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 for Home
Xfinity
Xfinity is the residential internet service offered by Comcast and is available in more U.S. states than any other internet service provider. Available download speeds are up to 250 Mbps for cable internet and 2 Gbps for fiber.
View on Comcast
VISIT SITE@Comcast
Best for Home
Xfinity
Best for Business
Comcast
For business internet, Comcast services more areas throughout the U.S. than other ISPs, doesn’t cap data usage and offers speeds up to 1 Gbps in some service areas. Ethernet is also available.
View on Comcast
Best for Rural Areas
HughesNet
HughesNet is the best internet provider for rural areas. In fact, other content providers, including DISH and Earthlink, partner with HughesNet to offer internet services to their rural customers.
View on HughesNet
Product
Price
Overall Rating
Performance & Plans
Service Details
Extra Services
Support Options
Max Download Speed (Mbps)
Max Upload Speed (Mbps)
Number of Plans
Lowest Plan
Highest Plan
Connection Type
States Available
Low-Income Option
Internet Security
Parental Controls
Service-Hosted Email
Number of Email Accounts
Email Storage (GB/each)
Basic Plan Contract Length
Internet Only Plan
Landline Available
Television Available
Streaming Service Available
Mobile App
Telephone
Online Documentation
Online Bill Pay
Local Repair Services
Live Chat
Email
Check Price
9.6 9.4 9.4 10 10
150
10
10
$29.99
$49.99
Cable, Fiber
40
7
10
1 Year
Check Price
9.4 8.8 10 10 8.8
50
5
6
$14.99
$64.99
Cable
29
-
30
5
1 Year
-
Check Price
9.3 10 7.5 10 10
500
25
10
$19.99
$274.99
Fiber, DSL
14
-
9
1.5
2 Years
Check Price
9 8.1 9.4 10 8.8
45
1
3
$29.95
$59.00
Fiber, DSL, Dial-Up
21
-
11
2
1 Year
-
Cox
Check Price
8.9 9.4 8.1 8.8 10
150
2
4
$39.99
$79.99
Cable
19
10
2
None
-
Check Price
8.6 8.8 7.5 10 8.1
150
5
4
$40.00
$70.00
Cable
16
-
10
2
1 Year
-
Check Price
8.6 9.4 7.5 8.1 10
100
10
3
$35.00
$75.00
Cable
19
-
-
20
15
None
-
-
Check Price
8.4 8.1 7.5 10 8.1
40
20
4
$19.00
$64.95
Fiber, DSL
18
-
11
5
3 Years
-
-
Check Price
8.3 7.5 9.4 8.1 8.8
25
1
4
$19.99
$49.99
Cable, Fiber, DSL, Dial-Up
28
10
5
3 Years
-
-
-
Best for Home
Xfinity is available in 40 states and offers download speeds starting at 60 Mbps. That is enough for five devices to be connected at once without experiencing slowdown.
Xfinity has internet packages that offer 250 Mbps for cable internet and 2 Gbps for fiber connections. The service has over 19 million hotspots to connect your mobile devices while outside your home to help you keep connected when you need to be. However, during our research, we learned that Xfinity isn’t available in some major cities, like Phoenix and Tampa. With your internet service you get online security to keep your computer and other devices free from malware and shield you from online threats. However, this is a security program designed specifically for Xfinity users, so it hasn’t been tested by third-party security labs – as other antivirus programs have been – to prove its overall effectiveness. Xfinity does apply data caps if you’re not part of its Gigabit Pro service plan, which means if you reach the specified amount of data alloted to you each month before the next billing cycle, Xfinity may slow down your connection. It isn’t clear on its website (or even the fine print) exactly what the data caps are for each plan, so you may need to ask before you sign your contract. Every Xfinity home internet package requires a one-year service agreement and may be subject to a $500 installation fee in addition to any equipment lease fees. You may be able to take advantage of some discounts by bundling your home internet service with phone, TV or home security services.
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
  • Installation fee is pricey
VISIT SITEComcast
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 25 Mbps up to 1 Gbps in some areas. Plus, ethernet is available for even faster internet speeds.
This service’s internet connection includes 4G-LTE backup that will feed your connection power for up to six hours so your business can keep going in the event of a power outage. 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
  • Internet speeds up to 1 Gbps
  • 4G-LTE backup
  • Ethernet internet available
Cons
  • Service not available in all areas
  • Minimum two-year contract required
  • High cancelation fees
VISIT SITEComcast
Read the full review
Best for Rural Areas
HughesNet is the top satellite internet service provider and one of the only companies capable of providing internet connections to rural areas where traditional cable and fiber optic service isn’t available. It’s available in 48 states, including Alaska and Hawaii, and it offers service to Canada.
One perk of HughesNet is the same packages and services are available in all U.S. locations, so it’s easy to price and plan for exactly what you need from its website without giving out too much personal information or speaking with a service rep. HughesNet offers fast download speeds starting at 35 Mbps, which is fast enough for several devices to connect at once, or to stream video, without experiencing slowdown or buffering. HughesNet does cap data usage for some of its packages but allows faster speeds during off-peak hours between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. without dipping into your monthly data allotment. When you reach your monthly data limit, the company doesn’t cut off your internet access, but instead limits your bandwidth which slows down your speed. Several content providers, like DISH, partner with HughesNet to offer satellite internet services to their customers, but unless you’re bundling internet with other services, it is usually cheaper to deal with HughesNet directly. Just be aware that you are locked into a two-year contract and HughesNet charges high fees if you cancel before it is up.
Pros
  • Provides satellite internet in rural areas
  • Minimum speed is 35 Mbps
  • Services 48 states and Canada
Cons
  • Caps monthly bandwidth usage
  • Unlimited data plans not offered in all areas
  • Cancelation fees are expensive
VISIT SITEHughesNet
Read the full review
AT&T has both fiber and DSL internet available with its minimum service package. It also includes download speeds between 80 Mbps and 100 Mbps and a 1TB monthly data allowance.
That is fast enough to support multiple devices connected at once and is great if you have a lot of gamers in your home or you stream TV often on multiple devices. You aren’t charged equipment or activation fees, plus your internet service comes with access to McAfee, one of the top internet protection programs that not only blocks malware from infecting your computer but also shields personal information from internet snoops. You also get 11 email accounts, POP access and spam filters. AT&T does give additional discounts and perks when you bundle your internet service with other services, including DirecTV. Cellphone service is also available and qualifies for bundled discounts. AT&T internet services are available only in 28 states, and it does require a minimum 12-month contract that is subject to cancelation fees.
Pros
  • Fast DSL and fiber optic internet with minimum 80 Mbps download speeds
Cons
  • Internet connections available only in 28 states
VISIT SITEAT&T
Read the full review
