn’t necessarily correlate with actually using the provider’s modem. Take a look:
- 84% of Optimum customers use the Optimum-provided modem—that’s more than any other provider. But Optimum’s modem satisfaction score was in the bottom three, at 4.01.
- Verizon Fios had the second-highest satisfaction, but only 68% of our survey participants use its equipment.
- Mediacom, on the other hand, had both the lowest percentage of customers using its modems and the lowest modem satisfaction score.
Installation and setup
How would you rate your provider’s installation and setup?
Best installation and setup
Noticing a trend yet?
Installation and setup are a small but important part of your relationship with your ISP. It’s often the first contact you have with company technicians and customer service, and a bad experience here has the potential to sour the whole relationship.
Fortunately, none of our providers scored below a 4.00 on installation (the only category where this is true).
ISPs seem to be wising up to the fact that this is a critical part of building a long-term relationship with their customers.
- Verizon Fios charges a pretty steep $99 for setup, but this charge can be waived when you order your service online or opt for the self-install option, either of which we recommend doing.
- Xfinity charges up to $89.99 for a professional installation. But there’s usually a self-install kit available, so you can skip the fee.
- AT&T also charges $99 for installation, but the fee is waived if you order a Triple Play bundle with TV and phone service.
How would you rate your provider’s customer support?
Best customer support
And we have a newcomer! Frontier kicks Xfinity out of the top three (and down to the bottom three, in fact) to claim a spot behind Verizon.
Customer support is kind of a big deal. After all, once you sign your life away on a two-year contract, you have to actually live with the provider every day, and you may need some help during those two years.
That’s when you find out which companies are really worth your hard-earned dollars.
Fortunately, two of the fastest, most reliable internet services are also ranked highly for customer service. Frontier makes sense here too, since it’s a smaller provider that needs every competitive advantage to stand out.
For the service that you receive, how would you rate your provider’s monthly bill?
Best monthly bill
Ah! Now things get interesting. It seems that although customers are highly satisfied with Verizon, Xfinity, and AT&T for their speed and reliability, they aren’t quite as enthusiastic about the sometimes-high monthly bills from these providers.
If you look at the scores, you’ll also notice that even the top providers scored well below four stars. In fact, monthly billing satisfaction remains the lowest ranking of all the categories we survey by a significant margin.
There are a lot of potential factors here, but we think the combination of multiple small fees and prices that often increase significantly after a year or two are the main culprits.
In your experience, rate your provider’s overall value?
In light of the previous section on billing satisfaction, it would seem that Verizon and AT&T customers are aware they’re paying a premium, but still feel they’re getting their money’s worth.
Suddenlink customers also feel they get great value for their money. And since Suddenlink scores well across all our categories, that’s no surprise.
- Suddenlink is in the top three providers for several different areas, and never in the bottom three, making it an exceptionally well-balanced choice.
- Verizon and AT&T are in some ways the Apples of internet service. Customers pay more for the service, but the quality of that service is a good value despite the cost.
Do you bundle TV service with your provider’s internet service?
Most likely to bundle
Bundling services is a great way to save some money and maximize the value you get from your provider.
- Optimum leads the pack here with a whopping 85% of customers claiming they get both TV and internet service from the provider. That’s really impressive.
- Spectrum brings up the rear with 61%, which is still well over half of subscribers.
- CenturyLink customers are out in the cold—the provider no longer offers its own TV service. Instead, it partners with DIRECTV to provide bundling options.
Where are the satellite internet providers?
You may have noticed the lack of satellite in this survey. That’s because satellite internet is a fairly niche product that usually runs slower or costs more than other options—with one big exception.
If you’re in a very remote area, where your only other option is dial-up internet service, paying for satellite internet could make sense. It’s also nice for RV campers and other frequent travelers that want to maintain access to internet services.
So how’d we come up with all this info? We got it straight from you—the customer.
Using an independent survey platform called Pollfish, we surveyed over 2,000 real customers of the biggest ISPs across the US. Then we went over the data with a fine-toothed comb to find the top-rated providers in these important categories, plus any juicy details on how subscribers are using the services.
Finally, we wrapped it all up in the neat little package you’re reading now.
Looking over all the data, a few patterns are immediately obvious:
- If Verizon Fios is available in your area, you probably want to go with them for internet service.
- Fiber is where it’s at if speed and reliability are important to you since fiber providers had the top satisfactions scores in both of these areas, as well as value.
- Xfinity dominates the cable provider category, with a larger coverage area, faster speeds, and more reliable service.
- Billing satisfaction is also lower with top providers, though. It seems you pay a premium for the best service.
- The majority of customers across all our providers prefer to bundle TV and internet services to save some money.
We’re excited to see how these trends change over the next year as new Wi-Fi standards and 5G cellular service start to roll out to consumers. Will fiber be able to maintain its lead? We can’t wait to find out.
How satisfied are you with your internet service provider? Hit the comments and tell us all about it.
Want to quickly see which of our top providers are available in your area? Just enter your zip code.
Dave is a freelance writer with a passion for tech and how it improves our lives. His work has been published on a variety of sites around the web.