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Top 10 ISP Reviews Roundup

Sarah Pritzker

Choosing the right internet service provider (ISP) means finding the right balance of price, speed, infrastructure, and logistics. While price is always an important deciding factor, you’ll also want to consider which connection type best suits your internet usage styles, which speeds you’ll require, and which providers service your home. A family of five, for example, will likely require a different set of features than a serious gamer.

There are currently thousands of internet service providers in the US, ranging from a handful of large, nationwide ISPs to many smaller, local providers (or subsidiaries of large providers). We’ve researched and reviewed a number of ISPs from across the industry and rounded up the top 10 options for you to choose from. 

Breaking Down Our Top 10 Choices: Which Is Best For Your Needs?

Verizon - Best for streaming 

AT&T Internet - Best for setting up a smart home

xFinity Internet - Best for families 

Sparklight - Best for contract-free internet 

ViaSat - Best for customers in remote locations 

Spectrum - Best for serious gamers 

HughesNet - Best for mobile users

EarthLink - Best for users who need lots of data 

Cox - Best for gadget-lovers and tech-savvy users 

Setting up a smart home
Serious gamers
Families, students
Families
Tech-savvy customers
Mobile users
Families, students, wanderlust, internationals
Families
Families, students, gig workers, gamers
Streaming
$35 per month
$49.99 per month
$83.50/month for 1 Gig, $38.50/month for 100 Mbps
$50/month for 3-100 Mbps, $65/month for 940 Mbps
$29.99 per month
$49.99 per month
From $64.99 per month and $19.99 for basic internet service
$29.99 per month
$49.95
$39.99 per month
Fiber, fixed internet
Hybrid fiber coaxial
Fiber, cable
DSL, fiber
Fiber-optic
Satellite
Cable, DSL, fiber-optic, satellite
Cable, fiber optics
DSL and fiber
Fiber-optic
Up to 940 Mbps
200-940 Mbps
Up to 940Mbps
3-940 Mbps
Up to 940 Mbps
Up to 35 Mbps
From 9-115 Mbps
15 Mbps-2,000 Mbps
50-1000 Mbps
Up to 940 Mbps
21 states
44 states
3
36 states (17% coverage nationwide)
19 states
All 50 states, Puerto Rico
50 states, varies depending on ISP and internet type
40 states
36 states
10 states

A Closer Look at Our Top 10 Internet Service Providers

  • 1
    AT&T

    AT&T

    • Best forSetting up a smart home
    • Starting price$35 per month
    • Connection typeFiber, fixed internet

    AT&T has lots of internet plans to choose from, and they’re all great options. Pricing is affordable across the board, and AT&T customer support has earned the J.D. Powers customer satisfaction award for exemplary service four years in a row. The 1000 Mbps is enough to power an entire house with WiFi capability, unlimited internet data, and faster upload speeds than competitors. AT&T also has a great mobile app that makes managing your smart home faster and more convenient.

    Pros
    • 99% reliability rating
    • Fast speeds including fiber plans
    • Good customer satisfaction rankings
    Cons
    • Limited coverage area for some plans
    • Pricey extra fees
  • 2
    Spectrum

    Spectrum

    • Best forSerious gamers
    • Starting price$49.99 per month
    • Connection typeHybrid fiber coaxial

    Spectrum internet is a cross between fiber and cable, so it delivers fast speeds, clear quality, and wider availability than most providers have to offer. In fact, Spectrum is available in 44 states across the country and has speeds ranging from 200 Mbps, up to a lightning fast 940 Mbps. Spectrum is also a great option for serious gamers. With speeds up to 940 Mbps, you can keep up the pace even with multiplayer online games and connected devices.

    Pros
    • No data caps, 99.9% network reliability
    • Free antivirus and modem with every plan
    • Nationwide WiFi network for on-the-go internet
    Cons
    • WiFi is not included in the price
    • Confusing pricing plan
  • 3
    Optimum

    Optimum

    • Best forFamilies, students
    • Starting price$83.50/month for 1 Gig, $38.50/month for 100 Mbps
    • Connection typeFiber, cable

    Optimum is a high-speed internet service provider serving millions of households in the greater New York City area (NY, NJ, CT). It generally offers 1 gig fiber internet although in some cases it only offers cable internet with max download speeds of 500 Mbps. As a subsidiary of telecommunications provider Altice USA, Optimum offers bundling of internet, cable TV, and mobile plans. 

