• Internet Service Provider Review

    reviews & comparisons

    Internet Service Providers

    The top performers in our review of internet service providers are Comcast, the Gold Award Winner; Time Warner Cable, the Silver Award winner; and Verizon, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a service to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of these 10 services.

    ISP Basics

    What Is an ISP and How Does It Work?

    Everyone who accesses the internet does so through an internet service provider (ISP). Some providers also offer additional services such as cable television, cable-linked telephone or cable-linked home security. Not all providers are the same; each one differs by the services it offers, the format it uses to provide those services, the cost, and the download and upload speeds.

    Choosing the right ISP for you depends on having a good understanding of what an ISP does and how it works. Learning the types of services and different plans providers have to offer and the charges you incur when you subscribe to them can simplify your choice.

    Anyone who accesses the internet from a net-ready device needs a signal to connect. This bridge or conduit to the internet is the ISP. Once you're connected, sending or receiving emails, watching movies, searching for information, or using social media platforms is possible. Besides access to the World Wide Web, other services, such as TV, phone and home security, are also possible once you have an internet connection. However, access is rarely free.

    The service that different ISPs offer and how their services reach your home or business differs depending on providers and services available in your area. Gaining access through a commercial internet service provider involves subscription fees, which you typically pay each month. In return for the fees, you get access to the internet, which may be limited or unlimited. Sometimes the service includes cable TV shows and other subscription services, such as phone, home security and smart-appliance maintenance. Some service providers have business accounts geared toward specific business needs, such as AT&T.

    A basic subscription fee doesn't usually cover all the services that are available, but you can subscribe to them à la carte. Faster speeds, modem rental and access to premium services are examples of the types of add-ons you can find with many ISPs.

    For many service providers, the introductory fees may differ from the fee a subscriber pays when the initial contract ends. One service provider, Cable One locks the initial fee in place for three years, while others may offer an enticing introductory price that's valid for a year or less. In addition, an ISP may bundle certain services together, such as internet access, phone and television, and the final cost may be lower than it would be if you purchased each service separately.

    Not all service providers connect to the internet the same way. Some service providers use cable internet while some use fiber optic or DSL, such as that supplied by Centurylink. Others provide satellite or dial-up services, which are less prevalent.

    Some service providers are instrumental in providing rural areas with cable service such as Suddenlink. However, without cable or DSL, dial-up and satellite service may be the only choices. The customer's geographic location may be the overriding factor in choosing one service provider over another due to availability.

    Other Services Available Through an ISP

    Gaining access through an ISP opens the door to additional services. Beyond internet access, you may be able to obtain phone service, television and home security that lets you monitor your home remotely and includes a central monitoring service to notify authorities if an alarm goes off. You can often bundle different services together, providing you with the chance to save money on these services, or at least pay one provider versus several for these different services.

    Cable & Entertainment

    Since cable and internet can share a connection, it's common to see these services bundled together. When you subscribe to both, some ISPs let you use your laptop or tablet to access prime time shows and sporting events with a separate feature, no matter where you are, by giving you a password-secured login. In addition, some ISPs provide you with a DVR or TiVo box so you can record your favorite shows to watch later. With your cable subscription, you receive access to many channels, including several music channels, and together, the package creates a total home entertainment experience.

    Telephone Service

    Some plans give you the option of using digital phone service for your home or business landline telephone. For a subscription fee, you can talk to friends and family or take business calls on your cable phone without using up minutes on your smartphone or incurring long-distance minutes. In addition, some cable phones link to your smartphone and allow you to exchange contacts. This lets you use your smartphone as a remote handset. Bundling the cable phone into a multi-level subscription may reduce the monthly fee for this service. However, be sure to consider other options, like VoIP services, because they can be less expensive or more flexible than what may be offered by your ISP. Most VoIP services require a broadband internet connection, so they work with most ISPs.

    Access to the World & Email

    An internet subscription provides access to the internet, allowing you to search the web, participate in video conferences, stream videos and music, shop online, interact via social media and keep up with the news or weather. Internet access also lets you stay in touch with family and friends by sending email messages via your service carrier. This happens almost instantaneously for most internet connections except dial-up internet service, which may be slow and take additional time to upload or download emails.

    Home Security & Monitoring

    Home security is another service some internet services provide, such as Cox. The home security plans offered by some providers use your existing security system or you can purchase a security system from the carrier. Some available devices include an electrical outlet lighting pack so you can turn your lights on remotely at dusk and then turn them off in the morning, convincing potential intruders that someone is at home. Other devices include cameras and motion sensors that allow you to monitor multiple rooms in your home using a remote computer, tablet or smartphone, so no matter where you are, you have a virtual view of your home.

    Thermostats and water detectors are other options that are available that let you set or change temperature settings in your home or notify you if your home is flooding due to a pipe breaking or from a storm. In addition, wireless keypads or smoke detectors and sirens are available from some carriers. The service provider may also offer central monitoring by technicians 24 hours per day for a monthly fee. Technicians alert you if there is an emergency at your home. This alert can be scheduled to be sent to your computer, tablet, smartphone or landline so no matter where you are in the world, you know instantly if something is wrong at home.

