June 12, 2024

Mikayla Macfarlane

Serving technology better

Best Internet Providers for 2023

19 min read
Best Internet Providers for 2023


AT&T Fiber – Best fiber internet provider

  • Prices: $55 – $250 per month
  • Speeds: 300 – 5,000Mbps
  • Key Info: Unlimited data, no contracts, equipment included

Or call to learn more: (855) 696-0756

Spectrum – Best cable internet provider

  • Prices: $50 – $90 per month
  • Speeds: 300 – 1,000Mbps
  • Key Info: Unlimited data, simple pricing, no contracts, modem included, free access to nationwide Wi-Fi hotspots

Or call to learn more: (866) 724-3206

Rise Broadband – Best rural internet provider

  • Prices: $45 – $65 per month
  • Speeds: 25 – 50Mbps
  • Key Info: Unlimited data on some plans, low price increase

Or call to learn more: (866) 484-6634

Verizon Fios – Best internet provider for customer care

  • Prices: $50 – $120 per month
  • Speeds: 300 – 2,000Mbps
  • Key Info: Unlimited data, no contracts, free equipment with gig service

Or call to learn more: (888) 235-6118

WideOpenWest – Best internet provider for value

  • Prices: $20 – $95 per month
  • Speeds: 100 – 1,200Mbps
  • Key Info: Good promo prices, no contracts, unlimited data on some plans

Or call to learn more: (888) 901-0817

Quantum Fiber – Worth a look if service is available

  • Prices: $55 per month
  • Speeds: 10 – 140Mbps
  • Key Info: Unlimited data, no contracts

Or call to learn more: (888) 271-6698

Xfinity – Fast, reliable option (apart from the data cap)

  • Prices: $20 – $120 per month
  • Speeds: 75 – 2,000Mbps
  • Key Info: Data caps on some plans, lots of plan options, solid customer satisfaction numbers

Or call to learn more: (877) 297-7621

Google Fiber – Great value for high-speed internet

  • Prices: $70 – $100 per month
  • Speeds: 1,000 – 2,000Mbps
  • Key Info: Unlimited data, no contracts, equipment included

Or call to learn more: (888) 595-5774

Viasat – Best if you’re stuck with satellite

  • Prices: $70 – $300 per month
  • Speeds: 12 – 150Mbps
  • Key Info: No hard data cap, nationwide availability

Or call to learn more: (877) 390-0656

Ziply Fiber – Off to a strong start

  • Prices: $40 – $300 per month
  • Speeds: 100 – 10,000Mbps
  • Key Info: Unlimited data, no contracts, fast rural internet connection

Or call to learn more: (844) 585-9189

Table of Contents

What’s the best internet provider overall?

If you live in the Northeast, it’s tough to find a better internet service provider than Verizon Fios, while most others nationwide will find AT&T Fiber rises to the top. As we often say in our ISP reviews, fiber internet service almost always trumps other internet connection types, so don’t hesitate to sign up if you can. If you can get your hands on Verizon Fios or AT&T Fiber, we suggest going with either of these two options.

CNET has done the research to help you find a fast, reliable broadband connection. Download and upload speeds, pricing, and customer satisfaction are just a few of the important factors you should consider when searching for the best internet service provider for your household. We examine customer service, speed, pricing and overall value before recommending the best broadband in your area.

All prices listed on this page reflect available discounts for setting up paperless billing. If you decide not to go with automatic monthly payments, your price will be higher.

Best internet service providers of 2023

One of the metrics we like to use to compare value between ISPs is the average cost per megabit per second of download speed. A lower cost per Mbps is a good, rough indicator of value — and with AT&T’s fiber internet plans, the average cost per Mbps is just 10 cents, including your equipment rental. 

Or call to learn more: Call to Learn More (855) 696-0756

Check with AT&T

AT&T Fiber plans and prices

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Source: CNET analysis of provider data.

With most fiber providers, you’ll find a better bang for your buck, but a cable connection is the next best thing if fiber isn’t an option. And, among all the providers offering cable internet service in the country, Spectrum is the one I’d be happiest to see available at my address.

