Performance & Plans
Best Internet Service Provider
Find the Best Internet Service for Your Area
We spent 40 hours researching internet service providers. During that time, we read the fine print in the companies’ terms and conditions and pored over their user agreements to find out what each one has to offer, as well as to discover trends in the industry. While no internet company provides service in all areas, most have a good presence in 20 or more states. XFINITY is our choice for the best internet service provider because it has fast download speeds and reasonably priced plans, and it is available in 40 of the lower 48 states.
Best Internet Provider Overall
XFINITY offers both cable and fiber internet with download speeds between 10Mbps and 2Gbps, depending on the service area. It’s available in 40 U.S. states and in most large cities. Your package price is locked in during your two-year contract, which includes XFINITY’s internet security application and parental controls. You only get seven email accounts but have 10GB of storage space to share between them. The company sells other services as well, including cable television and landline telephone services.
CenturyLink’s internet service costs about as much as its competitors’, but the company locks in your price with its Price For Life program – if you stay with CenturyLink and don’t change your plan, the price you pay each month won’t change. You can bundle internet with the provider’s other services, including cell phone service and satellite television. While phone and television services aren’t eligible for the price-lock program, any internet services bundled with them are.
Best for Email Use
Cable One is the best provider if you need a verifiable email account for online services, such as eBay, that don’t accept addresses issued by free email services. Your internet service comes with 20 email accounts and 15GB of storage – that’s enough space to hold about 300,000 messages and is much more storage space than the 2GB most internet providers include.
Evaluating & Ranking Internet Service Providers
Because it isn’t feasible to physically test each internet provider – several aren’t available in our area – we instead thoroughly researched the companies and gathered information about their plans and pricing, connection speeds, and common terms and conditions. We also learned about the security features, specifically internet security programs and parental controls, included with your monthly subscription.
For most homes, 12Mbps is sufficiently fast. At this speed, more than one person can connect to the internet at a time; you can live stream videos and televisions services, such as Netflix and Hulu; and you can play single-person games online. Most of the internet service providers we evaluated have a 12Mbps minimum speed, though most areas see minimum speeds around 25Mbps.
If you need to connect a lot of devices to the internet or you play multi-player games, we suggest an internet connection with a speed of at least 150Mbps. You typically can’t get a DLS connection that fast. However, some cable and all fiber optic internet services can reach that speed – and sometimes they’re even fast.
Plans & Packages
Internet plans vary by service area, type of internet connection and connection speed. However, you can expect to pay between $30 and $60 a month for DLS or cable internet and $80 for fiber optic service. Most internet companies require a minimum term agreement to lock in your package price, usually for a year or two. And you may be charged a fee if you choose to terminate your service before your contract ends.
There are a handful of internet providers that have low-income packages. These internet packages typically have much slower speeds and only support one or two connected devices at a time. However, their connections are fast enough to complete school assignments, pay bills online or send email messages. The exact terms and the application for low-income services are hard to find online, so you may need to call the provider directly and ask them to send you the forms.
Most service providers include some form of internet security or antivirus software to protect the devices you connect to the internet. Some companies, such as XFINITY, have their own security software. While these proprietary programs may provide security, it is difficult to independently test and evaluate them. Other providers, such as CenturyLink, partner with well-known security companies, like Norton, to protect your devices. These programs are regularly tested by third-party laboratories, including our own in-house testers as part of our internet security reviews.
Most of the internet providers we reviewed also include parental controls with your subscription. The included tools are typically very basic and limit you to adding URLs to a blacklist.
Not all internet providers operate in every part of the U.S., but there are usually at least two to choose from in each area. Before you agree to any internet package, make sure you read the fine print in the contract so you know how long your price is locked for as well as what the service charges for early cancellation.