    While Optimum’s prices aren’t particularly low when compared to the national average, it goes to great lengths to beat its competitors. For example, it offers a $500 contract buyout to help you move over from your old ISP. Furthermore, it offers discounts worth $5 to $25 per month to anyone living at an address also served by competitor Verizon Fios.

    Pros
    • Free installation when you order online
    • $25 discount if Verizon Fios is also available at your address
    • Access to 2 million-plus Wi-Fi hotspots
    Cons
    • Only available in parts of greater New York City (NY, NJ, CT)
    • Home page doesn’t properly explain the pricing structure
  • 4
    CenturyLink

    CenturyLink

    • Best forFamilies
    • Starting price$50/month for 3-100 Mbps, $65/month for 940 Mbps
    • Connection typeDSL, fiber

    CenturyLink offers internet to roughly 20 million households in 36 states. Its speeds range from 3-100 Mbps for DSL internet and 100-940 Mbps for fiber, which is only available in selected areas. Its WiFi 6 advanced technology allows for faster connectivity, enhanced data capacity, and extended battery life for in-home devices.

    CenturyLink’s combined modem and router includes built-in security features from McAfee. Its mobile app gives you control of your security, lets you run speed tests, and allows you to see a list of connected devices and their signal strength. CenturyLink also offers downloadable security for your PC, Mac, Android, and iOS devices.

    Pros
    • Wireless modem and router in one
    • No annual contracts
    • Built-in privacy and parental control tools
    Cons
    • DSL options aren’t that cheap
    • $99 installation fee
  • 5
    Cox

    Cox

    • Best forTech-savvy customers
    • Starting price$29.99 per month
    • Connection typeFiber-optic

    Cox is one of the up-and-coming ISPs, a real cool kid on the block. That’s because this internet provider offers all the right features, and doesn’t hold anything back. You can get serious security features like digital data shredder, vulnerability scanner, and spyware protection built into your devices. Cox also offers fast connections that are consistent and even optimized for your current internet activity. Cox also has 3+ million hotspots around the country and full-house WiFi coverage for every area and device in your home.

    Pros
    • Awesome features for affordable prices
    • Flexible plans, including prepaid internet
    • Specialized gamer mode for almost lag-free gaming
    Cons
    • Only available in 19 states
    • Hard to figure out pricing right away
  • 6
    HughesNet

    HughesNet

    • Best forMobile users
    • Starting price$49.99 per month
    • Connection typeSatellite

    HughesNet is one of the top satellite ISPs in the country. For one thing, you can get service anywhere in the United States, including Alaska and Puerto Rico. What’s more, HughesNet internet is fast, at 25 Mbps for every plan. You’ll choose from a range of data plan options, and you’ll never be throttled even when you go over. HughesNet has uber cool features, like built-in WiFi, video data saver, and bonus zones that help you optimize your internet activity. So you can stream more, watch more, do more, and use less data at the same time.

    Pros
    • No caps on data usage
    • Fast speeds on every plan
    • Cool features built-in like bonus zone and video optimizer
    Cons
    • After data usage runs out, bandwidth is much slower
    • No fiber plans
  • 7
    Dish

    Dish

    • Best forFamilies, students, wanderlust, internationals
    • Starting priceFrom $64.99 per month and $19.99 for basic internet service
    • Connection typeCable, DSL, fiber-optic, satellite

    DISH is a service provider that offers great deals on TV and internet bundles. You can get plans starting at just $65 a month for 190+ channels, sports packages, and feature-rich technology to enhance your entertainment viewing. DISH’s DVR capability lets you record and play back your favorite TV shows, events, concerts, and more. With 2 TBof memory and up to 16 channel simultaneous recording, you never have to miss a show again.

    DISH offers reasonable prices and deals to help maximize your entertainment options without spending a fortune. DISH also has discounts available for senior citizens, active duty members, healthcare providers, and teachers. 