All CenturyLink’s internet plans come with Price for Life, a program that locks in your internet service package and price for as long as you have the service.
Even if you bundle your internet with other services through CenturyLink, such as television or cellphone, if you drop these other services but keep the same internet package, the price will remain locked in place. This makes CenturyLink a good value for internet service. This provider is available in 26 states, though most of these are in the lower western areas like Arizona, Nevada and parts of California. Packages range from $45 to $65 per month for DSL internet with speeds that vary between 12 Mbps and 120 Mbps depending on your service area. Fiber optic internet is also available, but you have to speak with a customer service representative to learn about CenturyLink’s packages available in your area. Cable internet is not available.
Pros
  • Price locked in as long as you keep your service
Cons
  • Doesn’t offer cable internet
VISIT SITECenturyLink
Read the full review
Cox offers cable internet services with packages that start under $30 for 10 Mbps, which is a good enough speed for gaming or for sharing data with a couple devices connected at once. But 1 Gbps speeds are available with several other speeds in between so you can get an internet connection that works for you home needs.
Along with your internet service, Cox includes internet security through McAfee and 10 email accounts with 2GB of shared online storage space. If you sign up for the 1 Gbps speed package, Cox will give you 15GB of storage for each email account. All internet packages come with unlimited data use, which means Cox will never throttle or slow down your connection just because you’ve reached a certain data limit for the month. You can bundle your internet with other services offered by Cox, including cable TV, phone services and home security packages. Equipment needed to access the internet, such as modems, is not included with your internet package price and will be an additional fee. You can avoid this by purchasing your own modem. Cox has a list of compatible modems on its website.
Pros
  • Doesn’t throttle your internet speeds
Cons
  • Monthly equipment lease fees are added if you don’t already own them
VISIT SITECox
Read the full review
Frontier Communications doesn’t require you to have a phone to ensure the DSL internet service package you choose, which will range between $20 and $35 per month, is locked into a price for a full two years.
On top of the service fees, Frontier also charges equipment rental fees, installation fees and infrastructure surcharges, which could add another $10 to $20 to your monthly bill. You can purchase your own modem to save a bit, and Frontier lists compatible modems on its website. Internet download speeds begin at 6 Mbps, which is enough to check email and surf the web a bit, and go up to 25 Mbps, which handles a couple of devices connected at once, TV streaming or online gaming. However, these speeds are quite slow compared to packages offered from most other ISPs. Frontier has partnered with Dish to offer TV services that can be bundled with your internet package and may provide a discount to your overall service bill. Frontier is currently available in 38 states, though there are places in some of those states that Frontier doesn’t service. For example, there are several zip codes in Phoenix that can’t access Frontier even though it is available in other areas of Arizona.
Pros
  • Internet service prices are locked in for two years
Cons
  • The DSL internet speeds are not very fast
VISIT SITEFrontier
Read the full review
Spectrum, the new name of Time Warner, has partnered with several other ISPs to provide cable networks that offer internet service in multiple areas across the United States. These include hotspots for users to connect online even when not at home.
High speed internet is offered with speeds starting at 60 Mbps, which is good for online gaming, streaming TV and having multiple devices connected at once without experiencing any slowdown or buffering. However, the only way to see specific pricing for your area is to enter your full address in the search field on Spectrum’s website. And though it is available in just about every state, the service isn’t available in a lot of areas within those states, with the exception of the East Coast. You can bundle your internet service with cable television or Spectrum’s new mobile phone services. Some of these bundles don’t require a contract, which means no hefty cancelation fees. But it also means your package price isn’t guaranteed for a specific length of time.
Pros
  • Some internet service packages don’t require a contract
Cons
  • You can’t get pricing for your service without providing your full address
VISIT SITESpectrum
Read the full review
Most Suddenlink internet packages include minimum speeds of 50 Mbps, which is enough to support both TV streaming and online gaming at the same time. One gig speeds are also available in some areas.
With your internet connection you get 10 email addresses and 54MB of shared storage, which isn’t a lot, so you’ll need to delete old messages so new ones can make it to your inbox without a problem. In addition to internet, you can use Suddenlink for television services, landline phone connections with unlimited local and long distance calling, and home security monitoring. Suddenlink doesn’t post internet service pricing online. Instead you will have to follow through with the ordering process to see what is available in your area, or speak with a customer service representative directly. There are some perks offered if you order online, like free installation for certain packages. You can expect to pay additional fees for equipment rentals unless you already have a compatible modem. Suddenlink is only available in 13 states, and most service areas are located in rural areas of Texas and Louisiana.
Pros
  • Offers impressive speeds in most service areas
Cons
  • Only available in 13 states and not in bigger cities
VISIT SITESuddenlink
Read the full review
Verizon offers fiber optic internet services, which means very fast download speeds and dependable service that isn’t affected by weather or power outages.
DSL internet is also available with speeds between 1.1 Mbps and 7.1 Mbps, which isn’t fast enough to support TV streaming or gaming. And Verizon requires you to have its phone service in order to have access to its DSL internet. Verizon’s fiber optic internet packages start with download speeds of 100 Mbps and go up to 880 Mbps or 940 Mbps depending on the service area. Each package locks in your service price for a minimum of one year and up to three years for some packages. Along with fast internet connections, all fiber optic internet packages come with the option of Verizon’s TechSure, which is 24/7 support plus access to McAfee internet security programs, LastPass password manager and LifeLock identity theft protections. Verizon is one of the few ISPs that give you 30 days to decide if you like their fiber optic service and cancel without a penalty.
Pros
  • Fiber optic internet connection speeds start at 100 Mbps
Cons
  • DSL connections aren’t fast and require Verizon’s phone service
VISIT SITEVerizon
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.

