2020’s Best Internet Providers in Customer Satisfaction
When you’re shopping around for a new internet plan, one of the best ways to figure out which provider is right for you is by asking current customers how they feel about their service. We do this regularly so you don’t have to. You can also check out our survey from 2018 to compare results.
To find 2020’s best internet providers in customer satisfaction, we surveyed more than 2,800 internet users across the US to find out which internet service provider (ISP) has the happiest customers. Overall, EarthLink customers are the most satisfied with their internet service, but Verizon and Optimum customers aren’t mad either.
Overall customer satisfaction ratings
Our survey asked customers to rate their satisfaction with their ISPs in eight different categories on a scale of one to five. These overall scores are the averages of the scores in each category.
- EarthLink earned the highest customer satisfaction scores overall and in six of our eight categories.
- The top three providers from our 2018 survey (RCN, AT&T, and Suddenlink) have fallen in the rankings.
- Average scores overall are slightly lower now (3.75) than in 2018 (3.78) but still largely positive.
- Sparklight and Xfinity scored consistently with their results from 2018.
- Mediacom scored lowest in every category.
Customers rated EarthLink highest overall
This is the first time EarthLink has appeared in our customer satisfaction survey, and the ISP crushed it. Customers ranked it above every other provider in six of our eight categories—EarthLink came in third for both speed and reliability.
There are a few reasons why customers might be particularly satisfied with EarthLink internet service. For one, the ISP doesn’t have “teaser” rates at the beginning of your contract, only to raise prices later. And EarthLink doesn’t have any data caps.
One thing that’s interesting about this result is that EarthLink has a lot of variations in its internet services. It offers everything from dial-up to fiber internet connections, and its plans and pricing vary throughout the US based on its partner companies.
EarthLink’s ratings in installation and setup, billing, tech support, and customer service are all significantly higher than the competition. And these areas would all be standardized across EarthLink, regardless of service type or region. So even though it didn’t get top marks in important factors like speed and reliability, EarthLink gets the top spot because of the high ratings it got for how it treats and communicates with its customers.
How satisfied are you with your home internet speed?
Speed has historically been Xfinity’s best category in our surveys. And Xfinity customer satisfaction has gone up since our last report: 4.18 in 2018 vs. 4.21 in 2020. As a widespread cable internet provider, Xfinity is often the only option for fast internet speeds in a neighborhood (as is the case for this writer).
Another thing to note in Xfinity’s favor is that it has stopped throttling its users’ internet during peak hours since our last customer satisfaction survey, which may partially account for its higher rank this year.
Overall, the speed category has the highest average customer satisfaction score, and it’s the exact same average as in our 2018 survey (3.99 out of 5). But even though the average stayed the same, many ISPs changed places. For example, 2018 frontrunners Optimum and RCN have lost some ground.
This is a comparison of customer’s satisfaction with their internet speeds, not of the internet speeds themselves. If you want to know which internet providers bring the heat, check out our guide to the fastest internet providers.
How satisfied are you with your internet service installation and setup?
Installation and setup appointments are often your first glimpse of how your ISP treats its customers. And EarthLink gets a few things right that puts it ahead of other providers in its customers’ eyes. For one, EarthLink’s standard installation fee is just $79.95. Many other providers—including Mediacom, Verizon, AT&T, and Xfinity—charge up to $99 for the same thing.
Other factors that could influence someone’s satisfaction with their installation and setup include how long they have to wait for an appointment, the window of time for a technician to show up (shorter windows are better), the actual appointment, and fees associated with the visit. You can also consider whether or not a company lets you DIY your installation. Many providers have a self-install option, but EarthLink requires professional installation.
How satisfied are you with your internet’s reliability?
Verizon took the top spot for customer satisfaction with internet reliability, but it’s a close call. Optimum and EarthLink are very close behind with only a 0.01 difference between each of the top three.
Your internet’s reliability can affect how you feel toward pretty much every other aspect of the service. What good are fast speeds if you’re in the middle of an outage? Even the friendliest customer service call can do little to ease the frustration of feeling like you’re not getting the service you pay for when your ISP’s network is down.
Thankfully, customers are pretty satisfied with their internet’s reliability. The category average for reliability is the second-highest in this report at 3.91 overall. A full third of the ISPs ranked above a four here. That’s pretty impressive and an upgrade from the 3.86 category average from our 2018 survey.
How satisfied are you with your monthly internet bill?
No one likes paying bills, of course, which may influence the fact that this category has the lowest average customer satisfaction score (3.39 out of 5). It also had the lowest average in our 2018 survey.