    What Are the Different Types of Internet Access?

    The way you access the internet depends on the connection your ISP provides. Service providers typically offer four methods of connecting you to the internet: dial-up, DSL, cable or satellite.


    Dial-up, such as that provided by Frontier, is the least expensive way to connect to the internet and is available through some providers, especially in more remote locations. However, dial-up is outdated and offers the slowest speed among the different types of connections. With dial-up service, you place a call using the modem your service gives to you or one that you purchase separately. The modem connects with the service's modem using your existing telephone line. This type of connection is slow and uses telephone landline for calls or faxes while you're connected to the internet. Most service providers with dial-up service offer a local number that you call to connect to. Some dial-up lines still charge more for long-distance calls, so you want to be sure the dial-up number is a local and not a long-distance connection. The security you have with dial-up is higher than others, and all the equipment you need is a standard modem. However, if you need to be online steadily without logging off, this may be a problem with dial-up service since you must place a call each time you want to connect to the internet while losing access to your home phone while you are using it.


    A digital subscriber line, or DSL, is another choice, and it uses a telephone line and the copper wire within that line to provide high-speed access. Unlike dial-up service, DSL internet providers offer a service that does not interfere with your ability to make telephone calls. DSL is not only faster than dial-up, but it remains connected 24 hours per day.

    DSL is not as fast as cable, however. The monthly fee is less expensive than cable, which may partially account for its popularity. Security using this type of connection is high.

    While DSL is more expensive than dial-up, you can choose different download speeds to suit your needs and your pocketbook. Multiple speeds are available, each with its own price point, and the connection speed you pay for is consistent and not dependent on others on the same line, such as those using cable.

    There are some drawbacks, however, to DSL access. First, you need to live close to the telephone provider's main location or central office. The further away you live, the weaker the signal becomes, which causes your connection speed to decrease. A second drawback is that DSL internet providers are not available everywhere, so you may not have access to this form of connection. In addition, you will need to purchase or rent special equipment to operate it. Finally, susceptibility to weather can be a problem with DSL since electrical storms can interfere with service. Radio frequency interference can also disrupt service. So, depending on where you live, this type of internet connection might not be the right choice for you.


    Cable service, such as what Charter provides, uses coaxial cable to provide television, phone and internet access and other services. Download speeds vary depending on the plan you select.

    Cable, though, is not like DSL in that a digital subscriber line provides access directly to you. Unlike the guaranteed speed of DSL, cable connection speed is a target speed and can vary. In addition, other cable subscribers share the same connection as you, meaning that your actual speed can vary depending on how many computers are online at any given time. Since individuals in the same area share the connection, cable is not as secure as a digital subscriber line. Another plus is that weather does not affect cable like it does with DSL service. On the other hand, though, inclement weather may cause more subscribers to stay home and use their computers, which may slow your connection speed.


    If you live far away from a city, the only option you may have is satellite internet. This is a wireless connection that needs three satellite dishes to work: one dish attached to your property, one at the ISP's hub and the other in space. Satellite is typically slower than other options, and the signal can degrade due to bad weather and minor obstructions. Also, in most cases, satellite services have bandwidth limits, meaning that once you've reached your maximum bandwidth allowance, your ISP will throttle your connection. This makes satellite a bad choice for frequent internet users.

    Fiber Optic Cable

    Fiber optic cable differs from regular cable, and the difference lies in the type of lines used in its composition. Cable uses regular copper lines. Fiber optic cable uses hundreds of very thin fibers made of plastic or glass. Each fiber is approximately 10 percent as thick as a human hair. Light signals travel down the fibers either in a single or multi-mode transfer. Cable internet television, internet and phones use single-mode transmission, the mode of transmission with the greatest bandwidth.

    Connection Speeds

    Fiber Optic Cable vs. Regular Cable

    There are a number of benefits of using fiber optic cable over regular cable. First, fiber optic cable is more pliable and useful in difficult areas due to a lack of space. In addition, the signal travels very quickly down the fiber. Transmitting the signal over long distances is another beneficial aspect of fiber optic cable. Another benefit is that since the fibers are made of glass and cannot conduct electricity, inclement weather doesn't affect fiber optic cables. Even downed power lines or lightning are not a problem. The cost for fiber optic may be less than cable, because ISPs don't need to spend as much on maintaining fiber optic lines as they do regular cable lines.

    The problem most consumers face, however, is that fiber optic is not available in many areas. Every year, ISPs increase the size of their fiber optic service areas, but you may not be able to get it unless you live in or near a major city.

