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The best internet providers in the US in 2021
Locking down your next internet service provider (ISP) doesn’t have to be a complicated process. However, it’s not always easy when you have heaps of options to choose from. If you live in an area with plenty of choices, we’re here to simplify things. Here are our picks for the best internet providers in the US.
Things to know before diving into this list
In the list below, we focused on the most widely available ISPs. The reality is that your part of the US might not offer any of these, or it may have a smaller local ISP that ends up being a better deal. While our guide is a good starting point, we also recommend checking out sites like highspeedinternet.com and ispprovidersinmyarea.com to better look at local ISPs in your area.
If you end up finding options that aren’t on this list, simply head to Google Search and look for reviews from actual users. If you live in a very rural area, you may have to resort to fixed wireless internet or even satellite or mobile data.
Best internet providers:
Editor’s note: We will update this list of the best internet providers periodically.
With a presence in 41 states across the US, chances are Comcast’s Xfinity service is available in your area. That’s certainly not a bad thing — Xfinity’s internet speeds range from 15Mbps to 2Gbps, with monthly prices starting at $29.99 per month. The most affordable plan is 100Mbps for $29.99 per month, cheaper than 50Mbps for $65 per month. Better yet, Xfinity offers various bundles to offset certain costs.
As a bonus, Xfinity customers are the only ones that can become Xfinity Mobile subscribers. Using Verizon towers, Xfinity Mobile offers unlimited talk, text, and data for $45 per month. If you prefer limited data plans, the 1GB, 3GB, and 10GB plans are available for $15, $30, and $60 per month, respectively.
That said, Xfinity’s customer service is known for its consistent mediocrity. You might also have qualms with Comcast, which has been consistently picked as one of the worst companies in the US over the years.
2. AT&T Internet
One of the oldest US telecom companies, AT&T keeps things simple and offers three main fiber plans: Internet 300, 500, and 1,000. As the names suggest, Internet 300 and 500 offer speeds up to 300Mbps and 500Mbps, respectively. The fastest Internet 1,000 plan uses fiber internet to push up to 940Mbps.
The most affordable plan starts at $35 right now for the first 12 months, so you can splurge on extra speeds with no immediate added costs. You can also pick up an AT&T Prepaid Mastercard right now when you order online with plans above 25Mbps. That said, AT&T also offers plans with speeds as low as 5Mbps for those who want to spend a bit less. Also, the company provides generally reliable internet to 15.7 million people with its broadband service and 3.1 million people with its fiber service.
You can also bundle your plan with DirecTV, AT&T TV, and AT&T wireless service to save even more on your internet. If you connect DirecTV or AT&T TV right now, AT&T will also throw in a $100 reward card to sweeten the deal.
3. Charter Spectrum
Making things very simple, Charter Spectrum offers three internet-only plans. Starting at $44.99 each month when you bundle, the plan includes a connection with speeds starting at 200Mbps, a modem, and no data caps. Doubling the speed to 400Mbps costs an extra $20 per month, while speeds up to 940Mbps cost an additional $60.
What’s nice about Spectrum is the lack of data caps across all of its plans. It also provides a free modem and free antivirus software to keep you protected. Additionally, Spectrum customers can gain access to Spectrum Mobile. Like Xfinity Mobile, Spectrum Mobile uses Verizon towers and offers an unlimited plan for $45 per month. Alternatively, you can pay $14 per GB used.
Spectrum doesn’t have the best reputation for customer service, however. Also, as simple as having just one internet-only plan is, it also means Spectrum is very inflexible if you want faster speeds and don’t want extras.
4. Frontier Communications
The aptly named Frontier Internet is bravely foraging into rural America. It offers DSL, cable, and fiber internet connections to its customers. It covers regions that typically have few good options.
Pricing starts at $27.99 for 6Mbps speeds and goes up to $44.99 per month for up to 45Mbps max speeds. It makes for a good option in rural settings, but you’ll likely want something with better speed if available. Frontier also offers FiOS plans for Texas, California, and Florida, but it’s not easy to come by.
That said, what you get for your money varies greatly. The further you get from urban areas, the harder it is to deliver and maintain a strong connection consistently. That seems to be one of Frontier’s significant drawbacks. This is also one of those situations where you’ll want to chat with your neighbors to see how their experience has been.
Unfortunately, Frontier’s website is all but useless. It lets you know that you get free access to a Yahoo email account and no data caps, but you’ll have to call to learn anything else.
