People these days rely on broadband for the daily dose of entertainment and even as part of home automation systems that rely on the Internet of Things (IoT). Digital era customers seek a best internet provider, which not only offers them value for money, but also suitable speed for their high-end usage requirements. As of today, the services which most of the internet service providers offer fall under the high-speed category. Only some of them are tailored to the demands of digital audiences though, so you will have to choose wisely to make the most of the service.
Choosing a best internet provider requires preliminary research. As most ISPs canvas their offerings as “high-speed”, it will be tough to distinguish the best plans without research. Not all of them are available everywhere or have a nationwide footprint, yet the top internet service providers have a strong market presence. To make sure that you are not subscribed to overpriced packs or go unserved, you need to break it down as per the type of internet deployment prior to getting started with a subscription.
The Types of Internet to Choose from
Digital Subscriber Line (DSL)
DSL internet service is delivered over existing phone lines in homes or premises. Generally, this is the most affordable internet available to internet users in the US. In general, its speed range from 128 Kbps to up to 100 Mbps, and it caters to almost all types of internet related needs of a subscriber. Obviously, DSL connection from the best internet provider with a nationwide footprint can deliver speeds of up to 100 megabits per second or more.
Although its speed pales in comparison to other internet deployment methods, DSL is generally cheaper. Moreover, since it uses existing telephone lines for the connection, the peak usage in the neighborhood will not affect DSL internet speed, but only traffic within the individual network can have that effect on DSL.
Traditionally, most of the cable providers offer internet services to customers through last mile connections. The speed of cable broadband is more than that of DSL internet service. However, traditional cable internet can lead to downtimes when many people in the neighborhood use the internet at the same time for high-end needs. That is why the best cable operators in the US have started offering advanced cable modem technologies or standards such as DOCSIS in a bid to upgrade bandwidth and internet speed.
You can get internet streaming options and cable service if you opt for a cable internet service provider and bundle packages as per your requirements. Still, there options to be considered here, such as whether you want to go for the double play packs or choose an all-inclusive, triple play package.
Fiber Optic Internet
Sometimes advertised as fiber-to-the-premises, this way of internet deployment functions similar to DSL but with higher speeds than that. As the best internet provider would have a huge customer base, their fiber optic internet service can offer speeds of up to 1 Gbps. In general, most ISPs have equipped fiber network in most areas with a capacity of 500 Mbps. Yet again, not all ISPs can provide that kind of speed especially to underserved homes. So, you need alternative broadband if you are living in a remote location. The two ones mentioned below can be considered for that.
A benefit of satellite internet is that it is available anywhere on the Earth. Satellite connections rarely experience speed hiccups or outages. Unless there is heavy rain or storm in your area or the positioning of the antenna is improper, satellite internet offers close to the advertised speeds. Still, when compared to offerings from other services, satellite internet can seem like a rather slow connection; but if your usage is limited, it can be an affordable broadband option. Further, it is also easy to get started with satellite internet service in remote areas.
Fixed Wireless Internet
This is a relatively new internet deployment type, which is aimed at locations where high-speed broadband access is limited. Getting started with this type of service is easier, as it deploys internet from a wireless tower to a fixed antenna placed on the subscribers’ location. It is yet to reach out to most areas in the United States, but top internet service providers promise 10 Mbps at the least on locations where it is available as of now.
The Best Internet Providers in the US
Obviously, choosing an internet service is subject to the providers in your area and your data requirements. Listed below are the top internet service providers in the country, which have a footprint that ensures wide availability and a strong market presence, so much so that the telecommunications industry relies on them to expand the network and reach out to more underserved homes. Further, these service providers also offer double play, triple play, or quadruple play bundles to customers. So, depending on which carrier you subscribe to, you can combine voice, data, and cable plans, or even home security suites for an advanced purpose. Note that not all providers mentioned hereunder provide the option to combine home security to their internet bundles, but may offer that as a standalone service.
The portfolio of AT&T® includes DSL and fiber-to-the-home in most markets, and even fixed wireless internet in remote areas. So, even if one type of service from the best internet provider is not available in your area, you have more options to rely on. AT&T® Fiber internet speed can range from 50 Mbps to 1 Gbps depending on your area or packages. Further, their fiber internet plans offer speed tiers with flexible sharing options on multiple devices, Wi-Fi gateways, and 1 TB data cap. It will suffice for customers who binge-watch content on streaming platforms. Moreover, the best internet provider offers a 1000 Mbps unlimited plan, which can be ideal if you feel you that the data limit is not enough for your entertainment needs.
The telecommunications company’s subsidiary offers internet plans following a speed tier system starting at 10 Mbps and up to 2 Gbps unlimited plans. If your requirement is limited to standard browsing and email, or light streaming on a couple of devices simultaneously, the starter plan of XFINITY® Internet is worth considering for that. Yet again, if you download more content from the web, opt for better speed plans from the internet service provider. With improved speed tiers from Comcast XFINITY®, customers can get the option to share the internet on more devices compared to the previous package that is affordable.
The best internet provider also deploys the internet connection through fiber optic as well as digital subscriber lines. The speed tiers they offer starts at 15 to 60 megabits per second, which is ideal for light streaming or browsing, and can range up to 1 Gbps. That 1000 Mbps plan from the telecommunications company offers the option to share the internet on unlimited devices. If you use the internet connection for basic browsing and download, CenturyLink’s fiber internet plans offer lesser speed at a much affordable cost.