    Regardless of whether an ISP provides regular cable or fiber optic cable, you'll need a modem to access it. The modem is what allows your computer to send and receive data over a telephone or cable line, and, depending on your ISP and plan, you may need to buy your own or rent a modem. Some ISPs provide this hardware for free; others charge a monthly fee. For TV or telephone use, the cable connects directly to the device. Some cable subscribers connect a router to the modem that provides a Wi-Fi connection for your home. The router lets you use multiple devices – computers, laptops or tablets – anywhere around your house at any given time.

    How Satellite is Different

    A satellite provider uses a satellite dish mounted on your roof or side of your office or home. In order for the dish to pick up a signal, it must face somewhat south and have a direct line of sight with the ISP's satellite, located about 22,000 miles above Earth. Furthermore, obstacles, like trees, that may hinder your signal may need to be removed to establish a more secure connection. The satellite dish sends the signal to a modem in your home by using coaxial cables, and from there, the service functions similarly to cable. Rural areas often utilize dial-up and satellite internet service, because most major providers do not service these areas except for a few niche companies.

    Is Dial-Up Still Around?

    Although dial-up internet service is slower than other forms, it is still available and provided by several ISPs. In some places, such as rural areas or small towns, dial-up internet is the only type of coverage offered. It's popular with some users due to its low cost and wide availability, but in today's rich, bandwidth-eating responsive environment, dial-up is not really a viable option for anything but email and simple message boards.

    Average Speeds

    The average download speed for service from a satellite provider is about 13.7 megabytes per second (Mbps) and the upload speed averages about 50 Kbps. Both DSL and cable are faster, but satellite service is faster than dial-up by a factor of 10 but is much more expensive. Satellite provider connections require two modems: one for uploads and the other for downloads.

    The type of ISP you choose depends on whether the service is available in your area, what your specific needs are as well as other factors and considerations you must weigh. Less expensive service will be slower, but on a more secure server, so dial-up service might be what you need. Unfortunately, dial-up may be the only option available in some areas. DSL, on the other hand, is faster, secure and not as costly as cable. Fiber optic cable is very fast and may not be as expensive as regular cable. In addition, electrical interference does not affect it, but its availability is limited, so this may not be an option for most people. Cable is more expensive, but is more widely available and faster than DSL and dial-up. Satellite cable is slower and bulky, but if you live in a remote area, satellite might be the only way to access the internet.

    Access & Costs

    What Access Does an ISP Provide?

    The internet is a worldwide network that connects millions, if not billions of computers. With approximately three billion individuals in more than 190 countries, the internet provides communication using a vast networking platform.

    The World Wide Web Explained

    Online services, such as MSN, Google and AOL, provide the infrastructure individual members use to communicate with one another through email or forums. It also connects customers to outlets that offer entertainment, news, financial information, informative and scholarly articles, blog posts or any other electronically formatted information. In short, the internet is a decentralized online service, and ISPs are centralized and capable of providing a structured design for convenience.

    It's easy to confuse the Internet and the World Wide Web as they're often use synonymously. The Internet is described often as a "network of networks" that connects billions of computers together. This is how computers communicate with each other across the globe. The World Wide Web uses the Internet's language of protocols to access, share and display this information. The familiar HTTP protocol is one of many languages spoken over the internet to send data.

    IP Addresses

    An IP, or internet protocol, address is a 32-bit numeric sequence that is required in order to connect to the internet. An IP address identifies your computer or router, much like a street address identifies the location of your home. An IP address can be either static or dynamic. A static IP address means the number is always the same when you log on. A dynamic IP address, on the other hand, changes each time you access the internet. Some providers use dynamic IP addresses because there are a limited number of addresses available.

    Your router also has an IP address. When you log onto the ISP, it assigns IP addresses using the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, and the IP address changes for each device you use. Your ISP assigns you an IP address when you log on, and the IP address goes back into the available IP address group when you log off. The IP address may or may not change, which, if the service is residential, may not pose a problem.

    That is not the case for all subscribers, and sometimes you need a consistent IP address. A static IP address is essential if the person or business who has the IP address has an email account, web server or DNS or FTP server that utilizes security features where permissions are based on a defined IP address. In addition, upload speeds are generally faster. There are other reasons a static IP address is useful, such as when hosting a site used for gaming.

    Access for Businesses

    Businesses have different needs from their ISP than consumers, so certain factors, such as reliability, are key. A business needs to be found easily, because it's the go-to source for information or it's the only place where customers go to purchase the company's goods or services. If the website is down, it can have catastrophic results on a business.

    Beyond reliability, a business owner needs to know that the website works the way it's supposed to when customers seek information. If there is an issue, ISP business plans usually have service remedies in place. Additionally, the plans provide extended network capacity and added email accounts as well as cloud storage.

    Typically, these plans, geared toward professional or business needs, are more expensive. Sharing internet services, except when using a dedicated internet line, leads to fluctuating internet speeds. This occurs because, at some point, all subscribers share the bandwidth. Generally, an ISP is able to "oversubscribe," meaning they allow more accounts access than they have capacity for, because not everyone is online at the same time. If a business wants dedicated internet access, the price is exponentially higher. However, the speed you pay for is the speed you will get, in most cases. If, for any reason the provider cannot meet that speed, the subscriber receives discounts or credits.

