Updated July 17, 2019

Best Internet Provider: Fastest and Cheapest Service

Read more about Internet

Internet service can cost as little as $20 a month or as much as $300 per month. It all depends on where you live and what you need.

The basic internet surfer who checks emails and peruses social media certainly doesn't need a $300 per month internet package. But, the heavy gamer, binge movie watcher, or the large family with six people streaming at the same time might need something a bit more robust than what the $20 plan offers.

Keep reading to learn the type of internet that may be best for you and what to look for in your internet service provider.

Choosing the Right Type of Internet Provider

Before you can choose the right internet provider, you need to know what type of internet you want. There are four main choices today:

This uses your phone line to give you a high-speed connection. It operates off your existing phone line in the home, but it doesn't interrupt your use of the phone, like dial-up did. It works on different frequencies than the phone itself does, allowing you to use the internet and make phone calls at the same time.

As the name suggests, cable internet uses cable connections rather than telephone line connections. You'll use a cable modem and a coaxial cable to connect. The connection doesn't interfere with your cable TV; they run on separate connections.

Fiber Optic
Fiber optic internet claims to be the "fastest" internet today. Connections are sent via strands of optical fibers, which are small glass strands. Fiber optic internet doesn't use electricity, so there is less risk of downtime during a power outage.

Satellite cable is the only option available nationwide. If you live out in "the sticks," you may find that satellite is your only option. The internet signal comes from the satellite service. It's one of the slower options and it can often causes glitches in your internet connection.

What to Look for in an Internet Provider

As you shop the various internet providers and types of internet connections available in your area, you should know what to look for and compare so that you choose the internet provider that's right for you.

The Right Bandwidth
Think about what tasks you use the internet for on a daily basis. Do you have multiple users in the house? Do you do a lot of video streaming or file downloading? These tasks take up the most bandwidth. If you just use the internet to check email and social media, you won't need as much bandwidth.

For Example: Internet surfers can usually get by with a 1 Mbps bandwidth, whereas those who stream high-definition videos need between 5 and 8 Mbps. Don't forget that if you have smart home devices, you'll need to account for their use of the bandwidth as well.

Excellent Customer Service
Think about how often you use your internet. What if something were to go wrong? You want a company that can handle the issue promptly. That's why customer service is so important here. You want a company that takes calls outside of standard 9 to 5 business hours and that has the answers you need without keeping you on hold or making you wait hours just for an update.

Large Data Cap
Depending on how often you'll use the internet, you need to know the data cap, or the maximum amount of data you can use before you pay extra charges. If you stream a lot of video or do a lot of downloading, you'll want to pay close attention to this number.

Many internet providers offer deals for new customers. Make sure you ask about the introductory deals as well as what will happen after the introductory period ends. Some providers also offer bundled deals if you purchase other services from them, such as TV or phone service.

Best Internet Provider

Now that you know what to look for and what questions to ask, we help you discover the best internet providers for various situations below.

Best Fiber Internet Provider

Verizon FiOS
Fiber optic internet is only available in about 25% of the country because of the large and labor-intensive investment it becomes. A fiber infrastructure must be present in your area in order to secure fiber optic internet.

If you are lucky enough to have fiber optic internet near you, Verizon FiOS offers the most dependable service. They have 100% fiber optic service up to 940/880 upload/download speeds. You have a variety of package options, which you can choose based on the speed you need in your home. The higher the speed that you choose, the longer the price guarantee you receive.

Verizon FiOS has been ranked #1 in the J.D. Power Customer Satisfaction survey for the last six years in a row. They also offer 99.9% reliability and packages that have no data cap. This means you can stream as much as you want each month without the worry of exceeding your data cap and paying extra for internet each month.

Best Internet Provider for Gaming: On average, you'll need an internet speed of at least 6 Mbps for seamless gaming. AT&T Fiber and Verizon FiOS are both good options for gamers if they are in your area. If not, AT&T offers a variety of broadband connections that are great for gamers.