    Pros
    • Powerful DVR features
    • Joey TV receiver for wireless transmission to various devices
    • Lots of packages and channel plans to choose from
    Cons
    • Not an actual ISP
    • Have to read terms carefully to understand the offers
  • 8
    Xfinity Internet

    Xfinity Internet

    • Best forFamilies
    • Starting price$29.99 per month
    • Connection typeCable, fiber optics

    Xfinity offers fast cable and fiber internet options with plans to fit just about any need. Great for gamers, streamers, multiple users, and families, Xfinity Internet has lots of features to keep things interesting. Xfinity Internet comes with seven different plan options, including a prepaid month-to-month payment option. Customers can choose between cable or fiber depending on how important speed is to them. Available in 40 states, Xfinity Internet is more accessible and more affordable than many competitors.

    Pros
    • Fast and reliable speeds
    • Lots of plans to choose from & no contract options
    • Fun extras bundled into plans
    Cons
    • Can’t purchase Xfinity equipment
    • Lots of upselling for equipment rental
  • 9
    EarthLink ISP

    EarthLink ISP

    • Best forFamilies, students, gig workers, gamers
    • Starting price$49.95
    • Connection typeDSL and fiber

    EarthLink is a familiar name in the internet world. It has been around since the ‘90s, and it’s been building its empire and reputation ever since. With 200+ million happy customers, we’d say EarthLink is doing a good job. 

    EarthLink offers fiber and DSL internet plans at a variety of speeds. So you can find a plan that fits your needs, from light streaming and internet usage to hardcore gaming, multiple user streaming, and even business plans up to 1000 Mbps. EarthLink also has no data caps. So you’ll never be throttled while using your internet. 

    Pros
    • No data caps
    • Plenty of plans to choose from
    • Great customer service
    Cons
    • Plans are a little higher than other ISPs
    • Availability based on location
  • 10
    Verizon 5G Home

    Verizon 5G Home

    • Best forStreaming
    • Starting price$39.99 per month
    • Connection typeFiber-optic

    If you feel the need for speed, then Verizon Fios may be the right ISP for you. With a network of fiber-optic cables delivering speeds of up to 940 Mbps, Verizon Fios is definitely the place to turn to for gamers, streamers, and anyone else who needs fast internet or uses loads of bandwidth at the same time. Verizon Fios has no long-term contracts and comes with a 99.99% reliability rating for fast, consistent, and unlimited bandwidth.

    Pros
    • High-speed connection with 99.99% reliability
    • Service bundles for greater affordability
    • Great option for gamers, families, and stream hogs
    Cons
    • Only offered in 10 states
    • No public WiFi hotspots
Frequently Asked Questions
What are data limits and does this ISP have any?
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A data limit is the amount of internet that you are allowed to use during your specified coverage period. For example, you might have a data limit of 500 gigabytes. That means you can use 500 gigabytes of data every month. After that, you’ll either be cut off or throttled depending on your ISP. Data limits range from as little as 50 gigabytes up to a hefty terabyte, and some ISPs have no data limits at all.
Does the ISP have equipment, or can you purchase your own?
-
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Generally internet service providers offer two options: you can purchase equipment from the company directly or provide your own. Most ISPs encourage purchasing the router and modem directly from them and offer big discounts or deals to customers who do. Be careful to check that your equipment is compatible with your ISP service if you choose to provide your own.
What happens if my internet connection goes down?
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ISPs don’t guarantee 100% connection reliability all the time. So if your internet goes down because of bad weather, unforeseen circumstances, or power outages, there’s not much the ISP will do for you. Bummer. Of course, you can opt for a more reliable internet service provider. Many have 99.9% uptime reliability, making it more likely that you won’t experience problems very often.

Reviewing the Top Internet Service Providers: Our Methodology

Top10.com internet service provider reviews are based on objective facts.  Our reviews are based on research via the internet service providers’ sites, trusted 3rd party sites, customer reviews, and use of the product through free trials, or through paid use in some cases.

It is not always possible to use the product through its entire lifecycle. However, reviewers will try the signup process, make customer service queries to check response times and perform any other possible function within the review period. For the rest of the information, we rely on what the brand says about its own product offering, customer reviews, and complaints, ratings from independent agencies like the BBB, and trusted journalistic publications.

Some of the key features we compared when looking at the Internet Service Providers on our list were: 

  • Price
  • Connection type
  • Download speed
  • Coverage 

What You Need to Know Before Choosing an Internet Service Provider

There are a lot of options when it comes to ISPs. So before you go signing your life away, make sure to get the information you need to make an informed decision. Here are a few questions you should ask before diving in:

  • Do you have coverage in my area? For which types of plans?
  • What are your data limits and will I be throttled?
  • What are the contracts or obligations involved? Can I cancel? What are the ramifications?
  • Does my router or modem work with your service?
  • Do you have self-installation and how does it work?
  • How much is this going to cost me? What are the hidden fees you don’t talk about straight up?
  • What speed options are available to me?