    What Other Products Require an ISP?

    As technology rapidly changes, more of the household devices and appliances we use daily require an internet connection. Home security systems, for example, in many cases need an internet connection to monitor your doors and windows and to notify the security company and you if there is a potential problem.

    Smart locks are another example of common household devices that connect to the internet through an ISP. They alert you to breaches in home security or allow you to grant access to a guest while you're away by using an internet connection. Some smart locks transmit a real-time picture of a visitor at your door, and this transmission is made possible by the internet service you have.

    Smart appliances also let you know when something is amiss. You may also have remote access to those appliances. For instance, a smart refrigerator can monitor its temperature and alert you, via an internet connection and your ISP, if something is amiss. The appliance can also transmit a message to your tablet or smartphone telling you if you need to buy more milk. Refrigerators aren't the only appliances that use the internet to communicate with you. With some ovens, you can turn your oven on as you start your commute home so that your dinner is hot and ready for you the moment you walk through the door. Turning on heaters, air conditioners or lights remotely using your smartphone or tablet are also made possible by the internet.

    How Much Does Internet Service Cost and How Do You Pay?

    The fee you pay for provider service depends on the type of service and plan you choose. The cheapest service is basic dial-up internet service, where services range from a few dollars a month to about $20 a month. However, it's important to factor in your monthly phone charges, too. Telephone charges can become a major factor if your landline plan doesn't support unlimited minutes.

    Monthly cable fees vary depending on the service provider, and some charge more than others do. Prices vary dramatically depending on the speed, provider and add-ons you choose. You also need to factor in the type of plan you opt for and the speed you want. The faster the speed, the higher the monthly cost. DSL, on the other hand, is a guaranteed speed, and you pay for what you get.

    Most ISPs offer a basic package at a competitive price. The cost is generally lower for new customers with a more expensive monthly cost after an introductory period, which may range from a few months to several years at a guaranteed rate.

    One major factor in terms of monthly cost is the download speed. Choosing a plan that gives you a faster download speed means you can usually expect a higher monthly fee. The plans include a variable number of email accounts, antivirus and firewall protection as part of the package and 24- hour customer support. However, some ISPs charge extra for special 24-hour customer service.

    Since providers offer different services, such as television, phone and internet access, the services are often bundled together. This means you can get a discount when you opt for a combination of those services instead of paying for each one separately. Some providers also offer home security, but this is not usually bundled, although it requires internet access to use the features. Once you have the ISP's basic service, the cost for home security is in addition to the monthly charges. Home security charges can become expensive since you may need to purchase items such as cameras, door locks and window alarms in addition to paying the monthly monitoring charge. The service from a satellite provider can be the most expensive service of all the different types. The cost varies according to provider and equipment.

    Usually, you pay the ISP the same way you do for any other utility or subscription service through a monthly bill in the mail or your inbox. Payment options vary by provider, but you can expect the ability to pay by check, cash at a kiosk or counter, credit card or funds transfer. One satellite provider has recently started accepting Bitcoin.

    ISP Customer Help & Support

    Whether using fiber optic, dial-up, DSL or satellite ISP service to connect with the internet, there are times when repairs or customer support are necessary. Most providers offer phone support and most provide this service without additional cost to you.

    Sometimes contacting customer service is time consuming, and you might be frustrated by the lengthy periods it takes to obtain assistance. AT&T offers a personalized support service that lets you contact them without waiting. There is a fee for this feature, but for some customers, it is well worth the cost.

    In addition to phone support, some internet service providers offer online chat and other forms of online support. Sometimes a technician must visit your home or business to rectify problems. If at-home repair service is necessary, most service providers accommodate that, but the repair may or may not be free.

    Some carriers won't charge for problems outside the home but do charge for wiring or other issues inside the home. Since there may be additional charges, it might be a good idea to request pricing information when you speak with a customer service representative. Another option is to find out if your provider offers an add-on, which means you won't pay a bill if it has to make a repair to your lines or connection in order to restore service.

    ISPs: Our Verdict and Recommendations

    When we compared different ISPs, we looked at speed, availability and whether additional services, such as phone and television, were available as well. We also compared the type of connection offered, whether that was dial-up, DSL, cable or fiber optic, or satellite.


    Comcast wins Top Ten Reviews' Gold Award for the best ISP compared with the other providers we surveyed. It has regular download speeds of up to 75 Mbps. Blast!, Comcast's premium plan, offers a download speed of up to 150 Mbps that you can access with up to eight devices, and it supports anything from video chat and large file downloads to multiplayer gaming.

    Time Warner, the Top Ten Reviews Silver Award winner, offers a maximum download speed of 50 Mbps, which is more than adequate for most subscribers.

