Rate Your Internet Service Providers (ISPs)

Whether your ISP is a match made in heaven or a vicious ball-and-chain you can't seem to get away from, Tom's Hardware wants to know what you think.

Introduction

It's hard to imagine a world without the internet. Everyday tasks and interactions from reading the latest news, working, communicating, to watching movies and TV shows, streaming music and using social media -- it all exists because of the internet. You name it and it can be found or done on the internet, and our dependency upon it grows stronger with every new technology and convenience it creates for us.

For as long as the internet has existed, there has been someone bringing you the internet service; an unsung hero of sorts, with a relationship that can often feel similar to a long-term boyfriend or girlfriend. The Internet Service Provider (ISP) has been around since the beginning, and although the prices, technologies, availability and performance have all changed dramatically over the years, the ISP has always been there in one form or another.

ISP Pros And Cons

Like most good relationships, the one between consumer and ISP is great when the service works reliably at the expected performance levels. We order dinner, we go shopping, we watch movies, we play games. Things are clear and steady, no terrible surprises, and we can spend the whole day with our ISP happily. When the internet service is dependable, it can make us laugh and smile.

However, sometimes this relationship can feel like a bad one. There aren't too many good ISPs in your area, so you took what you could get. Your ISP isn't the fastest horse on the track, but its a cheap date. So you have to live with the service going missing for hours at a time with no explanation and you know your calls won't be answered or returned in a timely manner. These types of issues can sometimes leave you feeling pretty empty inside, or maybe even make you think about finding something better. So you wonder if there a perfect ISP out there.

Regardless of how your ISP can make you feel at times, the core services are what matters. Choosing the right ISP depends on understanding what the provider can offer you, what access type you'll be using, what charges you'll incur when you subscribe for a plan, and how your ISP will handle support and service issues.

ISP Access Types

Many ISPs offer several different levels of internet connectivity using a variety of technologies, including cable, fiber optics, DSL and satellite. Each of these delivery methods has a very distinct impact on the end-user experience, offering a wide range of speed and reliability.

For example, DSL service is a dedicated line and will therefore not be subject to bandwidth loss caused by "peak times" like its shared-connection cable counterpart. However, cable is inherently faster, and DSL speeds can also degrade as the distance between you and the target central office increases. Fiber optics provide the same dedicated line as DSL, sending the data signal over fiber optic glass cables instead of copper, making it significantly faster, but also more expensive.

However, oftentimes the choice of an access type might be limited to your geographic location as fiber, cable and even DSL might not be available in some remote or rural areas. This is when a satellite service might be the only viable option.

Things To Consider

Reliability

The type of technology and ISP you choose will determine how reliable your service will be. Most broadband technologies rarely see downtime once deployed, but that doesn't mean they never have issues. DSL connections are subject to interrupted service at a higher rate than cable, and satellite options are among the least reliable internet signals available to consumers. Just as with connection speeds, you will pay higher prices for more reliable services.

Pricing

The general rule of thumb when it comes to ISP pricing is the faster and more reliable the service is, the more expensive it will be. Users requiring higher bandwidth for streaming content or gaming usually look for cable or fiber optic services, but will pay considerably more for those options. Consumers looking to simply access the internet for information or basic tasks, such as email and web browsing, can find very affordable plans using DSL or satellite, but access speeds and uptime are significantly reduced compared to cable and fiber optic offerings.

Customer Service And Support

When choosing an ISP, it is not so much how often your service fails, but how your provider handles that failure; this is perhaps one of the most important factors when considering an internet service provider. Friendly support and speedy remediation go a long way with anyone who is victim of a service interruption, and no ISP is innocent of these types of occurrences. While some companies offer excellent customer service, some miss the mark on key considerations like convenience, response time and professionalism.

ISP Ratings: You Be The Judge

Whether your ISP is a match made in heaven or a vicious ball-and-chain you can't seem to get away from, Tom's Hardware wants your input. In the survey below, we are asking readers to tell us what you think about the internet service providers in the United States that you have used. We also want to know what considerations are most important to you when choosing a potential provider. Specifically, we would like you to rate the ISPs that you have had direct experience with as a customer and tell us what you like and dislike about them when it comes to reliability, price, performance and customer support. Please fill out the survey separately for each ISP that you would like to rate.

To complement the reader feedback we receive, we will be taking a closer look at several home user plans offered by the major players in the industry. Our plan is to analyze your ratings along with other statistics and data and share our findings with the Tom's Hardware community. We are going to follow up with an assessment of the leading ISPs and depending on the volume and quality of written feedback, we may even use your commentary in our upcoming ISP articles.

We ran a similar survey earlier this year on VPN services. Take a look to see how we used the reader input we received and to get an idea of what level of details we are looking for.

