Our ISP Reviewer’s Guide to Choosing the Best Internet Service

Six things you should consider when picking your internet service provider

Best overall
AT&T Internet
Overall quality
Speed and reliability
Dollar value
Customer experience
Best fiber speeds
Google Fiber
Google Fiber
Overall quality
Speed and reliability
Dollar value
Customer experience
Best cable provider
Spectrum Internet®
Overall quality
Speed and reliability
Dollar value
Customer experience
Best for budget users
T-Mobile 5G Home Internet
T-Mobile 5G Home Internet
Overall quality
Speed and reliability
Dollar value
Customer experience
Best satellite internet
Overall quality
Speed and reliability
Dollar value
Customer experience
Brianne Sandorf
Jun 17, 2024
Icon Time To Read6 min read

An old elementary school chum of mine, Payton Clements, told me the other day that he’d recently switched internet providers twice.

“Can you tell me a little more about what the internet switching process was like?” I asked. “Easy, hard, frustrating? Did you have to do a lot of research?”

“Research was a lot,” he said. “But now I know what’s good and what’s not.”

But what if you don’t know what’s good? What if you don’t know what you’re doing? Or you don’t have the patience to get knees-deep into boring internet research?

Then you’ve come to the right place. Here’s how to find, research, and sign up for a new home internet service provider.

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Look at what’s available in your area

Picking an ISP is slightly different from shopping for other products or services. Instead of choosing your favorite provider and going from there, you should start with a short list of the providers available in your zip code. Use our tool below to see what you can get.

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Once you know which providers are an option, look at other factors to help you choose the best one. Keep an eye on prices, speeds, and especially connection type. Fiber-optic internet is the best type of internet you can get, because it’s superfast and reliable—and usually a better deal cost-wise than cable and DSL providers.

Be aware of preexisting agreements
Heads Up

Sometimes, a subdivision or apartment complex has a contract with a particular internet provider, so you may not have a choice in picking your provider.

If you’d prefer a different provider, talk with your landlord or HOA board. You can also try a service like T-Mobile 5G Home Internet, which you can set up without requiring additional cabling or a technician.

Look at connection type

Although the website you pull up or Instagram timeline you scroll is always the same, there are a lot of different ways that internet providers can deliver data to your computer or tablet.

Most networks rely on a backbone of fiber-optic cabling, which snakes across oceans and continents. But the “last mile” connecting your home Wi-Fi network can be routed through anything from fiber-optic cabling to coaxial cable from a cable company to radio signals from a cellular tower. And depending on which connection you have, you’re likely to experience a different level of quality and reliability.

For example, Jasmine Peterson, who works at home for men’s lifestyle magazine Next Luxury, switched to fiber for a better work experience. “This switch has significantly improved my daily work experience, offering me the stability I need to be productive without the interruptions I previously faced,” she says.

There are several different internet types out there—some of them much better than others:

  • Fiber internet is very reliable. It runs through a physical fiber-optic cable, using photon signals to deliver data at the speed of light (or close to it). This is the best type of internet available, delivering the fastest internet speeds, and we recommend it over any other connection you can get.
  • Cable internet is also quite reliable, able to deliver speeds up to 1,000Mbps over a copper coaxial connection. It’s slower than fiber but much more widely available nationwide.
  • 5G internet isn’t as fast as fiber or cable, but its ease of use can’t be beat. Since you can only get a 5G internet service if you’re in its cellular network’s area of service, you usually get a decent connection, although speeds can fluctuate more frequently than on cable or fiber.
  • Fixed wireless internet (which sometimes crosses over with 5G) provides internet service through a transmitter-tapping antenna on or near your property. It’s not terribly fast, but due to the close range it has an okay reliability, making it especially useful for rural areas.
  • DSL internet runs through the copper wiring of old-fashioned landline phone lines. It’s quite slow, but it’s at least more reliable than satellite internet. Don’t bother with DSL or fixed wireless unless you have no other options.
  • Satellite internet is slow and not very reliable. But if you live in a rural area, it may be your best bet (or even your only option) for internet service. Like with DSL, satellite internet should be a last resort.

Which internet connection should you pick?

Fiber internet is the best type of internet—most of the top internet providers that we love most on Reviews.org deliver a fiber connection. So go ahead and get fiber if it’s available in your area. But what if it’s not? Well, here’s a handy chart to help you assess whether your internet provider is delivering the goods.

Connection type
Best-known providers
Should you get it?
Fiber-optic internetGoogle Fiber, AT&T, Verizon, Ziply, Quantum FiberYes, absolutely
Cable internetXfinity, Spectrum, Cox, MediacomTotally—if you can’t get fiber
5G home internet Verizon 5G Home Internet, T-Mobile 5G Home Internet, AT&T Internet Air, Starry InternetGo for it if you want cheaper prices and don’t mind a laggy connection sometimes
DSL internetBrightspeed, EarthLink, Windstream, anything advertised as “copper” Ugh, no, unless you can’t get anything better
Fixed wireless internetRise Broadband, local rural providersGo ahead and use it for your country home or rustic farmhouse
Satellite internetStarlink, Viasat, HughesnetOnly if you live in a very rural area, on a yacht, or in a van

When UK photographer Odi Caspi needed a swifter, more reliable internet connection to upload high-quality photos, fiber is what he got. “I changed from Vodafone to Virgin because they have faster speeds available, which come through a dedicated new fiber cable rather than piggybacking on the BT Mobile network,” Caspi says.

