Internet Service Provider Methodology
How We Found the Best Internet Service Providers
It’s no easy task, to scour through obscure sites, tally prices that change by region, and compare services that aren’t exactly transparent. We’ve been working on finding the best internet providers for years, and the best one for you will depend on a few factors. We found universal factors to measure each provider against in our full review of the best internet service providers.
More than anything, where you live will determine which internet providers you can choose from. According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, 39% of Americans only have access to one broadband provider. (The exception is satellite internet providers, which are accessible virtually everywhere.) Providers intentionally avoid competition with each other. Building out the infrastructure and wiring to service new areas is an expensive investment — one that may not pay off in an area where a large provider is already dominating the regional market. Thus, monopolies dictate and limit the options consumers have.
Even landlords are partnering with corporations to eliminate competition, and many apartment complexes come with exclusive broadband agreements. With that in mind, we started with a list of the 12 largest nationwide providers, as they’re the options most likely available in your area. We favored providers that did their best to reach as many customers as possible.
From there, we cut out any companies that didn’t offer speeds of at least 25 Mbps — the FCC’s benchmark for good internet speed. Because speeds change depending on where you live, we got quotes in each provider’s strongest service area to see what kind of service we could expect on average. We also gathered data on maximum speeds, plan options, and availability. Providers with a more diverse range of offerings were generally favored, as they could cater to all kinds of internet users.
Customer Satisfaction Ratings
No one likes feeling like they’re going into battle every time they have to call their internet provider. And the telecommunications industry has a bad reputation for customer care, whether that’s faulty equipment, surprise fees, billing issues, or spotty service.
We used customer satisfaction ratings from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) and J.D. Power to find out which companies have a better chance of surpassing your expectations. The ACSI puts out a report every year using data from 70,000 customers detailing how happy they are with their service. Likewise, J.D. Power uses a nationwide survey to dictate customer satisfaction scores. We’ll be upfront: The bar is pretty low here, so we looked at scores relative to the rest of the industry. We favored high-scoring providers for their proven ability to outperform the others in satisfying customers.