    Verizon, the Top Ten Reviews Bronze Award winner, has the fastest service available on the internet with speeds up to 500 Mbps. In addition, the fiber optic service (FiOS) is Verizon’s own and far surpasses the speeds of all other providers in our lineup. However, Verizon only has DSL service in some areas, so FiOS is not available everywhere. In addition, upgrading to their Quantum plan, with its much faster download speeds, requires the addition of Verizon phone service. While this may be a reasonable approach for those who already use Verizon, it might not serve those who don’t want to switch plans.


    Out of the providers we evaluated, Comcast offers service in the largest number of states, 40, and has the biggest client base. Time Warner, our Silver Award winner, offers its services in 29 states while Verizon had a much smaller area, with 14 states.

    Additional Services

    Besides internet, many ISPs offer additional services, including television, phone and even home security monitoring. We found that basic television packages had different offerings depending on the company. While some are very basic, others include such services as free access using your smartphone or tablet. Sometimes the provider offers premium channels at no additional charge beyond the base price.

    Comcast has television-viewing packages that include 140+ channels for basic service and 160+ channels for premier service, which includes HBO, Cinemax and a sports package. Xfinity voice includes unlimited calls nationwide and has additional features such as call waiting and caller ID.

    Comcast offers a home security service that is complete but pricy. It uses a staffed monitoring station, and besides monthly home monitoring, Comcast sells products, such as glass-break sensors and Kwikset smart locks that other providers don't offer with their services. The system has a backup in the event of power outages, so you have continuous coverage.

    Our Silver Award winner, Time Warner, offers a television starter package with 20 channels, plus you get HBO and a free app to access it using your iPad, smartphone or computer. The Bronze Award winner, Verizon, doesn't offer the range of additional services, like TV channels and home security, that other ISPs do.

    Overall, the fastest internet service provider in our lineup was Verizon. The cheapest service is dial-up and, in our sampling, goes to Time Warner. The best overall cable provider is Comcast. The best DSL service is Verizon, and the best high-speed service is Verizon. Check out our other guides to find out more about internet service providers and what they have to offer.

    Our Recommendations

    1. Comcast

    Comcast Xfinity has many pluses going for it when it comes to internet service. With a customer base of over 19 million in 40 states, it offers internet, phone, cable TV and wireless internet in most places.

    High-speed connections are available in most areas with a download speed from 3 Mbps up to 150 Mbps and nationwide hotspot access. Download speeds start at 6 Mbps. The 25 Mbps package covers two or three devices and provides fast, consistent service for your home. Another Comcast package offers e download speeds of 75 Mbps and adds HDTV downloads, video chat, online games and serves three to five devices in a household. Blast!, Comcast's fastest Wi-Fi, offers download speeds up to 150 Mbps.

    In addition to its internet offerings, Xfinity Home provides home security at a low price, and you can use remote capabilities to access the system yourself. This system lets you monitor who is at your door or whether a window has been opened, including photos of the event. Using computer, tablet or smartphone, you can monitor your home, turn lights on or off, change the temperature on your thermostat or check your smoke detectors.

    Xfinity Voice gives you unlimited local and nationwide calling and upgrades a simple phone system to include call waiting, 3-way calling and caller ID. Additional apps let you add a Wi-Fi enabled device, such as your smartphone, make international calls and use features such as readable voicemail. Television packages range from basic service with over 140 channels up to premier service with over 160 channels that includes a sports package and channels such as HBO and Cinemax.

    Multiple price and combination options are available through Comcast for internet service, television, telephone and home security. High download speeds, availability across the country and attention to detail make Comcast a good choice as an ISP.

    PROS / All Comcast Xfinity accounts come with excellent security matched with download speeds up to 105 Mbps in many areas.

    CONS / Comcast's services are not available in all areas.

    VERDICT / Comcast provides fast, consistent internet and continues to add new technologies and infrastructure to improve services.

    2. Time Warner Cable

    Time Warner Cable has a maximum download speed of 50 Mbps and an upload speed of 5 Mbps with service in 29 different states. With 15 million customers, it is the second largest ISP company in the country and, in many instances, is the only ISP in certain areas.

    This ISP offers several plans, has its own cable network and offers over 300,000 hotspots to connect to Wi-Fi. The starter television package is not costly, offers 20 channels, HBO and has a free app to download to access with your smartphone, iPad or computer. The standard plan jumps to 70+ television channels and its premium package increases to 200+ channels with over 19,000 on-demand titles. All have some programming in HD, and you can download the free app.

    Extra perks are available that let you watch shows that aired up to 72 hours earlier, and the start-over service lets you restart a program that is already running. Internet security is by McAfee and is included with the package. The lowest-priced phone service does not have a contract and comes with parental controls and security.

    Support scored lower for this internet service provider. Chat is available around the clock, and you can use email or your support service locally, although you might have some difficulty scheduling a tech visit if your home is located in a rural area. The home security system, IntelligentHome, lets you monitor your home's lights, cameras, thermostat and other features from a computer or smartphone. It also includes live monitoring around the clock from the company's response center, which notifies you and the authorities if an alarm goes off.