EarthLink again takes the high score for this category, possibly for its policy of not having “teaser” rates. EarthLink’s lack of data caps (and therefore overage charges) could also play into the mix. Overall, this reflects that most EarthLink customers think they get their money’s worth.
On the other end of the spectrum, Mediacom does have data caps and some pretty dramatic price hikes after the first year. That could be a reason why customers are less satisfied, even though Mediacom’s starting prices are lower than EarthLink’s prices for similar speeds.
How satisfied are you with your provider’s technical support?
Technical difficulties can cause internet service interruptions and a lot of frustration. If the solution isn’t to turn your modem off and on again, you want your provider’s tech support to be able to fix your problem fast.
EarthLink customers are satisfied with their provider’s tech support, even though it’s available only from 9:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m. every day. There’s a fairly large gap between it and the next highest-rated provider. EarthLink has a 4.01, and Verizon has a 3.89 for a 0.12 difference. That’s pretty significant seeing as the largest gap in the next eight scores is 0.04.
That suggests that not only are EarthLink customers the most satisfied with the ISPs technical support, but they’re also much more satisfied than customers from other internet companies.
How satisfied are you with your provider’s customer service?
The two top-ranked providers for customer service—EarthLink and Verizon—don’t have 24/7 phone customer service hours. EarthLink is open for support from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. every day, and you can call Verizon between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sundays. But both have online and chat options available outside those timeframes.
Beyond being able to reach customer service, resources like online support articles and interactions during calls and appointments also factor into customer satisfaction with customer service.
How satisfied are you with your provider’s mobile apps?
People don’t love their ISPs’ management apps. In fact, satisfaction with mobile apps got the second-lowest average score in our survey.
EarthLink again snags the top spot, even though the MyEarthLink app for iOS and Android has pretty underwhelming reviews overall.
The Mediacom Connect app actually has higher star ratings than MyEarthLink in both the App Store and the Google Play store at the time of writing. But that didn’t save it from coming in last in the category—even though Sparklight doesn’t even have a mobile app for residential customers.
How satisfied are you with your provider’s equipment?
Most internet service providers give customers the option of either renting home networking equipment (a gateway or modem) or buying your own. We find it interesting—but not surprising, given the rest of the survey results—that EarthLink came out on top of this category because it requires many of its customers to rent equipment.
That’s a pain point that has caused some frustration with other companies that keep a similar policy—like Frontier’s fiber internet services. But EarthLink pulls it off. Part of that could be due to its lower-than-average rental fee. It costs just $6.95 per month to rent a modem from EarthLink compared to up to $15 per month from other internet providers.
We surveyed more than 2,800 people across the US—between 100 and 200 customers for each internet provider mentioned—and asked them to rank their satisfaction with their internet service. The survey contained eight categories we asked participants to rank on a five-point scale, one meaning NOT satisfied and five meaning VERY satisfied.
We averaged out the scores and compiled them here to show you how satisfied internet customers are with different ISPs.
Take note that these scores reflect anecdotal evidence, not tested performance. For example, a higher customer satisfaction score for internet speed may not indicate faster speed than a lower-scoring brand—it’s more about how the ISP’s speeds meet customer expectations. And since the scores are averaged, your own experience with any of these providers may differ.
Please note that there are thousands of internet providers across the US, and not all of them are represented in this report. Accuracy is important to us at HighSpeedInternet.com, and internet providers for which we were unable to find enough survey participants (including Viasat) to meet our data threshold were not included in our findings.
Are you satisfied with your internet service?
Do you have opinions about your internet provider that aren’t touched on here? If you agree or disagree with our survey results—or if you have a provider that wasn’t included in this report—let us know by reviewing your internet provider and sharing your insights.
And if you are unsatisfied with your internet service, run your ZIP below to see all the providers in your area to find one that can better fit your needs.
Author - Rebecca Lee Armstrong
Rebecca Lee Armstrong has more than six years of experience writing about tech and the internet, with a specialty in hands-on testing. She started writing tech product and service reviews while finishing her BFA in creative writing at the University of Evansville and has found her niche writing about home networking, routers, and internet access at HighSpeedInternet.com. Her work has also been featured on Top Ten Reviews, MacSources, Windows Central, Android Central, Best Company, TechnoFAQ, and iMore.
Editor - Cara Haynes
Cara Haynes has been editing and writing in the digital space for seven years, and she's edited all things internet for HighSpeedInternet.com for five years. She graduated with a BA in English and a minor in editing from Brigham Young University. When she's not editing, she makes tech accessible through her freelance writing for brands like Pluralsight. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span.