Or call to learn more: Call to Learn More (866) 724-3206

Check with Spectrum

Spectrum plans and prices

Plan Starting monthly price Max speeds Monthly equipment fee Data cap Contract
Spectrum Internet $50 300Mbps download, 10 Mbps upload Modem free; $5 for router (optional) None None
Spectrum Internet Ultra $70 500Mbps download, 20Mbps upload Modem free; $5 for router (optional) None None
Spectrum Internet Gig $90 1Gbps download, 35Mbps upload Modem free; $5 for router (optional) None None

Source: CNET analysis of provider data.

Pickings can be frustratingly slim when shopping for an internet plan in a rural area, because most of the best internet infrastructure in the country is centralized in population-dense cities and the suburban neighborhoods surrounding them. If you live outside a region like that, your home probably isn’t wired for fiber or cable. Instead, you’ll have to make do with slower, less reliable and more expensive technologies, and you’ll likely have fewer options to choose from, too.

Or call to learn more: Call to Learn More (866) 484-6634

Check with Rise

Rise Broadband plans and prices

Plan Starting monthly price Max speeds Monthly equipment fee Data cap Contract
Rise Broadband 25Mbps $45 25Mbps download, 4Mbps upload $10 modem; $5-$15 router (optional) None None, but required for some promotions
Rise Broadband 50Mbps $55 50Mbps download, 5Mbps upload $10 modem; $5-$15 router (optional) None None, but required for some promotions
Rise Broadband 100Mbps $65 100Mbps download, 15Mbps upload $10 modem; $5-$15 router (optional) None None, but required for some promotions
Rise Broadband 250Mbps $75 250Mbps download and upload $10 modem; $5-$15 router (optional) None None, but required for some promotions
Rise Broadband 1000Mbps $105 1Gbps download and upload $10 modem; $5-$15 router (optional) None None, but required for some promotions

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Source: CNET analysis of provider data.

Verizon lands atop the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s rankings of internet providers year after year, and it’s been one of the strongest finishers with J.D. Power for multiple years running, too.

Or call to learn more: Call to Learn More (888) 235-6118

Check with Verizon

Verizon Fios plans and prices

Plan Starting monthly price Max speeds Monthly equipment fee Data cap Contract
Fios 300 $50 300Mbps download and upload None None None
Fios 500 $70 500Mbps download and upload None None None
Fios 1 Gig $90 940Mbps download, 880Mbps upload None None None

Source: CNET analysis of provider data.

WideOpenWest — or WOW — is a relatively small provider that offers services in nine states. Still, it earns the exclamation point it likes to stick at the end of its branding by offering cable internet plans at some of the best prices you’ll find anywhere in the US. That includes an entry-level 100Mbps plan that starts at $20 per month ($40 a month after the first year) and a high-speed gigabit plan with a two-year promo price of $50 monthly. That’s a stellar cost per Mbps of just over 5 cents, which is unheard of in the cable category.

Or call to learn more: Call to Learn More (888) 901-0817

Check with WOW!

WOW Internet plans and prices

Plan Starting monthly price Max speeds Monthly equipment fee Data cap Contract
WOW Internet 100 $20 100Mbps download, 10 Mbps upload $14 for modem rental (optional) 1.5TB None
WOW Internet 200 $25 200Mbps download, 10 Mbps upload $14 for modem rental (optional) 1.5TB None
WOW Internet 500 $40 500Mbps download, 50 Mbps upload Free for 1 year 2.5TB None
WOW Internet 1 Gig $50 1Gbps download, 50 Mbps upload Free for 1 year 3TB None
WOW Internet 1.2 Gig $95 1.2Gbps download, 50 Mbps upload Free None None

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Source: CNET analysis of provider data.

Honorable mentions

CenturyLink offers DSL internet plans across 16 states, but roughly half of the coverage map also has access to its sibling company’s fiber plans, branded as Quantum Fiber. The plans themselves are a great deal — $50 per month for matching upload and download speeds of 500Mbps (10 cents per Mbps), or $75 per month for a gigabit plan with matching speeds of 940Mbps (just under 8 cents per Mbps, which is an even better value than you’ll get with AT&T for its fiber gigabit plan). There are no data caps or contracts with those plans, and those prices don’t arbitrarily go up after a year, either.

