Best Internet Service Providers | 2020 ISP Guide

(Rawpixel) Internet access has become an important staple in the American household. According to the

(Rawpixel)

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 2020.

This review of the best internet companies contains the following sections:

Verizon Internet

4.1 out of 5

Monthly Cost Starting at $39.99
Connection Type Fiber
Download Speed (Mbps) 100 Mbps – 940 Mbps
View Plans »
AT&T Internet

4.1 out of 5

Monthly Cost Starting at $50
Connection Type Fiber, DSL
Download Speed (Mbps) 0.200 Mbps – 940 Mbps
View Plans »
RCN Internet

4.1 out of 5

Monthly Cost Starting at $19.99
Connection Type Fiber, Cable
Download Speed (Mbps) 10 Mbps – 940 Mbps
View Plans »
Xfinity Internet

3.9 out of 5

Monthly Cost Starting at $29.99
Connection Type Fiber, Cable
Download Speed (Mbps) 15 Mbps – 2,000 Mbps
View Plans »
Verizon Internet

4.1 out of 5

Company

Starting at $39.99 Monthly Cost
Fiber Connection Type
100 Mbps – 940 Mbps Download Speed (Mbps)
View Plans »
Learn More
AT&T Internet

4.1 out of 5

Company

Starting at $50 Monthly Cost
Fiber, DSL Connection Type
0.200 Mbps – 940 Mbps Download Speed (Mbps)
View Plans »
Learn More
RCN Internet

4.1 out of 5

Company

Starting at $19.99 Monthly Cost
Fiber, Cable Connection Type
10 Mbps – 940 Mbps Download Speed (Mbps)
View Plans »
Learn More
Xfinity Internet

3.9 out of 5

Company

Starting at $29.99 Monthly Cost
Fiber, Cable Connection Type
15 Mbps – 2,000 Mbps Download Speed (Mbps)
View Plans »
Learn More
Frontier Internet

3.8 out of 5

Company

Starting at $20 Monthly Cost
Fiber, DSL Connection Type
6 Mbps – 940 Mbps Download Speed (Mbps)
View Plans »
Learn More
Viasat Internet

3.8 out of 5

Company

Starting at $50 Monthly Cost
Satellite Connection Type
12 Mbps – 100 Mbps Download Speed (Mbps)
View Plans »
Learn More
Spectrum Internet

3.7 out of 5

Company

Starting at $49.99 Monthly Cost
Cable Connection Type
100 Mbps – 940 Mbps Download Speed (Mbps)
View Plans »
Learn More
Cox Internet

3.7 out of 5

Company

Starting at $29.99 Monthly Cost
Fiber, Cable Connection Type
10 Mbps – 1,000 Mbps Download Speed (Mbps)
View Plans »
Learn More
Suddenlink Internet

3.7 out of 5

Company

Starting at $34.99 Monthly Cost
Fiber, Cable Connection Type
100 Mbps – 940 Mbps Download Speed (Mbps)
View Plans »
Learn More

When you’re shopping for internet service, some factors (such as cost) are easy to compare between one company and the next. Other elements, like customer service, are harder to judge, but they are just as important to your overall experience. Here are some of the most important elements to consider when shopping for a new internet provider:

  • Reliability: Can you get online when you want to browse an online retailer or watch the latest episode of your favorite streaming show? The performance and reliability of an internet service provider are two of the biggest factors in customer satisfaction, according to 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.”
  • Speed: Internet speed is another part of the “performance and reliability” metric Greenblatt mentions. In other words, not only should your internet service be ready whenever you need it, but the connection should be fast enough to keep up with all of your online activities. If your internet is lagging, you may want to upgrade to a faster plan. For guidance on what internet speed you need, see our informational ISP guide.You may also need to change to a different connection type. For example, changing from DSL internet to cable internet may improve your internet experience. See our breakdown below on the different types of internet service.

  • Cost: How much does your internet plan cost? There’s a wide range of prices when it comes to internet providers and connection types. The least expensive plans cost about $20 a month for download speeds of 10 megabits per second (Mbps), which is relatively slow. You’ll usually pay a monthly price of $100 or more if you want an ultra-fast gigabit connection. If you feel like this is expensive, you aren’t alone. “Most ISPs are still falling short of providing good service at an affordable price,” ACSI reports. Keep in mind that while costs are high, broadband service providers are also spending lots of money to improve the infrastructure so they can get faster internet to more people, Greenblatt notes. 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.

  • Billing: Is your internet bill easy to understand? Or is your total monthly cost significantly higher than the upfront price you signed up for, with little or no explanation regarding the extra fees and surcharges? Greenblatt recommends choosing a provider that sends straightforward bills. You should also be able to pay using your preferred method, be it Apple Pay or a paper check.

