The Best Cable Internet
Cable internet is known for its range of speeds; it can be as slow as a satellite space dish or come close to fiber-optic fast lanes. The best for you will largely depend on your location, as your options will often be limited to just a few companies. We've ranked on our favorites based on their customer service, package options, and extra perks like bundling discounts.
With the nation's best customer service scores and the option to pair your service with DIRECTV— AT&T is subverting the subpar service standard.
Charter Spectrum's $500 contract buyout and no caps on data usage make them a promising provider. Their customer service tends to vary depending on your location and the North Central region ranks highest.
- January 19, 2018 - We’ve updated this review to address facts and policies that have changed since originally published. We’ve also included summaries of more than just two providers. Most noteworthy, our previous runner up, Time Warner, was absorbed by Charter Communications, which has rebranded as Charter Spectrum. A full update and deep dive will be published in the coming months.
The Best Cable Internet Provider
The best provider for you will depend largely on what’s available at your address, as you may not have a choice at all. If you do, you’ll want to think about the speeds that you need and compare packages to find the right price. We ranked some of the nation's largest providers that you’re likely to run into in your search for a cable Internet Service Provider (ISP), based on customer service, speed offerings, and extras like fees and bundling.
How to Choose Your Cable Internet Provider
Audit your speeds and data usage
In order to choose your plan and provider, you need to know the ideal speed and data plans for your household. A couple things can play into the usage demands, including the number of devices that are connected and the type of internet activity. High demand usage like HD streaming, video-chatting, and gaming require higher speeds and more monthly data. Internet speed is measured in megabits per second (Mbps), and cable internet typically offers speeds between 10-100 Mbps. Any more than that and you’ll want to look at fiber optic internet options like Verizon FiOS or Google Fiber — any less, and you can go with DSL or satellite internet.
How Much Internet Do You Need?
|Number of Users||Number of Devices||Activity||Recommended Speed|
|1-2||1-3||Emailing, web browsing, social media posting, SD video streaming on one device||5-15 Mbps|
|2-3||4-8||Music streaming, occasional online gaming, streaming HD video on one or two devices||25-50 Mbps|
|3-5||8-10||Multiple devices simultaneously streaming HD or 4K video, real-time gaming, or video conferencing||50-100 Mbps|
|5+||10+||Multiple devices simultaneously streaming HD or 4K video, real-time gaming, video conferencing, large file downloading||100+ Mbps|
Source: ISP websites, HighSpeedInternet.com, BroadbandNow’s Nick Reese
Internet data works similarly to your phone data plans and is measured in gigabytes (GB). Most cable internet companies will implement data caps ranging from 250 GB to unlimited. For some context, 1 GB is needed for about one hour of Netflix SD streaming and 3 GB per hour for HD streaming. Heavy users will want to look for a plan with around 500 GB of data or more.
Packages and pricing for your ideal plan will vary between providers and by location. You'll want to enter your address into providers that seem promising.
Compare customer service ratings
If you have multiple cable internet providers servicing your address and you’ve identified the plans you’re considering, it’s time to weigh the customer service. The telecommunications industry is notorious for its mediocre customer service. From faulty equipment, surprise fees, incorrect bills, and endless phone trees — cable internet providers are tough to deal with. With that reputation in mind, providers with better-than-awful customer service scores could save you from frustrating phone calls and faulty billing.
J.D. Power and the American Customer Satisfaction Index rate providers and survey customers on factors like performance, cost, communication, and billing. Comparing these is a good way to measure which providers are more likely to tell you exactly what’s on your bill, promptly schedule installations, and provide promised speeds — all while less likely to forward your call to three different departments. AT&T and Verizon both comparatively excel, while Mediacom and Comcast settle at the bottom.
Consider extras like fees and bundling options
If price is an especially significant component of your purchase, you’ll want to remain aware of any installation or equipment fees that could add up. Comcast, for example, has a self-installation fee of $15. There are also potential fees for surpassing your data cap. On the other end, by adding another service like cable TV you can save money on both services. For example, you may pay $30 per month for each service individually, or $40 per month for a bundled package.
Our Top Picks for the Best Cable Internet
Best Customer Service
AT&T also scores high when it comes to servicing its customers. It won the J.D. Power customer satisfaction award in the North Central region, and it came in close second to Verizon in other regions. Internet options are fairly limited if you don’t bundle with DIRECTV. In some areas, you’ll only have the option of a 50 Mbps internet-only plan. That’s a generous speed, though, and if you fall into that speed category we recommend considering AT&T.
Its data limits are generous too, with up to 1TB (1,000 GB) on all plans. Only very large households that often have many users streaming and online gaming would need to worry about running out of data.
No Data Caps
For those looking to leave their current provider, Charter Spectrum offers a $500 contract buyout. Without the obligation of a new contract, Charter will help cover any early termination fees up to $500.
If you bundle your services, Spectrum offers a free modem, free install, and free DVR service — all items that other providers typically charge around $10-$15 per month. You’ll pay $5 per month to upgrade to a WiFi-enabled modem, but that’s still cheaper than other providers, and your package will include speeds that start at 100 Mbps. To sweeten the deal, Charter has no caps on data usage.
Most Plan Options
Though its customer service ratings are fairly poor in comparison to AT&T and Verizon, Comcast’s rankings have improved over the course of two years. In 2015 it scored a 56/100, in 2016 a 59/100, and 2017 it’s peaked to 60/100 — an indication that the company is making an effort to improve its reputation. For some context, in 2017 AT&T scored a 69/100 and Verizon a 71/100.
Comcast offers widespread coverage and lots of plan options. It has a wide range of available speeds, anywhere from 10 Mbps to 250 Mbps. Whether you’re doing some basic web browsing or spending hours on Overwatch, you’ll find a plan that fits your needs.
Best for Heavy Users
As another high-speed cable option, Mediacom offers plans with speeds ranging from 60 Mbps to 1,000 Mbps. Its data options come at an impressive range, too; 400 GB-6,000 GB. Its max offerings are astronomically excessive for the majority of households, but these high speed options and large data limits mean heavy internet users will never have to worry about maxing out or culling back.
Unfortunately, Mediacom hits the lowest of the low for customer service. It falls behind Comcast with a 58/100 from ACSI, and its scores were so low that they only ranked with J.D. Power in the West region and with a 2/5 in all categories. If you don’t stress much over interaction with your ISP, its packages may be worth it.
Best for Light Users
As one of the few internet service providers that offer plans with speeds below 10 Mbps, Cox may appeal to ultra-light internet users. However, those low speeds, around 5 Mbps, don’t come at great value. In most cities, that speed will cost $30, and $10 more to leap to 50 Mbps. Charter’s most popular promotional deal, by comparison, is $30 for 100 Mbps.
Cox fares well when it comes to servicing its customers, and it won the J.D. Power customer satisfaction award for the West region. Its worst score comes from the Cost of Service metric, aligning with what we found on its poorly valued plans.