    Time Warner Cable has good download speeds and plans to suit most pocketbooks. Despite a lower score than some other companies concerning support, it gives good value and consistent service.

    PROS / Time Warner Cable has the infrastructure in place to provide faster-than-average internet speeds.

    CONS / The high-speed plans are not available in all areas.

    VERDICT / If you live in a Time Warner Cable area, you could find yourself with internet speeds up to 50 Mbps matched with free internet security.

    3. Verizon

    Verizon has DSL and fiber optic (FiOS) ISP service with the fastest speed in the ISP market. With speeds up to 500 Mbps, this company serves over 6 million internet clients in 14 states.

    DSL service through Verizon is consistent and fast, allowing you to play games, stream movies, share images and other tasks. FiOS plans include internet service, multiple streaming and accessing social media. The least expensive ISP plan has a 1 Mbps download speed, unlimited regional and local calls, no contract and offers two higher levels of DSL internet service. FiOS internet has 25/25 speeds through its fiber-optic networking system, available to those with Verizon's voice service. Upgrading to Quantum gives you a choice of 50/50, or 75/75 speed, and a 75/75 speed for Verizon voice customers.

    McAfee software is available with this ISP, but it's not included with the internet service: you pay extra for it. McAfee offers antivirus, firewall and anti-spyware protection and also Verizon Family Protection for parental controls. This tool alerts parents if a child tries to submit personal information on sites such as Facebook or other social media sites. The plan covers multiple computers for one price and also works on Macs.

    While customer service is reachable through the website chat, phone, email, Twitter or Facebook, around-the-clock tech support costs an additional fee. There is a search-assist device in the form of the automated Ask Verizon, and agents on the online chat, phone and email service are available for help throughout the day and evening.

    Although Verizon may not have all the extras offered by some other internet service providers, it offers fast speeds and consistency at reasonable prices. Because it offers service to only 13 states, if Verizon expands to a larger area, it could move up from its current third place in our review.

    PROS / Verizon can provide fast, dependable fiber optic internet connections, especially as the company continues to expand its fiber network.

    CONS / Verizon offers internet security as an add-on, rather than including it with a subscription.

    VERDICT / While Verizon's fiber network is still growing, it still provides reliable DSL service. However, the network is limited, and you may find yourself paying for features normally included with other services.

    4. AT&T

    AT&T is a global ISP company with the largest Wi-Fi network in the country and hotspots in over 32,000 U.S. locations and 461,000 worldwide locations. Internet access is provided by its fiber optic service, which offers download speeds ranging from 3 Mbps to 45 Mbps with a maximum upload speed of 6 Mbps. AT&T's service is available in 21 states.

    U-verse is the internet plan offered by AT&T. The basic plan has speeds to 3 Mbps per second, which is sufficient to download music and shop online. The second plan includes television, HBO, HBO GO, a free year of Amazon Prime and has a download speed of up to 18 Mbps. AT&T's most expensive plan has download speeds of up to 45 Mbps and also includes HBO, HBO GO and a free year of Amazon Prime.

    Three different bundles are available to combine your internet service, television and total home DVR. This DVR system lets you record four programs at a time and play them back on any TV equipped with a DVR receiver.

    AT&T offers an optional security suite by McAfee that includes site advisor, pop-up catcher, firewall, and antispyware and antivirus protection. This program is designed to protect your computer from viruses, spam, malware and phishing emails. In addition, parental control options come with the security suite so you can block kids' access to inappropriate content. Both are available as a free download on the website.

    Customer service is through a download, or you can get more personalized service by paying AT&T a monthly fee.

    AT&T is available in 21 states across the country and has fast download speeds as well as an offer for one year free of Amazon Prime. However, this ISP is only available in a limited number of states and, for extended customer service, you pay an extra monthly fee.

    PROS / AT&T offers a wide variety of services, including fast DSL and fiber optic cable.

    CONS / Full services are not available in all areas, and dial-up may not be fast enough for modern internet use.

    VERDICT / If you live in an AT&T service area and have access to the fiber optic network, it is an excellent option for high-speed internet.

    5. Cox

    Cox Communications Inc. was the first company to provide bundled service that included internet, television and voice. It is the number three broadband and cable internet provider in the country and has around 6 million clients.

    Customer service is a big feature, and agents are knowledgeable and attentive in helping you solve problems with your service. Cox is available in large cities in many states. However, state coverage is spotty, and it doesn't have DSL internet service or dial-up service in rural areas.

    Basic internet service comes in four prices depending on the download speed you select. The least expensive package has a download speed of 15 Mbps, the next grade up has a download speed of 50 Mbps while the next packages increase in speed increments of 50. The most expensive package provides up to 150 mbps, an excellent choice for online gamers and families of constant internet users.