As you can see, we aren't looking for full-fledged reviews, just 1 to 5 star ratings on some of the most important factors and short comments on what you like and dislike about the services. Most importantly, please only rate the ISPs with which you've had direct experience.

We also realize that the list provided in the survey only represents a handful of ISPs available in U.S., so feel free to add the ISP you'd like to review in the "Other" box. Thank you in advance for helping out. You're not just helping us, but inevitably also other Tom's readers.

Derek Forrest is an Associate Contributing writer for Tom's Hardware. Follow him on Twitter.

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  • Kewlx25
    I hope my ISP upgrades speeds again soon. I keep hearing about all of these 1Gb and 10Gb networks around the USA. 100Mb is getting old.
  • freeskier93
    NextLight/City of Longmont gigabit fiber here, $50 a month for charter members, what isn't there to like?
  • Gam3r01
    500KBps here from Ponderosa, whats to like?
    XD
  • Doug_1
    I just want Google Fiber. Everything else can bite it at this point.
  • hatib
    we paying 2200 Pakistani Rupees including tax and other things which is $22 in usd for 4 megabit per second and up speed 2 megabit per second a month and now in pakistani ptcl have started 100 megabit per secoend which is for 28000 pkr without taxs which is $280
  • whiteruski
    I like how Pakistan has better ISPs that the USA... :)
  • GoZFast
    If you want cheap 1-10Gbps internet...go to Japan lol They had 1Gbps for ~20$US years ago, way before we even hear about it here.
  • GoZFast
    That's 1Gbps both ways, up and down. In Canada, we can't have over 30Mbps upload without business optic fiber priced unreasonably.
  • hatib
    Do you think Pakistan has better isp because you can get google fibre for $60 and there is only one isp in whole pakistan yeah there are isps available but there are very limited like 1mbps down speed and they only cover like about max 20 streets
  • beetlejuicegr
    yeah here in Greece due to the economic crisis we are really slow on the vdsl front, struggling here with 7mbps synced out of a 24mbps payed ...
  • Unolocogringo
    297672 said:
    I hope my ISP upgrades speeds again soon. I keep hearing about all of these 1Gb and 10Gb networks around the USA. 100Mb is getting old.



    HAAHHAHHA your joking right?
    The best we can get is 11mbps down and .768mbps upload ( tops out at 630mbps on good days if it doesn't crash the connection.. and we pay $70 per month for this privilege.

    Unless we want to upgrade to business class for 22mbps down and 2mbps upload for $200 a month.

    Windstream is my only option.
    Nothing else is available in my area because of monopoly contracts dating back to 1976 when it was Alltel phone service, which Windstream bought out.
  • RC5000
    I pay 79.99 for Gig speeds with Cox Internet in AZ. Couldn't be happier
  • atwspoon
    This all proves that internet needs to improve. Cox in the midwest makes 100% profit off their internet service, they only pay for their cable tv contracts. Whenever roadwork is done in my city, they lay new fiber. I feel like Cox could have set up cheap fiber years ago!
  • The original Derfman
    I pay $99/month for 150mb up and 10mb down. Brighthouse central Florida. It seems that every other time that they bring out a new speed tier they completely overprice it. They want $199/month for 300mb down and 15mb up. I'm trying it out now on a promo and let me tell you, it will be going right back once the three months are over. I download Terabytes of files all the time and I still can't justify the price for the barely conceivable difference. Moving to Austin TX soon and will definitely chose my house based on the availability of Google fiber. If they don't have it I will not be renting/buying there.
  • rayden54
    1.8 Mbps down, something like 15k up. Only isp I can get. I live 5 freaking miles from the city limits. It's made all the difference.
  • killerchickens
    18 Mbps down 2 Mbps up for for $70 Comcast only isp available. :(
  • moshenokoji
    After reading a few people getting 1gb connections for like $50, i feel like i'm getting ripped off. I pay $55 for 100mb cable in WV from Suddenlink. Other options include about the same from another cable provider, CAS... or 24mb VDSL from Frontier at $50.... which is ... the worst. However, I would much rather pay $55 for a 100mb connection than $50 for a language VDSL line.
  • smeezekitty
    Quote:
    I hope my ISP upgrades speeds again soon. I keep hearing about all of these 1Gb and 10Gb networks around the USA. 100Mb is getting old.

    100 Mb is getting old? LOL I pay $50/month for 6 down, 2 up
  • Karadjgne
    83Mb down, 13.5Mb up. That's my 5GHz WiFi on this Galaxy 5. Comcast has been good, pay $120 for net, digital cable hd +HBO.
  • LordConrad
    I get 28Mbps down and 5Mbps up with AT&T U-Verse for $70. It's a little slower than Comcast, but the speed is constant (no evening slowdown) and reliability and support are much better.