Best Internet Service Providers | 2021 ISP Guide

Popular Internet Service Providers

360 Overall Rating
Monthly Cost
$35 and Up
Connection Type
Fiber
Download Speed
0.8 Mbps – 940 Mbps
Bundles
Internet, TV

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360 Overall Rating
Monthly Cost
$49.99 and Up
Connection Type
Hybrid-Fiber Coax
Download Speed
100 Mbps – 940 Mbps
Bundles
Internet, TV, or Phone

See Review

360 Overall Rating
Monthly Cost
$40 and Up
Connection Type
Satellite
Download Speed
12 Mbps – 100 Mbps
Bundles
Internet, TV, or Phone

See Review

Internet access has become an important staple in the American household. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 90% of all homes have a high-speed internet connection.

As high-speed internet continues to gain popularity, internet service providers (ISPs) themselves are struggling to keep customers happy. In a recent survey by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), internet providers as a whole had a customer satisfaction score of 62 out of 100. ACSI reported that while some companies improved each year, “service is largely considered to be slow and unreliable, and competition is limited in many areas.”

Some internet service providers stand out among the rest. However, it may seem difficult to find out which companies are above average and if they are available in your area. Whether you are shopping for a fast internet plan, cheap internet access, or an all-around solid provider, we’ve got a rating for you. Read on to learn more about the top internet service providers of 2021.

(pixelfit)

RCN Internet »

3.9 out of 5

Company

$19.99 and Up Monthly Cost
Fiber, Cable Connection Type
25 Mbps – 940 Mbps Download Speed (Mbps)
See Review »
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Though many internet service providers garner complaints and grumblings, not every company is a bad apple. To find the best ones, we analyzed more than 30 different companies. We compared the price and speeds of internet plans, evaluated data from the FCC, and considered both professional and consumer reviews. A select few rose to the top, earning a spot in our rating of the Best Internet Service Providers of 2021.

Rates are current as of the date of this review and don’t include taxes, fees, or surcharges.

Xfinity Internet  »

Xfinity Internet

Best ISP Overall

Monthly Cost
$29.99 and Up
Connection Type
Cable
Download Speed
15 Mbps – 2,000 Mbps
Bundles
Internet, TV, Phone or Home Security

See Review

Xfinity: Six cable and two fiber internet plans are available from Xfinity, which is owned by Comcast. Prices for cable plans start as low as $29.99 per month for download speeds of 15 Mbps and upload speeds of 2 Mbps. At the top of the range are cable plans that cost $69.99 per month for 600 Mbps download speeds and 20 Mbps upload speeds. Fiber internet plans are available in some areas up to 2 Gbps, but this costs a hefty $299 a month. Discounts are available for self-installation, autopay, paperless billing, and one-year service agreements. Plans are limited to 1 TB of data and come with free security software and access to a nationwide network of Wi-Fi hotspots. Service is available in 39 states and Washington, D.C. In our Best Internet Service rating, Xfinity placed No. 4. Read more in our review of Xfinity internet, or visit our top Xfinity promo codes.

Verizon Fios: Verizon Fios takes first place in our rating of the Best Internet Service Providers of 2021. It excels when it comes to performance and reliability – two elements Greenblatt says are significant for internet customer satisfaction. Plans for Verizon’s fiber internet range from 200 to 940 Mbps, and there are no data caps limiting your monthly data usage. Availability is currently limited to select areas in the Northeast. See our Verizon internet review for more information and to view plans, or check out the top Verizon promo codes.

AT&T Internet: Tied for our No. 3 Best Internet Service Provider is AT&T Internet. It offers three fiber optic internet plans. The fastest of these – a 940 Mbps plan – made our rating of the Fastest Internet Plans of 2021. You can get AT&T Internet in 21 states, including Texas and California. For more information, see our AT&T Internet review or check out the top ATT promo codes.

Spectrum: Spectrum Internet, also tied for third, is offered by Charter Communications. The standard no-contract plan has download speeds of 100 Mbps and upload speeds of 10 Mbps. The cost is $49.99 per month for one year for new subscribers, and standard rates apply after the year is up. The fastest plan, Spectrum Internet Gig, promises download speeds of 940 Mbps and upload speeds of 35 Mbps. You get a lot of extras with Spectrum. In addition to unlimited data, you get a free modem and antivirus software, as well as access to a nationwide network of Wi-Fi hotspots. Service is available in 42 states. Read more in our review of Spectrum Internet.

When shopping for internet service, it’s easy to compare some factors, such as cost. Other things, like customer service, are harder to gauge unless you have direct experience with the company. Below we explain some of the most important factors to think about when searching for a new internet provider:

Cost: Internet providers and connection types vary widely in price. The cheapest plan costs about $20 a month and provides speeds of 10 megabits per second (Mbps). This is adequate for basic web surfing, but too slow for streaming high-definition video or other high-bandwidth tasks. On the other end of the spectrum, an ultra-fast gigabit connection usually costs $100 a month or more.