    Cox's bundled packages for first-time customers offer over 400,000 hotspots across the county and come with a one-year minimum contract for Wi-Fi. Cox's mid-priced preferred package includes 200+ channels with ESPN, Discovery, History, TNT, A&E and Music Choice, and has a 50 Mbps download speed. The economy ISP package offers download speeds of 15 Mbps and comes with 155+ channels, including Discovery, History, Food Network, USA, Fox News and CNN. The bronze bundle has a download speed of 50 Mbps and 220 + channels, including HBO, ESPN, History, A&E, TNT and Discovery. It also includes unlimited phone calls, free HD, 50GB storage in its cloud drive and Cox Security Suite Plus, an antivirus program from McAfee.

    You can locate toll free numbers for customer assistance and technical support online or connect with a representative via live chat. Customer service and support is provided through your local Cox office. The drawbacks to Cox are that it serves a more limited area than some other ISP services, and it does not offer service to rural areas.

    PROS / Cox Communications has proven to provide fast internet speeds that match or exceed their advertised rates.

    CONS / Cox is not available in all areas and do not provide dial-up or DSL services to rural residents.

    VERDICT / If Cox high-speed internet services are available in your area, we highly recommend it for its fast speeds and above-average customer service reputation.

    6. Charter

    Charter Communications ISP is the fourth-largest cable operator in the nation. Working hard, it now has around 6.8 million clients in over 29 states, and its employees number around 23,000.

    Charter Spectrum internet service has download speeds that begin at 60 Mbps and an upload speed that begins at 4 Mbps, depending on your location. This service strictly uses cable, which is slightly less secure, because you share this service with other people in your area. Service includes a free modem, so you can upload photos, download music and stream videos. With Charter's internet service, you can connect multiple devices, play online games and transfer large files. If you have router problems, Charter can replace it at no charge.

    Three television packages come bundled, all with a download speed of 60 Mbps. The least expensive package includes 125+ channels plus free HD and unlimited calling nationwide. The medium-grade plan, Triple Play Silver, offers 175+ channels plus premium networks and unlimited calling nationwide while the most extensive plan, Triple Play Gold, offers 200+ channels, premium channels and the most HD, and unlimited calling nationwide. However, voice service only comes as part of a bundled service.

    Business bundles come with cable internet service with a 60 Mbps to 100 Mbps download speed plus unlimited nationwide calls. These types of bundles include over 30 customizable phone features at no extra charge. Support services consist of phone and a support topic page on the website. Live chat is available but somewhat hidden on the business map page. Also, you must supply your name and email to access the live chat, which may be annoying to potential customers who are merely looking for information.

    Charter Communications has download speeds of 60 Mbps to 100 Mbps, which is faster than many other ISP providers. However, the downside is that customer service appears to fall below that of some other providers.

    PROS / Charter Communications provides fast connection speeds up to 30 Mbps and 100 Mbps in some areas.

    CONS / Because of Charter's odd distribution, service quality varies widely across the U.S.

    VERDICT / Charter's fast internet speeds make the service worth looking into if it provides good support in your area.

    7. Suddenlink

    Suddenlink is an internet service provider that strictly uses coaxial cable, similar to other providers on our lineup. It has over 1.4 million customers in 16 states.

    Considering this is one of the smaller ISP companies, download speeds are fast, ranging from 15 Mbps to more than 150 Mbps, depending on your location. Upload speeds range from 5 Mbps to 7.5 Mbps.

    Basic internet service is a little higher than some other ISPs; however, its download speed is much higher. In addition to internet, Suddenlink offers a large collection of on-demand movies, many of which are free, and as many as 200 channels and Netflix with a download speed of 50 Mbps. The SL200 package includes the aforementioned channels and Netflix along with voice service with unlimited long distance and local calls. Other programs have up to 150 Mbps download speeds and are in different price ranges. None of these programs require contracts.

    Internet security comes free with Suddenlink, unlike many other providers, and includes McAfee protection against malware, spyware and viruses. You can also opt for ConnectedHome, their home security system, which comes with touchscreen control and monitors all aspects of home security, including a remote thermostat and lighting control. It can even let you know when your children are home from school.

    Customer service is an important feature of an ISP, and this one has multiple options to help you. In addition to email, instant chat and phone service, it also includes tutorials to help you set up your network, and it offers several online help topics.

    Suddenlink offers service in limited areas across the nation, and its prices tend to be a bit high in comparison with other ISPs that offer similar program features. However, the option to have fast speed in rural areas and small towns and a good customer support service are positive features.

    PROS / Suddenlink can provide high-speed internet in numerous rural areas and has several bonus features for customers.

    CONS / Suddenlink's coverage area is limited to 16 states in the continental U.S.

    VERDICT / If you happen to live in an area that has access to Suddenlink high-speed internet, this company is worth considering.

    8. Cable One

    Cable One ISP provides internet, phone and cable television service for 19 states and has around 730,000 clients. Based in Arizona, this company has been in business since 1997 and covers many smaller cities and towns.

    Download speeds for its various internet plans range from 50 Mbps to 100 Mbps while upload speeds range from 3 Mbps to 10 Mbps. All of them can stream videos on more than one device at a time. With higher speeds, you can play online games, download music, movies and more. There is also no contract you are required to sign.

