Choosing an Internet Service Provider (ISP) can be tough. You have to wade through confusing contract details, endless package choices, and tons of fine print—and you still might end up making the wrong choice!
If that’s something you want to avoid, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll walk you through the process of choosing an ISP from start to finish. Grab some coffee, and let’s dive in!
1. Find internet providers in your area.
The first step in choosing an internet provider is figuring out what’s available in your area. There are two reasons you need to do this first:
- Not every provider is available in every area. Coverage areas differ from provider to provider, so right out of the gate your choices will be limited to the providers that offer service in your area.
- Prices, speeds, special offers, and package lineups also vary by location. What you see advertised online is not necessarily what you can get. Always check the availability of a package in your area before you decide it’s the one for you. Along the same lines, many providers also have different pricing structures for different areas, so be prepared to possibly pay more—or less—after a move.
To find the best internet plans in your area, you can do one of two things: You can call providers for information and deal with the inevitable headache that comes with that—or you can use our Zip Finder. It pulls all the internet provider info from your area into one place to make it easy to compare and choose a provider.
Just enter your zip code and we’ll list all the providers in your area. Simple as that.
2. Compare plans, pricing, speeds, and more.
- Plans and pricing
- Installation and equipment costs
- Customer satisfaction ratings
- Data caps and overage fees
We’ll give you a brief overview of these things after you enter your zip code, but if you’re looking for a deeper dive, we’ve got that too. You can find all the details on these points in our provider comparison reviews.
HSI Provider Comparison Reviews
At HighSpeedInternet.com, we’re constantly measuring providers against each other to find out which is more deserving of your dollars. In the comparisons listed below, you’ll find overviews of each ISP’s plans, pricing, equipment, mobile apps, availability, customer experience, and more.
We’ll also throw in some interesting points of comparison along with specific recommendations for certain users. Of course, we back it all up with plenty of real-world use, hours of research, and loads of customer reviews.
Top-Ranked Providers to Look For
Some providers go far beyond the rest. Here’s info on top performers and what they’re known for, all based on HighSpeedInternet.com’s annual customer satisfaction survey. (Remember that some or all of these providers may not be available in your area. Use our Zip Finder to check availability.)
3. Find how much internet speed you need.
Once you know which providers offer service in your area and what packages are available, it’s time to figure out exactly what you need out of your internet service. In the end, a company can provide amazing customer service and have nationwide availability, but if the service isn’t fast enough for what you need, it’ll fall short.
There are several questions you should ask yourself when evaluating your speed needs:
How often do you stream HD video?
1080p video needs about 5 Mbps for good performance, while 4K will eat up about 25 Mbps.
How many people stream at once in your home on a regular basis?
You’ll have to multiply those speed requirements in the first question by the number of simultaneous streamers. You’ll probably want to leave yourself a little cushion as well.
How many smart home devices are connected to your internet?
These devices—especially security cameras that upload data continuously—can eat your bandwidth up real quick.
If all that math is too much to keep track of, use our How Much Speed Do You Need? tool instead. It will help you easily determine how much internet speed you need for your home or business. All you need to do is answer a few questions, and we’ll give you your recommendation.
4. Test your internet speed.
Now that you know what internet speed you need, test your current connection to see how it matches up. You probably already have an idea of how satisfied you are with your current internet. But testing the connection to see what your actual speed is will give you a benchmark to compare against other providers and packages.
5. Know if you’re switching providers.
If your answer is yes, are you currently under a service agreement? Otherwise known as contracts, these agreements could end up costing you hundreds of dollars in early termination fees (ETFs). Although many providers have moved to a contract-free model in the last few years, a few still require you to pay up if you break up:
|Provider||Early Termination Fees|
|AT&T||Charges up to $180.00 to terminate your contract, depending on how much time is left in the term.*|
|Frontier||Charges as much as $200.00.**|
|Xfinity||Can charge as much as $230.00.**|
*Prorated by number of months completed. **Varies by service and agreement.
Don’t plan on getting out of paying these fees, either. Most providers are pretty strict on enforcing them, though you can always give it a try.
In addition to shelling out these termination fees, you’ll also be responsible for returning your old equipment, like modems and wireless routers. This is usually a simple matter of taking them to a designated drop-off point, but each provider has different instructions.