Overall, internet access in the U.S. remains relatively expensive. “Most ISPs are still falling short of providing good service at an affordable price,” ACSI reports. On the plus side, broadband service providers are building out their networks to make them faster for more people, which costs a lot of money. At the same time, Greenblatt says that performance and reliability have also improved over time, which demonstrates that customers are indeed benefitting from ISPs’ continued technological investments.

Speed: Although you may not need the fastest speeds available, your internet connection should be fast enough for what you do online. If you experience a lot of latency or buffering, you may want to upgrade to a faster plan. For more information, see our What is a Good Internet Speed guide. Changing to a different connection type – such as from DSL to cable – can also help. See our breakdown below on the different types of internet service.

Reliability: It can be incredibly frustrating when you want to do something online – especially something important, like work – only to find that your internet service has gone down. The speed and reliability of an internet service provider are two things that affect customer satisfaction the most, says Ian Greenblatt, leader of the Technology, Media and Telecommunications Intelligence team at J.D. Power. “It simply has to work,” explains Greenblatt. “You have to be there when I need you.”

Billing: Some internet bills are easy to understand, while others can be almost indecipherable. Were you charged more than you expected, with little or no explanation? Choosing an internet provider that provides easy-to-read bills. Also look for an ISP that lets you pay using your preferred method, be it Apple Pay or a paper check.

Because it’s hard to gauge many of these factors before signing up with an ISP, find trustworthy feedback on the company first. Use our Best Internet Service Providers rating to see which companies earn high scores from professional, unbiased sources. In addition, friends and neighbors may be able to recommend (or discourage you from using) their current internet provider.

For broadband internet, there are four main residential connection options: cable, DSL, fiber optic, and satellite. You can also get internet in your home with dial-up (though this is too slow to be considered broadband) or through a wireless connection from your cellphone provider. We don’t cover these options in our ISP guides.

Cable Internet

Cable internet is by far the most widespread type of broadband connection, partly because it uses the same infrastructures as your cable TV. This is good news if you have not yet cut the cord in favor of streaming services, because you may be able to save money by bundling your internet connection with your cable TV subscription.

Cable internet is also a popular choice because of its value. Based on plans from our Best Internet Provider rating, you can get a basic broadband connection for less than $40 a month. Cable is also appealing for those who need faster speeds, with upper-tier plans offering 175-, 275-, and 500-Mbps download speeds.

DSL Internet

DSL is slowly getting replaced by faster, more reliable broadband connections like cable and fiber internet. However, many people have limited high-speed provider options in their areas, especially in rural communities. In these regions, DSL offers much faster speeds than dial-up, and it tends to be faster and more consistent than satellite internet. In our research of the Best Internet Providers, we found that DSL plans tend to cost less than similar plans from satellite internet.

If you’re a mild internet user that mainly surfs the web or streams TV on one device at a time, DSL may work well for you. If you have a busy household with lots of people getting online at the same time – especially if two or more are using data for streaming or online gaming – DSL isn’t going to cut it.

Fiber Internet

When it comes to high-speed internet access, fiber optic internet is the crème de la crème. This connection can deliver some of the highest download speeds. Though cable internet can also provide superb download speeds, it doesn’t usually deliver fast upload speeds. Fiber plans, on the other hand, often have matching download and upload speeds. That’s music to the ears of anyone who sends large chunks of data, such as a small business with cloud backups, or someone who shares lots of high-definition videos on social media.

Fiber internet is also appealing for ultra-internet users. With very little packet loss and low latency, online gamers will have little disruption during their gaming sessions. Users who stream video or participate in videoconferencing won’t be plagued by hiccups in the feed or frozen screens.

Satellite Internet

These days, most people living in metro areas probably don’t consider satellite for high-speed internet, but this is still one of the top choices for much of rural America. Almost every county in the U.S. – including some remote areas of Alaska and Hawaii – have satellite internet as a broadband option, according to the FCC. In comparison, only 55% of rural areas can get high-speed access through a cable provider, and less than 20% have fiber optic internet available.

In the online gaming world, your fate can quickly be decided if your internet falters. Your high-speed connection needs to be fast enough to keep up with your gameplay, but it also must be free from lags or delays, which can mean the difference between conquering or perishing in the digital world.

Getting a high-speed internet plan is key if you want problem-free online gaming. Latency, a measurement of internet delay, tends to improve as internet speed increases, according to a recent report from the FCC. We used the data in this report to see which internet providers delivered the lowest latency. Find out what to look for regarding latency and see the top ISPs in our rating of the Best Internet Providers for Gaming of 2021.

Internet access doesn’t have to cost $100 or more each month. We combed through the internet plans offered by the Best Internet Service Providers of 2021 to find the least expensive options, based on monthly price. Follow the links in the companies’ names to read our full reviews. You can also read more about the Cheapest Internet Service of 2021 here.

