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The internet is crucial to many parts of our lives. Choosing the wrong internet service provider (ISP) can impact your work, your social life, and your relaxing evenings of movie streaming. We understand how much you depend on your internet, so we treat internet provider comparisons with all the weight they deserve.

You don’t have to take our word for it, though. In this article, we’ll take you inside the heads of our ISP experts, where you’ll see exactly how their comparison process works. You’ll learn how to compare internet service providers; see the factors that we use in our comparisons; and discover how we measure prices, plans, and availability. It’ll be like a Magic School Bus tour, just without the iguana.

How to Compare ISPs: How We (and You) Should Handle ISP Comparisons

Every internet user has unique needs. Rural internet service is different from internet options in the suburbs. Hulu watchers and YouTube vloggers both need high speeds, but the same internet plan might not work for both of them. Our ISP experts don’t want to find the right internet service for just anyone; they want to find the best ISP for you.

Our experts are looking at several factors in each service comparison, but a few key factors are especially important in their recommendations. An internet provider that achieves a high score in all of these factors should be an excellent option for any cord-cutter.

Key Factors in ISP Comparisons

  • Internet speeds: When you are streaming movies, playing games, or working from home, the last thing you want is a slow internet connection.
  • Internet prices: Nobody likes to overpay for access to the web.
  • Internet contracts: When the next deal comes around, you don’t want to miss it due to being locked in to your current ISP.
  • Limitations and availability: The ISP will tell you whether they service your area, but they may not offer info about how data caps will limit your usage or how being far from a relay can slow your connection to a crawl. That’s where we come in.
  • Customer service: If you ask three friends to tell you their worst customer service experience, at least one will mention an ISP or cable provider. You are already stressed out when your internet goes down, so we want you to be talking to only the friendliest and most helpful customer service representatives.

We get some of this information from digging through provider websites, reading contracts, and looking at customer reviews. In the end, though, our experts know that hands-on experience is the only way to properly compare internet providers.

When you sign up with an ISP, you know you might have to have to deal with equipment installations, customer service calls, intermittently slow internet, and everything else the service throws at you. Our reviewers have felt those same pains, so they can tell you exactly what to expect.

Our experts are not ashamed to say that they spend a lot of time on the internet. We’re talking days, nights, and weekends. They are gamers, streamers, bloggers, and social media users. Every activity they do just adds to the firsthand knowledge they bring to their reviews and comparisons. When that’s not enough, they take to forums, press releases, and technical manuals to find all the latest information to keep our reviews as fresh and insightful as humanly possible.

Compare Top Internet Services

ISP Price Comparison

Most ISPs have at least three to five plans for you to choose from. Sometimes, these plans are largely identical. Other times, the cheapest plan from one ISP should really be compared to one of the mid-tier plans from the other ISP. We turn those complicated setups into a true head-to-head ISP plan comparison, letting you know if, for example, one provider is offering an extra slow base plan just to make them look cheaper.

Further, the prices you see on an ISP’s website rarely tell the whole story. Router and modem rental costs, data overage fees, and other hidden fees can quickly alter your actual monthly bill — as can introductory and bundle discounts. We’ll look into all of that for you so that you aren’t surprised when the seemingly cheaper ISP turns out to be a whole lot more pricey.

Some of Our Favorite Affordable ISPs

Internet service provider Cheapest plan Cost
Optimum 300 Mbps speed $40 per month
Verizon Fios 200 Mbps speed $39.99 per month

Optimum and Verizon Fios both stand out for the quality of their budget pricing tiers. These plans offer plenty of speed for the average user, and both are about $40 per month, quite a bit cheaper than comparably fast plans from most competitors.

Both Optimum and Verizon Fios have fairly high equipment charges, but you can get around those by buying your own modem and router. Best of all, neither service has data caps, early termination fees, or contracts. If they ever do raise their prices, they won’t be able to charge you for walking away.

ISP Speed Comparison

In a perfect world, you could take an ISP for a test run like you would a car. After all, you don’t want to know how fast they claim it can go; you want to see what it does in your hands. They won’t let you do that, so we test it out for you.

There are several reasons that ISPs include the phrase “up to” before the speed instead of just listing a fixed speed. Depending on the type of service (cable, DSL, satellite, etc.), anything from old phone lines to distance from a relay station can slow you down. Some internet connections slow during certain times of the day or due to poor weather conditions. Instead of expecting you to know all of these pitfalls, we test them out for you.

We look at three factors to determine internet speed: upload speed, download speed, and latency (or lag). Depending on whether you are making video calls, gaming, streaming, or just browsing the web, some or all of these can be important. We give you the full rundown so that you can find the internet service that offers the speeds you need for the activities that matter to you.

Verizon Fios Speed Breakdown
Verizon Fios Speed Breakdown

When it comes to speed, fiber connections almost always win, assuming they are available in your area. Verizon Fios and AT&T Internet both offer gigabit (940+ Mbps) fiber plans that are plenty fast for any residential user. In particular, the upload speeds on these connections are far superior to most cable packages, which is a big deal if you plan on doing any gaming, video calling, or torrenting.

ISP Service Areas: Comparing ISPs in My Area

High speeds and low prices don’t matter if you can’t even get the service. When I’m shopping for new internet plans, I don’t want just any ISP; I want to compare ISPs in my area. That’s why we created a tool to help you find internet providers that service the ZIP code where you live.

In many locations, there are often only one or two ISPs to choose from. That’s why we try to help you find all of your options and offer an extensive list of head-to-head comparisons between the common options throughout the U.S.

For rural users, we also offer helpful reviews and comparisons between satellite internet providers like HughesNet and Viasat. We want cord-cutters everywhere to find their best internet provider options.

Choosing Between ISP Options

Your favorite streaming services, P2P file-sharing software, and online games all have one thing in common: They are useless without a fast, reliable internet connection. Our ISP comparisons are here to guide you in getting better internet service that offers the internet speed you need at a price that matches your budget.

Whether your ideal connection is DSL, cable, or satellite, we’ll help you break through the technical complications and legal jargon to find the important differences between plans and providers. And the faster you find your new internet service, the faster you can get back to what cord-cutters do best.

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