6. Choose your internet provider.
Now it’s time for the exciting part! Once you know how much speed you need and which providers offer service in your area, you can make an informed decision that you’ll be happy with. You can do this! You’ve done your research, and we’ve got your back every step of the way.
What Is TWC’s Cheapest Package?Cable Internet from TWC starts at just $1499 per month for speeds up to 2 Mbps. At around faster than dial-up, 2 Mbps is sufficient for light Internet use, including web browsing, emailing and minimal music streaming. This speed will take significantly longer to handle large file transfers, video streams or online gaming.
Will the Cheapest Package Work for Me?If you only use the Internet sparingly, the cheapest Internet package may suffice. However, it’s not the best option for all consumers. If you’ve recently cut the cord, for example, you won’t be able to enjoy streaming services very easily. Your connection will also exponentially slow down if you have multiple household members using the Internet at the same time. So before you opt for the cheapest plan, it’s a good idea to assess exactly you really need.
Are There Better TWC Deals?If you’re only looking for Internet, the package that offers both speed and affordability is the Turbo Internet package, which provides speeds up to 20 Mbps for just $4499 per month for 12 months. That’s 10 times the speed of the lowest package for just three times the price. With , most users can accomplish what they want online — whether they’re downloading large files, streaming movies or gaming with friends — without worrying about lag or the number of connected users.
What If I Want Cable TV, Too?For an even better deal, bundling multiple services with TWC usually results in substantial savings. The Double Play bundle, for instance, which runs just $11499 per month for 12 months, offers Internet speeds and cable TV channels that suit most consumer needs. With this package, you get up to 20 Mbps of download speed — just like the Turbo Internet package — and more than 200 cable TV channels and 18,000 On Demand titles. Even better, the Double Play package also includes DVR capabilities and access to select premium channels like HBO®, Showtime® and Starz® free for 12 months. The savings from the DVR services alone give this plan an edge over other cable and Internet provider offerings. Paired with the additional savings on premium channels, this is one of the better deals on the market. Time Warner Cable offers plenty of cable Internet and bundled packages. As you make your choice, however, don’t just opt for low prices — check to see which package offers the features you need to comfortably use the Internet at home. And if Time Warner Cable isn’t available in your area, search for another Internet provider that offers the service you need. *Pricing and speeds are current as of writing. Pricing and speeds are subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas. The popcorn’s popped, blankets are out, and you’re about to start a movie. There’s just one problem — your Internet is lagging and Netflix is struggling to load. If your Time Warner Cable® Internet is slow, read on to find out what the issue could be — and how to fix it. What Can Affect My Internet Speed? Downstream speeds are often pinpointed as the main cause of slow Internet, but there are actually multiple other issues that could be slowing down your connection. Latency: Latency or ping — a measurement of how long it takes before network responses are returned — can affect how fast or slow your Internet connection feels. Like bandwidth, latency is affected by your network hardware and remote server connection. While there are ways to check ping time directly from a computer’s operating system, the fastest way to check ping rate is via an Internet speed test. Router: While modern Wi-Fi standards offer high potential speeds, your router’s range may be affecting how much of that speed you actually see. Depending on the age of your router, your antenna may be weak, resulting in a limited connection range. If the Internet connection of your laptop or TV slows down the further away the device is from the router, this is likely the problem. Try connecting your lagging device directly to your modem via an Ethernet cable to confirm the problem — if your speeds return to normal when connected with a hard line, it may be time to upgrade your router. Computer Health: Along with an outdated router, your computer’s health is another lesser-known factor that can affect your Internet speed. Check your computer’s processor cache, hard drive speed, RAM frequency, and display resolution to see if any of these specs are slowing down your PC. In addition to scanning your computer’s hardware-related health, regularly run an antivirus program to check for spyware or malware. Malicious programs can wreak havoc on a variety of system functions, including Internet connectivity. Bandwidth Hogs: You may have too many people or too many programs simultaneously using your Internet. The more people or Internet-based processes running on a home’s Internet at once, the slower the connection will be. If your Internet starts slowing down, turn off any background uploads and downloads occurring on your computer, and close unused Internet programs to see if your connection speeds up. How Can I Improve My Internet Connection? If you’re experiencing high latency, the number of household Internet users is growing, or you need to use multiple Internet-based programs simultaneously, you have a few options. The first step is to pinpoint your Internet needs and compare them with what you’re currently receiving. There are a variety of Internet tools that allow you to easily test the speed of your Internet connection and discover how fast your Internet connection should be to support your online activities. Next, choose one of three routes for improving your Internet connection.