Because many of these factors are hard to measure by cross-shopping, it’s essential to get trustworthy feedback to find a good company. Ask your friends and neighbors if they recommend their current internet provider, and use lists (like our Best Internet Service Providers rating) to see which companies earn high scores from professional, unbiased sources.

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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 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 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.

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 video conferencing won’t be plagued by hiccups in the feed or frozen screens.

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.

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 2020.

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

Verizon Internet

Best Internet Service Provider in 2020

Monthly Cost
Starting at $39.99
Download Speed
100 Mbps – 940 Mbps

1. Verizon Fios: Verizon Fios takes first place in our rating of the Best Internet Service Providers of 2020. 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 100 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.

AT&T Internet

Monthly Cost
Starting at $50
Connection Type
Fiber, DSL
Download Speed
0.200 Mbps – 940 Mbps

2. AT&T Internet: Our No. 2 Best Internet Service Provider is AT&T Internet. It offers eight DSL internet plans, three of which are fast enough to qualify as broadband connections. AT&T also has three fiber optic internet plans available. The fastest of these – a 940 Mbps plan – made our rating of the Fastest Internet Plans of 2020. You can get AT&T Internet in 21 states, including Texas and California. For more information, see our AT&T Internet review.

RCN Internet

RCN Internet

Best Budget Internet Service Provider in 2020

Monthly Cost
Starting at $19.99
Connection Type
Fiber, Cable
Download Speed
10 Mbps – 940 Mbps

3. RCN: Third place in our rating of the Best Internet Service Providers goes to RCN. Its geographic footprint is limited to a handful of metro areas, such as Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, and New York City. With internet plans starting as low as $19.99, RCN stands out as one of the most affordable internet providers. For more information, see our RCN internet review.

To find the least expensive internet plans, we started with our rating of the Best Internet Service Providers, because a good value and a reputable company go hand-in-hand when it comes to customer satisfaction. Prices for the chosen plans range from about $20 to $35. The biggest drawback to these plans is that they have relatively low download speeds. However, these plans may still be sufficient if you are only connecting one or two devices to the internet at a time.

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

RCN Internet

RCN Internet

Best Budget Internet Service Provider in 2020

Monthly Cost
Starting at $19.99
Connection Type
Fiber, Cable
Download Speed
10 Mbps – 940 Mbps

1. RCN: RCN earns the top spot in our rating of the Cheapest Internet Plans of 2020. Its 10 Mbps internet plan costs $19.99 a month. No contract is required for this plan, and it comes with unlimited data. RCN cable internet is available in select metro areas (such as Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.). Consumers in some of these areas also have the option to get RCN’s fiber internet. For more information, see our RCN internet review.

Frontier Internet

Monthly Cost
Starting at $20
Connection Type
Fiber, DSL
Download Speed
6 Mbps – 940 Mbps

2. Frontier: The No. 2 spot in our rating of the Cheapest Internet Plans of 2020 goes to Frontier. Its Simply Broadband Core plan starts at $20 a month, though you may need to sign a contract to lock in this low price. This is a fiber internet connection, with matching download and upload speeds of 6 Mbps. Frontier is much more widespread than RCN and is available in 29 states. For more information, see our Frontier internet review.

Cox Internet

Monthly Cost
Starting at $29.99
Connection Type
Fiber, Cable
Download Speed
10 Mbps – 1,000 Mbps

3. Cox: Cox placed No. 3 in our rating of the Cheapest Internet Plan of 2020. Its least expensive plan is the Cox Internet Starter. Monthly rates start at $29.99 for this plan, which has download speeds of 10 Mbps and upload speeds of 1 Mbps. Cox internet service is available from coast to coast across 19 states. For more information, see our Cox internet review.

Product

Download Speed Upload Speed Plan Name Cost
Xfinity 2,000 Mbps 2,000 Mbps Gig Pro Starting at $299
Cox 1,000 Mbps 1,000 Mbps Gigablast S Starting at $99.99
AT&T Internet 940 Mbps 940 Mbps Internet 1000 Starting at $70
Frontier 940 Mbps 880 Mbps FiOS Gig Service Starting at $74.99
Verizon Fios 940 Mbps 880 Mbps Gigabit Connection Starting at $79.99

If you crave internet speeds that are lightning fast, the best choice for you is likely fiber. Every plan in our rating of the Fastest Internet Plans of 2020 is fiber optic internet. Most speeds are within spitting distance of 1 gigabit per second (Gbps), and one is even as fast as 2 Gbps. Unfortunately, fiber internet is not as accessible as cable internet; only 40% of the U.S. can currently select this connection type. The good news is that almost every state is served by one or more of the providers in our rating of the Fastest Internet Plans. (The exceptions are Alaska, Hawaii, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.)