Best Cable Internet Provider

Spectrum offers a variety of speeds to help you meet your internet needs. They also offer a variety of packages at different price points. As an added bonus, Spectrum provides a free modem and doesn't have data caps on their packages.

Spectrum has the reputation of offering great customer service (especially in the South) and offers internet speeds that are great for large families.

If you do a lot of streaming, play games, or download files often, you'll appreciate the speed that Spectrum offers. Spectrum also doesn't participate in speed throttling, which is when the ISP slows the speed down once you reach a certain data cap.

Spectrum does offer some bundling packages too. They may not be as attractive as the bundling options from larger providers, such as AT&T, but they can save you money if you want to get your phone, internet, and TV from one provider.

Best Satellite Internet Provider

If you live in a rural area or an area where you don't have many internet options, satellite internet can be a good choice. HughesNet offers packages with varying amounts of data, each of which has a download speed of 25 Mbps and upload speeds of 3 Mbps. Of course, speed is never guaranteed, as it depends on the time of day and number of users on at any given time.

HughesNet doesn't charge you extra if you go over your data limit for your given package. They do, however, lower your speed connection until the next billing cycle. In order to help you minimize exceeding your data plan, HughesNet offers what they call "Bonus Zones." If you use the internet between the off-peak times of 2 AM - 8 AM, you get an additional 50 GB of data per month during those hours.

Best Cheap Internet Provider

If you want to keep your internet bills low, Frontier has some of the lowest monthly prices for internet. The type of service you'll get, or the plan options you can choose from, will depend on where you live. They do have as many as 13 different plans and connection options; it just depends on what is available in your area.

Frontier offers a price-lock guarantee for 2 years, so you don't have to worry about increasing prices. This is without a contract. Frontier offers both fiber optic and broadband connections, but like most other companies, the areas that the fiber optic connections are available are limited.

Frontier doesn't put any data caps on any of their internet plans. They also don't have a point where they slow your connection down after using too much data. Their unlimited data truly is unlimited. You can opt to purchase your own router or lease one from Frontier, which would increase your monthly cost, but eliminate the need to purchase a modem or router outright.

Best Internet and TV Provider

AT&T is known for their "bundles." That's where the savings really begin. If you are looking to replace both your internet and TV provider, AT&T is worth a look. With AT&T, you can bundle either fiber optic or DSL internet service with your chosen TV package. Obviously, you'll get the fastest connection with fiber optics, but it's not available everywhere.

Normally, AT&T enforces a data cap on their internet packages. While the data cap is 1 TB, which most people don't exceed, it doesn't exist on their bundled packages. You can get unlimited data if you choose an internet and TV package. You only have to sign a contract for 12 months in order to get the lowest price guarantee locked in for one year.

One area that AT&T shines is in their customer service. While they aren't ranked quite as high as Verizon FiOS, they do have high marks when it comes to customer service. You can chat with customer service online with their user-friendly platform that even lets you know how many agents are available to help you at any given time.

Best Internet Provider for Business: If you run a business, chances are you want speedy internet. You don't have time for lagging internet or downtime. Xfinity offers some of the most reliable internet connections at speeds up to 1,000 Mbps. While you'll need to see if their package pricing fits within your budget, you can count on their consistent service to help keep your business up and running.

Bottom Line

Before you choose an internet package, decide what you need the internet to do for you. There's no sense in overpaying for internet connections that you don't need. But it can be equally frustrating to deal with buffering issues or a lag in your internet connection.

If you do end up in a contract, make sure you shop around before the contract expires to find the next best deal. Typically, once your contract runs out, you pay the current market rate, which is usually a much higher cost than what you are used to paying. While it can be time-consuming, switching providers at the end of each contract can help you get the lowest rates available to new customers at any given time.

Write to Kim P at feedback@creditdonkey.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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