- Work around activities that cause slow Internet.
- Upgrade your service with your current Internet provider.
- Switch Internet providers or service types.
- Speed: If you regularly use the Internet for things like gaming or streaming video, you need reliable, fast speeds — especially if there are multiple users and devices in your home. Find out if the Internet service provided by your apartment meets your speed requirements. If it does, you won’t need to go through the hassle of finding an alternative ISP.
- Availability: It doesn’t matter if a certain provider can deliver the speeds you need if they’re not available in your area. Due to infrastructure and other limitations, not all providers or service packages are available in all locations. Learn which ISPs are active in your area and what packages they offer.
- Cost: For those on a tight budget, adding another expense may be difficult. Be sure you understand what, if anything, you’re already paying for as part of your apartment lease. If your budget can withstand an additional monthly fee, it might be worth it for you to have the type of Internet service you want. Look for deals for new customers; many ISPs offer promotional rates or discounts when you sign up.
- Latency: The time it takes for your network to process data is called latency. When you experience a delay in loading a page or buffering a video, you may be having a latency issue rather than a bandwidth issue. One of the biggest contributors to latency is high usage of bandwidth, usually caused by too many users on the same connection. If latency is a concern for you, upgrading or switching services is probably a good idea.
Find Joseph on Google+ Photo: Wikipedia
Equipment and SoftwareFirst, find out what equipment and software each internet service provider requires, and how (and if) you’ll be charged for them. 1. Is the modem price included in the monthly access fee or is will I be charged a rental fee each month? 2. Can I purchase my own modem that will work with your service? 3. Who is responsible for the equipment if it breaks, and is there a warranty?
SpeedsMost providers offer different speeds at different prices. It’s a good idea to know what you plan to do online so you can get the right speed–at the right price. 4. What internet speeds do you offer? 5. Do you throttle bandwidth-intensive users? 6. Do you know what the peak usage times are?
Maintenance and SecurityKnow what to expect when technical problems and upgrades arise, and you’ll save yourself panic and inconvenience in the long run. Here are some questions to ask so you know what to expect from your ISP: 7. How often have you had customers reporting outages? About how long do they last? 8. What security options are included and how much do they cost? (Many ISPs offer a security suite download for free.) 9. How often do you update your antivirus files and apply software patches? 10. Do you have 24/7 technical support? 11. Is technical support available online, on the phone, on email, or a combination of these?
Prices and ContractsMost ISPs today offer no-contract prices and with-contract prices to their customers. Be sure to ask for details and know what is reasonable for you. 12. Is there a contract? 13. What is the minimum contract length? 14. Is there a cancellation fee for canceling early? 15. How long do I have if I am dissatisfied and want to cancel with no penalty? 16. Once the term of the contract is up, will my monthly costs change? 17. How do you handle price increases and is my price guaranteed for a certain time? 18. Is the service unlimited, or is there a limit on the monthly usage? 19. If there is a limit each month, are there penalties for going over, including fees or having my service slowed or cut off? 20. What additional fees can I expect? [zipfinder]
Photo: Ed Needs a Bicycle/Flickr br> Despite what you may have read recently, finding a good rate for telecommunication services doesn’t have to be a battle. You just have to know where to look. Instead of putting time and energy arguing on the phone to get the price you want, you can do a little leisurely browsing online and find what you need. Websites like HighSpeedInternet.com help you find the packages and pricing available in your area and let you compare the Internet speeds they offer. The customer reviews on the site give you an idea about the customer service you’ll receive from each provider. With HighSpeedInternet.com you’ll get that valuable information you need without taking the beating of going twelve rounds on the phone with your cable provider. Just because it’s fun to shop in your boxer shorts, doesn’t mean you need to put on the gloves too. Just go online. br> br> Photo by jnyemb