The cable internet service provider offers several bundled packages and 2 speed tier plans, including 60 megabits per second and 100 Mbps. Even in 60 Mbps internet, Charter® follows a differential pricing system offering an internet-only plan at a higher price to a cheaper one that offers cable bundles as well. Since the acquisition of Time Warner Cable® in 2016, Charter Communications® has expanded the Spectrum® brand network to more states.
The Maryland-based company’s HughesNet® is billed as the biggest satellite network in the world. Of course, with satellite service, you get a widespread internet option that can be an ideal alternative to DSL internet. Although satellite internet is slow by modern-day internet standards, HughesNet® offers “Gen5”, a 4-speed tier plan with 25 Mbps in each tier and specific monthly data limits to suit your requirements.
That common speed from HughesNet® can be sufficient for moderate streaming and heavy web surfing as long as you do not have too many devices connected to the internet. If you have more members in the family or users, you can consider a “Gen5” plan with more data limit than 10 Gigabyte. What’s more, if the monthly data cap exceeds and the speed goes down to 1 or 3 Mbps until the subsequent billing cycle, you can even switch to a different plan from the best internet provider.
Tips to Select Best Internet Service at Home
Comparing the offerings of internet service providers can be a tricky task, which is especially the case if the internet deployment method is the same. There are online reviews on consumer survey forums, which help you to get an understanding about the advertised offerings of an internet service provider and how well they meet those. If you are looking for online reviews of the best internet provider you have shortlisted, only trust reliable and genuine sources. Some forums quote FCC’s recommendations and so forth, and provide industry-specific statistics that can be relied upon.
Furthermore, you can compare internet providers by contacting their service center, or by visiting a dealer or franchise partners. If you are new to internet terms, below is a guide to help you familiarize with those. You can use this to compare the plans of the best internet provider in your area.
Advertised Speed and Ping Rate
It is said that most residences require an internet connection with at least 5 Mbps speed, which is subject to vary depending on usage. If you have more members or users who stream videos at home, a slightly higher speed connection should be considered. Most internet providers are at a liberty to canvass their service as “high-speed” as long as it is not a dial-up connection. That is because the modern-day audiences demand high-speed broadband, even as internet service providers are upgrading their equipment to provide better speeds than before. Some might even recommend placing wireless extenders in between the router and the end user’s devices for better signal strength or “wall-to-wall” coverage.
When comparing the speed offered by a best internet provider with that of a direct counterpart, also consider your requirement. If streaming is a priority than standard browsing, for instance, note that download speed is more important than upload speed here to ensure smooth buffering of videos. On the contrary, upstream speed is important not only to quickly upload an attachment on an e-mail or a social media platform but also to ensure that certain services such as cloud applications run smoothly.
Another related factor that is important for playing online video games, in particular, is ping rate. An internet service provider may not advertise ping rate or latency openly, even though these factors directly affect the connection’s response time. So you need to make sure that the ping rate is low enough to enjoy online activities such as gaming and streaming.
A best internet provider may give you unlimited packages, in addition to other plans with a data cap. It refers to the monthly data limit of an internet plan. Depending on the policy of an internet service provider, once you exceed that limit, either your internet speed will get reduced until the next billing cycle, or you may have to pay an upcharge to get more data at the same speed as advertised.
You may have noticed an internet provider offering unlimited data for a high-speed tier plan. Internet service providers offer that since users are bound to consume data much quickly when the connection speed is faster. For slower speed plans, on the other hand, the data cap will be less if an internet service provider follows that practice.
Some internet providers charge rental fees for a router or modem on a monthly basis, while others may give you the equipment for free. In fact, even if the cost is inclusive, an internet service provider may not advertise that but will mention it as a small print on the contract paper or service level agreement. So, prior to signing up for an internet service, make it a point to read the offer document carefully or at least ask the company about the hidden costs.
If the best internet provider in your area is entering a new market or launching a service to a different customer base, it is likely they will come up with promotional deals to attract customers. In most cases, the internet service provider will mention the deal in writing or announce that on a press release. If you have any doubts, make sure to understand the introductory pricing in your area and regarding when the company is planning to provide discounts and how. For instance, think of a video credit as a promotional deal, which you can use against a cable plan to get discounts on a double play bundle.
Bundled Plans or Add-Ons
There are many bundles, which cable or internet providers offer to customers as part of a strategy to keep them from cord cutting. You might know that there are plenty of streaming platforms to access the programming from cable networks. So, to keep you in the existing cable plan, internet service providers offer cable bundles or an option to connect a streaming device on the back of TV sets. Even in cable bundles, there is a thing called “skinny bundle” that provides a limited number of channels at an affordable cost. Further, if you need home security, telephone, or internet in addition to cable service, ask the best internet provider you chose if they offer that option.
When it comes to add-ons, not all companies offer that to internet or cable customers. An example of add-ons to internet services can be a firewall or antivirus software. What if you do not need the paid version in the computer but can do well with the downloaded versions from the internet instead?
Besides these pointers, there are several other things to be considered when signing up for residential internet service such as the brand that delivers the same. If you opt for a cable broadband, in particular, it is not a certainty that the cable operator itself is directly giving you the service but a third party may be involved. In such a case, make it a point to understand how you are going to get the customer service, including equipment repairs or guarantee regarding uptime mentioned in the service level agreement.