Try to consider all of these questions before making your choice of internet service providers. 

What Types of Internet Service Providers Are There?

There are several different types of internet service providers available today and each one comes with varying levels of service and reliability. What’s important to note is that not all types of connections are available in all areas of the country. So while one type of connection might be better or faster, if it’s not available in your state or neighborhood, it won’t do you any good. You’re best off looking for an ISP that has coverage in your area, and choosing from those options. Here are the most common types of ISP connections out there:

  • Fiber optic
  • Cable 
  • DSL
  • Satellite 
  • Wi-Fi broadband 
  • Dedicated leased line

Internet Service Providers: How ISPs are Helping During COVID

Corona has certainly changed the way most people do a lot of things. Regardless of your political or global views, COVID has kept people at home and indoors more than ever before. Which means one thing for a lot of people: more time online. Whether you are studying classes with distance learning, managing your business affairs remotely, or staying connected with friends and loved ones who you can’t see in person, the internet has been a godsend and an essential component to surviving this pandemic. Today more than ever people are prioritizing good internet services, and the quality ISPs have helped the general public survive this unprecedented world situation.

Finding a Trusted Internet Service Provider

As with most things in life, the internet has its positive aspects and its negative ones. One of the more unfortunate downsides to using the web is the proliferation of hackers, spammers, and determinantal scams out there today. For this reason, it is vitally important for people to protect themselves against cyber threats including identity theft and scams. Make sure you have a good antivirus on your device, never share personal information, and always connect to a private network that is secure before entering any private details onto any website you visit. Read up on more internet safety best practices to stay safe online.

How Much Does an Internet Service Provider Cost?

Internet service providers vary in pricing depending on the service, the type of internet connection, and the features you want included. The average price costs anywhere from $20 up to $80 a month but there are plans for more. Typically internet service providers offer longer contracts for a more discounted rate. You can also get discounts on your internet services by bundling it with other services the provider offers.

One thing to be careful of is an early termination fee. If you sign a long contract and want to cancel before the close date, you may be charged anywhere from nothing to a few hundred dollars. 

Tips on Working With Internet Service Providers

Internet service providers vary in terms of quality, customer service, and reliability. You’ll need to do some research, read online reviews, and ask around to find the best ISP for you. You can also use some of these pro tips to get the most out of your internet service provider: 

  • Choose the right speed for your needs

If you’re living alone, 25 Mbps is enough to give you reliable high-speed internet. This’ll give you plenty of speed for doing most things you want including surfing the web, social media accounts, and occasional streaming. On the other hand, if you have a lot of people streaming HD movies or are trying to get real work done on your internet, you’re going to need more juice than that.

  • Reliability 

This is probably the best feature to look for when choosing an internet service provider. Some brands offer an SLA that guarantees good service. This is a golden ticket. You should also read reviews to see which ISP has good customer service. That way, when something goes wrong, you know there is somebody there to help.

  • Bundle to save

Usually, ISPs will offer additional services such as cell phone plans and TV services. If you’re in the market for one of these services anyway, or if you’re happy to switch, the ISP will give you a discounted rate for combining both services in one.

  • Turn off WiFi to save more

Many internet service providers automatically charge you for WiFi when you sign up. They include the fee with your equipment charges so many people don’t even realize they’re paying for it. If you already have this service or have your own equipment, you can likely save a bit each month by opting out of the WiFi services.

Getting the Best Internet Service Provider for You

If you’re like most people, you live on the web. You do your shopping there, you pay your bills there, you enjoy various forms of entertainment there, and you even communicate with friends, family, and business associates via the internet. Which is why if you’re like most people, your internet service provider is one of the biggest decisions you’ll need to make concerning your day to day lifestyle. Options abound, so find the one that suits your needs, situation, and wallet best.

Sarah Pritzker
Sarah Pritzker writes for top10.com and is a content writer with years of experience and a keen interest in the vast world of online consumer products. She enjoys helping readers make sense of the options on the market in a variety of fields.