Is Your ISP Ripping You Off? 41% of Americans Say Yes

Will broadband “nutrition” labels increase buyer awareness?

Trevor Wheelwright
Jun 26, 2024
Icon Time To Read4 min read

Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ordered internet service providers to post broadband fact labels that provide quick, easy to read, and digestible information about their plans and prices. But are customers going to take the labels seriously, or will the new information go ignored like nutrition labels at fast food joints?

According to our recent survey of American internet users, nearly half of the respondents have never switched internet providers. Among those who have bought new internet, 40% never compared internet services before signing up. Internet speeds affect everything from streaming video and gaming to work calls and school sessions—it’s worth looking around for the fastest speeds at a fair price.

We dug into the details of Americans’ experiences with their internet service: what they know, what pain points they have, and what they’re satisfied with. We also asked what parts of the new FCC labels will be the most helpful the next time they compare internet plans.

What do Americans know about their internet?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) introduced consumer labels that most internet providers began displaying in April 2024. Though these new labels are designed to make internet plans, prices, and contractual information more transparent, it’s still too early to tell if the labels will result in better informed and more satisfied customers——only 20% of survey respondents were aware of the new broadband information labels.

And it may be a while before many get around to using the labels: Nearly half of our survey respondents (47.3%) have never switched their internet providers, and 40.1% of customers have never shopped around for the fastest internet speeds in their area.

Still, over half (54.7%) said they were open to switching to other internet providers—but will the labels help them see what a difference comparison shopping can make?

Over half of the internet customers surveyed say they don’t know what they pay for internet, their provider options, or their speeds—43% of our respondents have never tested their internet speed, either.

graphic showing what Americans currently do not know about their internet plans

Our respondents paid a mean cost of $82.56 per month and a median cost of $71.00 per month—how does your price compare?

Without knowing the details of your internet service, the price you pay may feel more or less like a rip off. And just because a plan is within budget and works well enough doesn’t mean it’s a good deal, either.

Worst ISP pain points: Price hikes and hidden fees

Most survey respondents experienced internet costs going up—that’s to be expected, and it’s why many consumers opt for contracts that lock in prices. But don’t jump right into what seems like a good deal: 46.7% of respondents have lived through the pain of promotional prices ending and hidden fees in the fine print.

A third of our respondents say they thought internet shopping was confusing. With these pain points in mind, it’s easy to see what leads customers to feel ripped off and taken advantage of.

graphic showing negative experiences around shopping for internet

Despite pricing issues, most are satisfied with improving internet speeds

Not everything feels like a rip-off when it comes to internet service, though. The vast majority (over 80%) of our respondents say they’re satisfied with speeds and reliability. And over half of our respondents say their internet speeds have increased or improved since they signed up for service.

Trends around internet satisfaction:

  • 50% say their internet speed has increased or improved since initially signing up.
  • 82.2% are satisfied with the speed of their internet service.
  • 82.2% are satisfied with the reliability of their internet service.
  • 63.3% are satisfied with the price of their internet service.
  • 56.5% of consumers have experienced connection issues (slow speeds, outages, buffering, etc.) with their current ISP.

Price seems to be the biggest pain point—internet consumers are 19% less satisfied with their internet price compared to speed or reliability. And even with high satisfaction levels, 56% of consumers experienced connection issues (like slow speeds, outages, or buffering).

Still, is it better to stick with the ISP you know vs. the one you don’t? Sometimes, the very idea of finding a new provider is enough to make someone stay put.

Unclear pricing makes ISP shopping frustrating

Most people want to know what they’re paying up front—all of it. Customers ranked hidden fees as the worst aspect of shopping for internet service. Confusing pricing plans or terms came in not far behind at number three.

Slow or unreliable internet speeds are the second worst parts of purchasing internet plans. It makes sense: People want to get what they pay for. And if having trouble with your internet isn’t bad enough, being met with poor customer service or support only adds to the frustrations—and it doesn’t help with negotiating contracts or commitments, either.

graphic showing the worst parts of shopping for internet

Why switch internet service providers?

Cost is king: Most people switch providers to get a better price.

Other strong considerations include experiencing unreliable connections, slow speeds, and getting newer or better options. And, of course, many switch providers after moving to a new location.

graphic showing the top reasons for switching internet providers

Companies can’t rely on word-of-mouth advertising alone: Getting recommendations from friends, family, or reviews online ranked as the least likely reason people switch internet providers. And with that, it may be better for everyone if more information is made clearer up front.

Pricing is the most important info for new FCC labels

Customers want clear indicators of costs when signing up for new internet plans—that means spelling out monthly prices, additional charges, fees, taxes, introductory rates, and discounts.

Aside from pricing, knowing the length of contract, availability of bundles, and download/upload speeds and latency stay at the top of mind for most.

graphic showing the most useful info from the new FCC Broadband Facts labels

Key findings

The new FCC broadband labels address many customers' main concerns with internet shopping, which mostly revolve around pricing confusion. Hopefully, with time, the change will lead to a better understanding of internet services alongside higher customer satisfaction across the board.

Whether you choose to stick with your current ISP or explore what else is out there, you (and everyone, really) should check out your area’s options, test your current speeds, and take note of any internet issues they may be experiencing before signing their next contract.

Key findings

  • 41% of Americans have felt ‘ripped off’ by their ISPs hidden fees.
  • 20% of consumers are familiar with the FCC’s new broadband facts labels.
  • 19% don’t know how much they pay for internet, and 45% don’t know what their internet speed is on their plan.
  • 33.2% find internet shopping confusing.
  • Internet consumers are 19% less satisfied with the price of their internet plan compared to its speed or reliability.

Methodology surveyed 1,000 Americans 16 years and older in April 2024 with a +/- 4% margin of error and a confidence level of 95%.

Trevor Wheelwright
Written by
Trevor’s written about YMYL (your money, your life) topics for over six years across editorial publications and retail/eCommerce sites. His work’s been featured on Forbes, RealSimple, USA Today, MSN, BusinessInsider, Entrepreneur, PCMag, and CNN. When he’s not researching and writing, you can find him around Salt Lake City, Utah, snapping photos of mountains and architecture or seeking out some good tunes and friendly faces.

Related Articles

A mom, dad, and two children sit on a couch and use a laptop together
Mediacom Internet Review: Customers Call It “Fast” and “Stable”
Mediacom is a cable internet service provider in the Midwest and Southeast that offers fast...
A young woman wearing glasses sits on the couch and surfs the internet on her laptop
Spectrum vs. AT&T Review
When it comes to Spectrum versus AT&T, AT&T is the better pick for most customers.
A man lies on a brown couch and shops online with his laptop
Cheapest Internet and Wi-Fi Providers
Fast internet is essential in the modern world, so you shouldn’t have to pay a...
A group of young men and women hold internet-enabled devices while sitting on a couch
Ting Internet Review
Ting Mobile started out as a small discount phone carrier. Now it’s in the home...