If you want the fastest internet speeds possible, fiber optic internet is your premier choice. It has some of the fastest download and upload speeds available. Note that every choice in our rating of the Fastest Internet Plans of 2021 is fiber.

However, do you really need an ultra-fast gigabit connection? Find out how to select the right internet speed level, see what broadband services are available in your area, and get tips on increasing your internet speed in our Fastest Internet Plans guide.

Find the best internet service provider using our complete set of buying guides:

Other Products to Consider

In addition to the companies in our rating of the Best Internet Service Providers, here are some others to consider:

The following describes our 360 approach to researching and analyzing internet service providers to guide prospective consumers.

1. We researched the companies and products people care most about.

U.S. News analyzed and compared a variety of publicly available data, including internet search data, to determine which internet service providers consumers are most interested in. We found 26 companies that stood out for further evaluation using the volume of searches and consumer research. After conducting a thorough analysis, we were able to condense the initial list to the 12 overall Best Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Taking a step further, out of the top 12 ISPs, we determined which is best by connection type, the best for gaming using latency* as a parameter, and the cheapest in terms of the lowest advertised pricing option. Fastest ISPs was also another sub-category to consider, but without the proper speed testing platform, this could not be captured appropriately. 360 Reviews instead offered consumers the fastest publicized ISP plans provided by our overall Best Internet Service Providers. With the companies determined, we researched their most important features to create a general layout of what consumers should know to assist with their purchasing decisions.

We compared the various plans, along with the monthly costs and associated fees that each company provided relative to their customers’ needs. The plans highlighted features such as connection type, download/upload speed, and data caps. We also considered the latency, consistency, and packet loss data provided by the Federal Communications Commission in regards to connection type and ISPs for gaming . With these factors in mind, we created a thorough set of guides that provides a 360 overview of what consumers should consider.

2. We created objective 360 Overall Ratings based on an analysis of third-party reviews.

Our scoring methodology is based on a composite analysis of the ratings and reviews published by credible third-party professional and consumer review sources. The ratings are not based on the personal opinions, tests, or experiences of U.S. News. To calculate the ratings:

(a) We compiled two types of third-party ratings and reviews:

  • Professional Ratings and Reviews: Many independent evaluating sources have published their assessments of internet service providers and products online. We consider several of these third-party reviews to be reputable and well-researched. However, professional reviewers often make recommendations that contradict one another. Rather than relying on a single source, U.S. News believes consumers benefit most when these opinions and recommendations are considered and analyzed collectively with an objective, consensus-based methodology.
  • Consumer Ratings and Reviews: U.S. News also reviewed published consumer ratings and reviews of internet service providers. Sources with a sufficient number of quality consumer ratings and reviews were included in our scoring model.

***Please note that not all professional and consumer rating sources met our criteria for objectivity. Therefore, some sources were excluded from our model.

(b) We standardized the inputs to create a common scale.

The third-party review source data were collected in a variety of forms, including ratings, recommendations, and accolades. Before including each third-party data point into our scoring equation, we standardized it so that it could be compared accurately with data points from other review sources. We used the scoring methodology described below to convert these systems to a comparable scale.

The 360 scoring process first converted each third-party rating into a common 0 to 5 scale. To balance the distribution of scores within each source’s scale, we used a standard deviation (or Z-Score) calculation to determine how each company that a source rated was scored in comparison to the source’s mean score. We then used the Z-Score to create a standardized U.S. News score using the method outlined below:

  • Calculating the Z-Score: The Z-Score represents a data point’s relation to the mean measurement of the data set. The Z-Score is negative when the data point is below the mean and positive when it’s above the mean; a Z-Score of 0 means it’s equal to the mean. To determine the Z-Score for each third-party rating of a company, we calculated the mean of the ratings across all companies evaluated by that third-party source. We then subtracted the mean from the company’s rating and divided it by the standard deviation to produce the Z-Score.
  • Calculating the T-Score: We used a T-Score calculation to convert the Z-Score to a 0-100 scale by multiplying the Z-Score by 10. To ensure that the mean was equal across all data points, we added our desired scoring mean (between 0 and 10) to the T-Score to create an adjusted T-Score.
  • Calculating the common-scale rating: We divided the adjusted T-Score, which is on a 100-point scale, by 20 to convert the third-party rating to a common 0-5 point system.

(c) We calculated the 360 Overall Score based on a weighted average model.

We assigned “source weights” to each source used in the consensus scoring model based on our assessment of how much the source is trusted and recognized by consumers and how much its published review process indicates that it is both comprehensive and editorially independent. The source weights are assigned on a 1-5 scale. Any source with an assigned weight less than 2 was excluded from the consensus scoring model.

Finally, we combined the converted third-party data points using a weighted average formula based on source weight. This formula calculated the consensus score for each product, which we call the 360 Overall Rating.

U.S. News 360 Reviews takes an unbiased approach to our recommendations. When you use our links to buy products, we may earn a commission but that in no way affects our editorial independence.