    Television services come in two choices: an economy and standard packages. The economy package has 20 channels of local and national stations along with some music channels and parental control. The standard package lets you watch up to 100 channels with free HD on some and includes music channels and parental control. Cable One lets you access programming from your smartphone, tablet or computer at no additional charge.

    Phone service through this ISP is inexpensive with the price guaranteed for life, a nice feature not offered by many other ISPs. Its calling plan comes with local and long distance service nationwide, enhanced 911, and you can keep your current phone number. Additional features that come with the phone plan include speed dial and voicemail.

    On its website, Cable One offers online help topics and FAQs, or you can use the tutorials on the company's YouTube channel. Otherwise, support is through a website email, and it may take time to receive a response.

    Cable One offers high-speed internet, reasonably priced phone service and television in limited areas across 19 states. In areas where the company operates, some customers have reported speed problems in certain areas. Another consideration to be aware of is a lack of customer support options, compared to other service providers.

    PROS / Cable One is a great cable alternative to dial-up for rural areas in the South, Northwest and Midwest.

    CONS / The service’s speeds can be inconsistent.

    VERDICT / Cable One's service varies widely by location, meaning speed and service may not be comparable even within the same state.

    9. CenturyLink

    CenturyLink serves over 3 million clients across most states and provides internet, television and voice service. With over 1 million telecommunications lines and a push to increase 1GB service to some cities, CenturyLink is an ISP company that continues to expand.

    Basic plans have download speeds up to 10 or 20 Mbps. The lowest-priced plan has no contract while other ISP plans require a one- to two-year contract. Download speeds up to 1GB are available in only a few areas.

    The Prism bundle lets you record shows and watch them when it is more convenient. It carries numerous channels in HD by using a wireless set-top box, DVR and the Prism system. Prices differ depending on the number of HD channels offered and vary from 140 to over 320 different HD channels. CenturyLink also has voice plans that range from local calls only to a plan that includes unlimited nationwide and local calls plus 10 calling features. Among the calling features you receive is call waiting, voicemail and call forwarding.

    The company also offers a home security plan with around-the-clock professional monitoring that you can remotely access using your smartphone or tablet. Features of this service include email and text alerts and light and appliance control with sensor and motion-detector monitoring. More advanced home security plans let you add cameras, remote control thermostat ability and electronic door locks.

    Customer support includes speed tests, tutorials, a store locator and forums, live chat, email queries and phone. Norton Antivirus comes free with a subscription, and CenturyLink also offers a low-income assistance internet plan for those who qualify.

    CenturyLink offers internet, phone, television and home security services with plans to expand its 1GB service to other large cities. The only potential downside is that this high-speed internet service is not consistent in all areas of service.

    PROS / CenturyLink provides a variety of connection speeds and includes Norton internet security.

    CONS / If you're looking for an inexpensive option, CenturyLink does not provide cable internet, only DSL and fiber.

    VERDICT / If you're lucky enough to live in one of the 42 markets with CenturyLink service, serious internet users may experience speeds up to 1 Gbps.

    10. Frontier

    Frontier Communications offers ISP services in 21 states and, as the name implies, is often the only ISP in smaller towns and rural areas. This company has been expanding due to its purchase of some Verizon phone lines and fiber optic networks and purchases from AT&T in areas where some of their U-verse customers live.

    Frontier offers service to many areas that would otherwise have to use satellite service. It offers DSL internet, dial-up, cable and fiber optic lines. For the internet, Frontier gives you a locked price, which is guaranteed not to go up for three years, plus a free router. Internet speeds vary, depending on your area, but, in general, download speeds are up to 25 Mbps while upload speeds are 1 to 3Mbps.

    Prices for internet service are comparable to other companies, but its download speeds are far below most other companies. Three internet plans are available.There is not much information on Frontier's website about the differences between two of its plans, although the prices are different. Frontier's highest plan includes voice with caller ID, voicemail, call waiting and other features.

    In addition to internet, Frontier offers a security service, Frontier Secure, but it's not included with any of its packages, and you must purchase it separately. In addition to home security, you can choose antivirus and anti-malware software to install alongside your internet service.

    For customer service, this ISP offers email, chat and telephone options using a nationwide number, as well as indirect support for tutorials and FAQs. Using the chat option requires that you supply your name, email, phone number and zip code. Responses are several minutes slower than other providers that offer live chat. .

    Frontier offers internet and phone service for those living in small towns and rural areas not served by other ISPs. However, its customer service response time is slower than other ISPs and some of its pricing and package information can be hard to locate on the website.

    PROS / Frontier Communications provides fiber, cable and DSL services to many rural areas that in the past had few high-speed internet options.

    CONS / The quality of download speeds and customer service may be inconsistent.

    VERDICT / Frontier is quickly expanding into rural territory in 28 states. This is good news for rural residents who would otherwise have to resort to dial-up or satellite service.