Best Internet Service Providers of 2018

Nicole Johnston ·
Internet Security & Appliance Editor
Updated
We maintain strict editorial integrity when we evaluate products and services; however, Top Ten Reviews may earn money when you click on links.

We did extensive research and evaluated home internet providers for over 40 hours so we could help you choose the best one for you and your family. XFINITY, from Comcast, is our top pick for the best internet provider because of its connection speed, plan flexibility and availability in 40 of the lower 48 states, unlike several services that are only available in certain regions of the U.S.   

Best Overall
XFINITY
XFINITY is part of Comcast, providing residential internet service to 40 states. It has cable internet service with high download speeds of 250 Mbps and fiber internet with speeds up to 2 Gbps.
View on Comcast
$59.95@Comcast
Best Overall
XFINITY
Best Value
CenturyLink
CenturyLink has Price For Life that locks in your internet service package and cost for as long as you’re with the company. You just need to enroll in automatic bill pay to use this feature.
View on CenturyLink
Best for Email
Cable One
Cable One gives you 15GB of email storage space, which is enough to hold 300,000 messages before you need to delete them to make room for more. It also comes with 20 email addresses.
View on Cable One

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Best Overall
XFINITY is available in 40 states and in most big cities within those states. This is different from a lot of other internet providers that service more rural areas and don’t touch bigger cities. There are some exceptions to this. For example, XFINITY internet isn’t available in Phoenix or Tampa.
This service provider offers both cable and fiber optic (FiSO) internet connections in a variety of plans and bundle packages. Cable connections have download speeds between 10 Mbps and 250 Mbps, while FiSO internet offers speeds up to 2 Gbps. Cable internet packages range between $30 and $70 depending on the download speed you need. Most plans come with a two-year agreement, which means your price won’t increase during your contracted time. To access your XFINITY internet, you need to either purchase or rent a compatible modem. The provider currently only charges $10 per month to rent its xFi Gateway modem, and it has a handy search tool on its website to help you find a compatible modem to purchase outright. You can also download the xFi app to your smartphone and use it as a hotspot. On top of fast internet speeds, XFINITY also includes internet security software and parental controls. You also get a minimum of seven email accounts with 10 GB of storage. That is enough to save about 200,000 email messages before you need to start deleting them to free up space.
Pros
  • Available in 40 states
  • Cable speeds up to 250 Mbps
  • Fiber optic speeds up to 2 Gbps
Cons
  • Isn’t available in all major cities
  • Uses its own internet security program
  • Comes with only seven email accounts
$59.95Comcast
Read the full review
Best Value
We chose CenturyLink as the best value, not because it’s the cheapest option – its prices are comparable to most internet providers – but because all its internet plans come with Price For Life.
This means if you keep your internet service through CenturyLink and don’t change the plan you’re on, you won’t ever pay more for your internet service. This is a good deal because most other internet providers cap their prices for a year or two before upping them at the end of your term or even after a few months after a low promotional price. Other services don’t guarantee price locks within their service agreements at all, so your bill can be one price one month and much more the next without much notice. You do need to sign up for automatic payment withdrawal from your bank account as part of your service agreement with CenturyLink to take advantage of Price For Life. This provider is available in 36 states, though most of its service areas are in lower western states such as Arizona, Nevada and Utah. In some service areas CenturyLink has DSL internet plans with speeds ranging from 3 Mbps to 140 Mbps; the fastest speeds cost around $65 per month. Fiber optic internet is also available, but as we were looking for packages and pricing options on the CenturyLink website, we were asked to call the company directly for details.
Pros
  • Price locked in as long as you keep service
  • Available in 36 states
  • Offers a low-income option
Cons
  • Doesn’t include parental controls
  • Only 5GB of email storage included
  • Cable internet is not offered
$19.95CenturyLink
Read the full review
Best for Email
Cable One is the best choice if you need an email account along with your internet service because, in addition to 20 email addresses, it gives you 15GB of email storage, enough to save 300,000 messages before your inbox gets full. This is 75 percent more than most of the internet service providers we evaluated.
In most of its service areas, Cable One has plans between $40 and $80 for download speeds of 12 Mbps to 25 Mbps. There are some service areas that have speeds between 100 Mbps and 200 Mbps, but these come with data caps once you reach 300GB or 900GB, depending on the plan. The lower speed plans give you unlimited data. Also, Cable One doesn’t have agreement term lengths, so you can’t lock in your package price for a couple of years, and you may end up paying more after a few months of service. The company also offers landlines and television packages, so you can bundle your internet with other services and get a discount. Cable One is only available in 19 states, and we found that many of the big cities we used as part of our test searches didn’t fall inside their service area. For example, Cable One is available in smaller communities in Arizona, but not in Phoenix.
Pros
  • Includes 20 email address
  • 15GB of shared email storage space
  • Fast internet speeds
Cons
  • Not available in most big cities
  • No contract agreements to lock in service prices
  • Doesn’t offer low-income plans
$35.00Cable One
Read the full review
Best for Business
The best internet service provider for your home-based business is Comcast Business, the same company that offers Xfinity, our top pick for home internet service. Comcast offers internet speeds ranging from at 25 Mbps up to 1 Gbps in some areas.
Comcast Business doesn’t cap your data, which is an important feature. You can use Comcast’s speed test on its website to see how fast your current service is and compare it to the plans and speeds available from Comcast in your area. You can also bundle other communication services with your Comcast internet. For example, the company offers landline phone service, cable television and video monitoring of your office. You will be locked in to a minimum two-year contract with your internet service agreement, but Comcast Business does give you a 30-day money back guarantee just in case you change your mind. Also, you may be eligible for free installation if you ask for it.
Pros
  • Business internet speeds between 25 Mbps and 1 Gbps
Cons
  • Minimum two-year contract required
$59.95Comcast
Read the full review