Aim for a price you can afford

Most people should expect to pay about $60 to $80 a month for internet. Make sure you set your sights on an affordable-for-you internet provider. Some providers offer incredibly fast fiber plans, but all that extra speed is no good if you can’t afford the monthly fee.

Sometimes, you have to choose a different internet type or a slower speed than ideal, all in the name of affordability. At my house, I would love a faster fiber plan than the one we already have—our smart home setup sure crowds the network. But it doesn’t make financial sense right now, especially since the current plan mostly keeps up with our devices.

Take a look at these prices for some of our favorite providers. Not only do they serve up great internet, most also have some of the best dollar values in the industry.

Best internet providers

ATT$55-$225**300-5000 Mbps
Google Fiber$70-$1501000-8000 Mbps
Spectrum$39.99-$59.9920-35 Mbps
T-Mobile 5G Home Internet$50-$70^245-245 Mbps
Starlink$120-$500^8-25 Mbps
Data as of 04/05/2023. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* Price after $5/mo Autopay & Paperless bill discount (w/in 2 bills). Plus taxes $ fees. Limited availability. May not be available in your area.
Plus taxes and fees. Upload/download speed and device streaming claims are based on maximum wired speeds. Actual Internet speeds are not guaranteed and may vary based on factors such as hardware and software limitations, latency, packet loss, etc.
w/ Auto Pay. Regulatory fees included in monthly price for qualified accounts. See full terms.
^ Plus hardware, shipping & handling fees, and tax. Fully refundable. Depending on location, some orders may take 6 months or more to fulfill.

If you have difficulty affording any internet plan, look into financial assistance.

Determine what speed you need

To pick an internet speed, close your eyes and throw a dart at a list of internet plans. Okay, it sure feels that way—but actually, there’s a science to knowing which speed you should sign up for.

The Federal Communications Commission recommends that households have a minimum of 100Mbps download speeds and 20Mbps upload speeds. In many cases, households need speeds anywhere from 300Mbps to 500Mbps, especially as social media, remote work, online gaming, and streaming drive up users’ bandwidth needs.

How to assess what kind of speed you need? Take a look at our guide to internet speed, or just scope out our handy breakdown below.

You can go for less than 300Mbps if:

  • Just a few people live in the residence
  • You live an internet-lite lifestyle
  • You only use a handful of Wi-Fi–connected devices in your living space
  • You have limited internet-speed options where you live

You probably need more than 500Mbps if:

  • You share your Wi-Fi with a bunch of other users (seven or more)
  • You have a lot of smart speakers, security cameras, or other smart home or security devices
  • You need to upload lots of high-quality content like our friend Odi Caspi the photographer

At my house, my family has a 300Mbps internet plan. We have a lot of connected devices, but we also have only two people (at least, two people who use the internet; the toddler’s not there yet). As our kid grows up and gets online, my husband and I will probably need to upgrade our internet speed.

If you’re unsure of your internet speed, take the Reviews.org speed test. This way, you’ll know if your speeds are right where they should be or if you need to upgrade with your new provider.

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Leverage bundles, deals, or promotions

If you find it challenging to balance your internet needs with your budget, look for internet deals.

Some internet providers offer bundles, in which you get money off everything if you sign up for another service through the ISP, like TV or cell phone.

You can also find other deals, especially around holidays. With ISPs, these deals usually lower the price of your service for a few months or even a few years. And don’t skip out on promotions, either—sometimes you can get a Visa gift card or a free service when you’re a new customer signing up for an internet provider for the first time. These add-ons can help offset other costs, leaving more money for your monthly internet fees.

Dig into reputation

Finally, before signing on the dotted line, read customer reviews or feedback. These reviews will give you a sense of your provider's outage frequency and customer service experience.

SEO strategist James Taylor, who sometimes works from home, wanted to switch to a service provider with fewer outages. He looked at customer review websites and local community groups on social media. “In my opinion, those reviews give a more credible picture of how the internet is near where I live, and so I trusted those more than what the ISP marketing stated,” Taylor explains.

Looking at these reviews also helps you ensure nothing is amiss with your chosen provider.

A word of warning here: Most internet providers have semi-terrible customer service. I wish that weren’t the case, but unfortunately, I can do nothing about it (except continue to critique the situation). So, chances are that no internet provider available you find in your area has a sterling reputation.

However, there’s a big difference between an internet provider with rude customer service reps and an internet provider with multiple active lawsuits over price gouging or data leaks. You should go with a different service if you see sketchy legal stuff. But if you just see humdrum complaints, you’re okay to move forward.

Ready to pick out your internet? Search your zip code below to see what’s available in your area.

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Brianne Sandorf
Written by
Brianne has a degree in English and creative writing from Westminster College and has spent 6+ years writing professional, research-based content. Before joining Reviews.org, she wrote safety and security content for ASecureLife.com. Her pieces and quotes are published across the web, including on MSN.com, Social Catfish, and Parents.com. Hobbies include wearing a seatbelt, wearing a life jacket, and keeping her arms and legs inside the ride at all times. Contact her at brianne@reviews.org.

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