Which Internet Service Provider Is Best for Gaming?
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.

Cable internet services, like Spectrum, offer packages with 12 Mbps download speeds, which is a good starting speed for gaming. Anything slower causes noticeable drag and buffering during your online play, especially if you have more than one console connected to the internet at once for party play, or you need to share data with others in your home.

Fiber optic connections are faster and much more reliable for online games because they use a dedicated line. Fiber optic internet also is not affected by weather or power outages in the same way cable is, making fiber the preferred internet connection by professional gamers. We recommend Xfinity because of its impressive speeds for both cable and fiber optic internet service (up to 250 Mbps for cable and 2 Gbps for fiber), its widespread availability and its service plans that won’t cap your data.

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.

Do you need an internet provider to use a wireless router?

Yes. A router is the device that transfers your internet connection to your devices, including computers, TVs and IoT devices like Google Home. In the past in order to have an internet connection you had to physically plug your device into the router. And there are some devices still out there that can only connect online with a wired router. Wireless routers are more common now, and if you are a new internet customer, your service provider will lease you a wireless router if you don’t purchase one on your own. But neither type of router will work without first subscribing to an internet service.

A wireless router is connected to your telephone or cable line. It then converts your connection into radio waves and sends the signal to your Wi-Fi enabled devices. On top of internet service, wireless routers are used for TV streaming and digital TV access through smart TVs and products like the Amazon Firestick. You can also use your wireless router to make calls over the internet, which typically is much cheaper than using a landline.