Why Trust Us

We have been evaluating internet service companies for 13 years and satellite internet providers for seven. With reviewers from several parts of the United States, we have a good experience pool to pull from since we all appreciate media in all its forms. Additionally, because of the years we’ve spent researching everything internet and computer related, we’ve become experts in what to expect from an internet company – the quickness of download speeds and what should be included in your service agreement.

How We Evaluated & Reviewed Wi-Fi Providers

Because we couldn’t subscribe to every internet service provider, we instead spent 40 hours looking closely at each service’s plans, location availability, download speeds and pricing. We read the fine print in the Terms and Conditions to learn about early termination fees, contract lengths and promotional pricing. We’re familiar with download speeds, so we know how fast your internet needs to be to support multiple devices connected at once, for video streaming or for an optimal gaming experience.

Each internet company includes an interactive map on their website, though it is hard to find without using the search feature. This is how we learned where their service areas are, including the number of states each service is in. It is difficult to figure out from some of the maps which cities are covered. So we used six home address in some of the big cities in different regions of the United States, and searched for internet service availability on each company’s website. These addresses were in Tampa, Oklahoma City, Los Angeles, Boston, Phoenix and Detroit.

When we couldn’t find the information we needed from the ISP website, we contacted their customer service representatives either by email or telephone, sometimes both. In most cases this helped us track down the information we needed while also giving us a chance to evaluate the quality of the company’s customer service.

Satellite Internet Services

If you live in a rural area where the major internet service providers don’t reach, you can still get an internet connection. This is done through satellite internet service. Companies like HughesNet reach areas such as dense forests and summer beach neighborhoods where Wi-Fi cables aren’t installed for traditional internet services. With satellite internet you can still get good speeds, around 25 Mbps, that is fast enough to support multiple devices and TV streaming services at the same time. And the cost is comparable to traditional internet too, around $50 per month, plus equipment rental fees around $15 per month.

Some satellite internet service providers, like Viasat, offer a suspension service plan. This lets you stop internet service to a cabin or other property that you don’t visit often during the time that you’re not there. This way you only pay for the service when you need it and not during the other times of the month when you’re at your primary home.

Know Before You Sign

Most areas of the U.S. have a few high-speed internet options that may include DSL, cable or fiber optic services. The biggest challenge in deciding on an internet service provider is knowing which companies are available in your area. Each of the internet companies we reviewed have maps and lists of areas they serve on their websites, and you can enter your home address to make sure the company services your area. Some companies, such as Sudden Link, will show you the companies that are available in your areas if they don’t offer internet services.

How much does internet service cost?
Internet plans vary by service area, type of internet connection and 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 terminate your service before the 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, these connections are fast enough to complete school assignments, pay bill online and 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.

In addition to your monthly subscription fee, you will also be charged an equipment rental fee, usually around $100 per month, that covers the modem and router needed to complete the network connection and send internet service to all your devices.Over time it is more cost effective to purchase your own modem and router, though for many it’s a steep cost for a one-time purchase. You can learn more about purchasing a modem and router and the benefits of ownership versus leasing in our cable modem comparison and our review of the best wireless routers.

Connection Speeds
Each internet company we compared offers several plans and packages to choose from. Most let you choose between DSL, cable or fiber optic, also known as FiOS. Each has variable download speeds, which is the speed ISPs use to define how fast your internet is. Connections with 12 Mbps to 25 Mbps are good enough for streaming videos and TV services such as Netflix, playing some online games and connecting to five devices at the same time. If you’re a gamer, we suggest at minimum 150 Mbps to keep up with fasted-paced virtual reality or multi-player games.

Security
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 security programs are regularly tested by Top Ten Reviews in our own in-house testing, and by other third-party laboratories, like AV-Comparatives, and included as part of our internet security reviews.

Most 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. You can add more protections including time controls and internet filters to existing parental controls with a standalone monitoring program.

Service Details
Along with your internet service, your provider will give you several email accounts, usually about 10. This means everyone in your family can have their own verified email address that can be used for subscriptions, such as eBay, that require a valid email address that isn’t from a free email service. But to avoid having to delete saved messages when your account gets full, it’s important to choose a service that gives you enough storage. Most of the internet providers we reviewed, such as Cox, only give you 2GB total to share between email accounts, which is enough to hold about 40,000 basic messages without attachments. Xfinity gives you 10GB of storage and Cable One gives you 15GB, which can hold 300,000 messages before you need to start making room.