One of the first and best internet providers to offer fiber internet to your home, Verizon Fios keeps things simple with three internet-only plans. Costing $39.99, $64.99, and $89.99 per month, the plans include up to 200, 400, and 940Mbps, respectively.
The plans also offer some nice bonuses. For a limited time, all plans include one year of AMC Plus for free. The 940Mbps plan also throws in free router rental and 2TB of Verizon cloud storage too. You can also save up to $20 per month with your Verizon wireless plan.
Apart from surprisingly competitive pricing and good reliability, Fios is also known for its relatively good customer satisfaction. You can also get various Fios bundles, though Fios TV finished 2018 with fewer subscribers than at the start of the year.
On top of its competitive pricing and reliability, Verizon Fios is quite versatile. Its high-speed internet makes it a great choice for business owners and their business plans and includes various office-oriented features in calling and security. In addition, they have options for business plans that include 5G and offers for wireless phones. So if you’re a business owner, Verizon Fios may be the choice for you.
Where Fios struggles most is with availability. Some areas without Fios can still get Verizon’s DSL service, but speeds top out at 15Mbps. At that point, you’re better off with an alternative.
CenturyLink is one of the best internet providers as a relatively inexpensive option. Like others, it heavily relies on bundling with a TV subscription to offer attractive packages. That said, you’re more than welcome to get internet-only plans that top out at 1Gbps. Pricing kicks off at $49 per month for speeds up to 100Mbps and jumps to $65 per month for speeds up to 940Mbps. One benefit of the 100Mbps plan is keeping your pricing for as long as you keep your plan.
CenturyLink’s service seems a little inconsistent, depending on your location, and on the whole, a little slower than others. There’s also no guarantee you’ll have access to its maximum speeds. For example, CenturyLink tops out at 60Mbps in my neck of the woods. It also gets bad press for having poor customer service.
7. Cox Internet
Cox Internet’s internet-only plans are a bit more complicated than others, but only because there are more of them. $29.99 per month gets you 25Mbps, while an extra $10 gets you 50Mbps. Stepping up to 150Mbps is $59.99 per month, while 500Mbps speeds cost an additional $20. Finally, you can get 1Gbps speeds for $99.99.
If you’re a no-contract die-hard, you might be interested in Cox’s new StraightUp Internet plan as well. It costs $50 per month for 50Mbps speeds, but the equipment rental is included, and you can cancel your service any time you want.
Though the prices are relatively competitive, availability is an issue — Cox Communications is available in only 18 states. Customer satisfaction is also an issue, with Cox positioned as one of the worst.
Now owned by telecom company Altice, Optimum offers surprisingly robust internet service, at least when it comes to speed. The base plan costs $29.99 per month and offers speeds up to 300Mbps, with an extra $20 getting you up to 940Mbps speeds.
For a very limited time, you can grab those gigabit speeds and get a free $200 Visa gift card and HBO Max. However, availability is minimal. Unless you live in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, or a tiny sliver of northeast Pennsylvania, Optimum won’t be available where you are.
With Viasat, we now enter the world of satellite internet providers. Don’t expect slow speeds of yore, however, with plans featuring top speeds up to 100Mbps. Unfortunately, many locations reflect download speeds closer to 12Mbps. You also shouldn’t have an issue with availability since service is dependent on satellites and not on where you live.
That said, consider Viasat if there’s nothing else around you. Every plan has a laughably low data cap, which de-prioritizes your data if you exceed a certain amount of use each month. Also, plans are costly, with prices going up after three months. For example, the Unlimited Platinum 100 plan with speeds up to 100Mbps costs $150 per month for the first three months and $200 per month after that. If you’re a night owl, data used from three o’clock to six in the morning doesn’t count against your Priority Data, so that’s a plus for some people.
The last option on our list of the best internet providers is Mediacom. Plans start at 60Mbps for $19.99 and grow from there. Upping the price by $30 will get you 100Mbps speeds, and $10 on top of that will boost you to 300Mbps. Above that, the top tier costs $79.99 and offers up to 1,000Mbps speeds.
As with Viasat, you’re mostly paying for availability. Mediacom boasts speeds of up to 10 times faster than DSL and exclusive DOCSIS 3.0 connectivity. It also claims that you can game online with limited lag, which is better than saying severe lag. You can even bundle and save with a TV service or home phone line.