Xfinity Internet

Xfinity Internet

Fastest Internet Service Provider in 2020

Monthly Cost
Starting at $29.99
Connection Type
Fiber, Cable
Download Speed
15 Mbps – 2,000 Mbps

Cox Internet

Monthly Cost
Starting at $29.99
Connection Type
Fiber, Cable
Download Speed
10 Mbps – 1,000 Mbps

AT&T Internet

Monthly Cost
Starting at $50
Connection Type
Fiber, DSL
Download Speed
0.200 Mbps – 940 Mbps

Verizon Internet

4.1 out of 5

Monthly Cost Starting at $39.99
Connection Type Fiber
Download Speed (Mbps) 100 Mbps – 940 Mbps
Latency 12 ms
View Plans »
Frontier Internet

3.8 out of 5

Monthly Cost Starting at $20
Connection Type Fiber, DSL
Download Speed (Mbps) 6 Mbps – 940 Mbps
Latency 19.5 ms
View Plans »
Xfinity Internet

3.9 out of 5

Monthly Cost Starting at $29.99
Connection Type Fiber, Cable
Download Speed (Mbps) 15 Mbps – 2,000 Mbps
Latency 22 ms
View Plans »
Cox Internet

3.7 out of 5

Monthly Cost Starting at $29.99
Connection Type Fiber, Cable
Download Speed (Mbps) 10 Mbps – 1,000 Mbps
Latency 25 ms
View Plans »
Spectrum Internet

3.7 out of 5

Monthly Cost Starting at $49.99
Connection Type Cable
Download Speed (Mbps) 100 Mbps – 940 Mbps
Latency 28 ms
View Plans »
Verizon Internet

4.1 out of 5

Company

Starting at $39.99 Monthly Cost
Fiber Connection Type
100 Mbps – 940 Mbps Download Speed (Mbps)
12 ms Latency
View Plans »
Learn More
Frontier Internet

3.8 out of 5

Company

Starting at $20 Monthly Cost
Fiber, DSL Connection Type
6 Mbps – 940 Mbps Download Speed (Mbps)
19.5 ms Latency
View Plans »
Learn More
Xfinity Internet

3.9 out of 5

Company

Starting at $29.99 Monthly Cost
Fiber, Cable Connection Type
15 Mbps – 2,000 Mbps Download Speed (Mbps)
22 ms Latency
View Plans »
Learn More
Cox Internet

3.7 out of 5

Company

Starting at $29.99 Monthly Cost
Fiber, Cable Connection Type
10 Mbps – 1,000 Mbps Download Speed (Mbps)
25 ms Latency
View Plans »
Learn More
Spectrum Internet

3.7 out of 5

Company

Starting at $49.99 Monthly Cost
Cable Connection Type
100 Mbps – 940 Mbps Download Speed (Mbps)
28 ms Latency
View Plans »
Learn More
AT&T Internet

4.1 out of 5

Company

Starting at $50 Monthly Cost
Fiber, DSL Connection Type
0.200 Mbps – 940 Mbps Download Speed (Mbps)
33 ms Latency
View Plans »
Learn More
CenturyLink Internet

3.8 out of 5

Company

Starting at $49 Monthly Cost
Fiber, DSL Connection Type
10 Mbps – 940 Mbps Download Speed (Mbps)
33 ms Latency
View Plans »
Learn More

Median Latency provided by fcc.gov

For the online gamer, internet latency is like kryptonite. Latency indicates the delay that you may encounter with your internet. Though it takes 1,000 milliseconds (ms) to say “one Mississippi,” even an internet delay for a fraction of second can be enough of a blip to ruin your game.

To find the best ISPs for online gaming, we evaluated FCC data on latency for the Best Internet Providers of 2020. The resulting seven providers have the lowest lag times in our rating, so there should be relatively few hiccups (if any) during gameplay.

Verizon Internet

Best Internet Service Provider in 2020

Monthly Cost
Starting at $39.99
Download Speed
100 Mbps – 940 Mbps

Frontier Internet

Monthly Cost
Starting at $20
Connection Type
Fiber, DSL
Download Speed
6 Mbps – 940 Mbps

Xfinity Internet

Xfinity Internet

Fastest Internet Service Provider in 2020

Monthly Cost
Starting at $29.99
Connection Type
Fiber, Cable
Download Speed
15 Mbps – 2,000 Mbps

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 21 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 10 overall Best Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Taking a step further, out of the top 10 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.

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