Or call to learn more: Call to Learn More (888) 271-6698

Check with CenturyLink

CenturyLink/Quantum Fiber plans and prices

Plan Starting monthly price Max speeds Monthly equipment fee Data cap Contract
CenturyLink 20 $50 20Mbps download, 2Mbps upload $15 for modem/router rental (optional) None None
CenturyLink 40 $50 40Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $15 for modem/router rental (optional) None None
CenturyLink 60 $50 60Mbps download, 5Mbps upload $15 for modem/router rental (optional) None None
CenturyLink 80 $50 80Mbps download, 10Mbps upload $15 for modem/router rental (optional) None None
CenturyLink 100 $50 100Mbps download, 12Mbps upload $15 for modem/router rental (optional) None None
Quantum Fiber 500 $50 500Mbps download, 500Mbps upload None None None
Quantum Fiber Gigabit $75 940Mbps download, 940Mbps upload None None None

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Source: CNET analysis of provider data.

Comcast is the biggest name in cable, and the company offers its Xfinity internet service to over 100 million people in the US — more than a third of the country. Subscribers will find a great variety of plans and packages to choose from, including download speeds of up to 2,000Mbps that are available across the majority of the sprawling coverage map (or, if you’re lucky, plans with multi-gig speeds of up to 10Gbps that are available at a small percentage of addresses). In addition, Xfinity consistently earns above-average customer satisfaction scores too.

Or call to learn more: Call to Learn More (877) 297-7621

Check with Xfinity

Xfinity plans and prices (varies by region)

Plan Starting monthly price Max speeds Monthly equipment fee Data cap Contract
Xfinity Connect $20-$30 75Mbps download, 10Mbps upload $15 (optional) 1.2TB 1 year
Xfinity Connect More $25-$35 200Mbps download, 10Mbps upload $15 (optional) 1.2TB None
Xfinity Fast $35-$55 400Mbps download, 10Mbps upload $15 (optional) 1.2TB None
Xfinity Superfast $50-$70 800Mbps download, 15Mbps upload $25 (optional) 1.2TB (none if renting equipment from Xfinity) None
Xfinity Gigabit $60-$80 1Gbps download, 20Mbps upload $25 (optional) 1.2TB (none if renting equipment from Xfinity) None
Xfinity Gigabit Extra $70-$85 1.2Gbps download, 35Mbps upload $25 (optional) 1.2TB (none if renting equipment from Xfinity) None
Xfinity Gigabit X2 $100-$120 2Gbps download, 200Mbps upload $25 (optional) 1.2TB (none if renting equipment from Xfinity) None
Xfinity Gigabit Pro $300 10Gbps download and upload $25 None 2 years

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Source: CNET analysis of provider data.

It’s been over a decade since Google first announced that it would bring fiber internet service to select regions across the country — and it’s been an interesting ride ever since. After initially rolling out across 11 metro areas, Google struggled to build out the service beyond that and paused its efforts in 2016, leaving disappointment across dozens of cities where the company had teased prospects for future fiber expansions.

Or call to learn more: Call to Learn More (888) 595-5774

Check with Google

Google Fiber plans and prices

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Source: CNET analysis of provider data.

Satellite internet is typically slow, laggy and temperamental in inclement weather, so I’d explore other options if you’ve got them. But that’s the thing — too many of us don’t have other options, and satellite internet from established names like Viasat and HughesNet is available just about everywhere.

Or call to learn more: Call to Learn More (877) 390-0656

Check with Viasat

Viasat plans and prices (varies by region)

Plan Starting monthly price Max speeds Monthly equipment fee Data cap Contract
Choice 25 $50 25Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $15 or $300 one-time purchase 60GB 2 years
Choice 50 $70 50Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $15 or $300 one-time purchase 100GB 2 years
Choice 75 $100 75Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $15 or $300 one-time purchase 150GB 2 years
Choice 100 $150 100Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $15 or $300 one-time purchase 300GB 2 years
Choice 150 $200 150Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $15 or $300 one-time purchase 500GB 2 years

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Source: CNET analysis of provider data.

Ziply Fiber is a relative newcomer to the fiber scene after acquiring fiber-optic infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest from Frontier. The service launched in 2020 amid the pandemic, offering relatively affordable fiber plans to customers across parts of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.

Or call to learn more: Call to Learn More (844) 585-9189

Check with Ziply

Ziply Fiber plans and prices

Plan Starting monthly price Max speeds Monthly equipment fee Data cap Contract
Ziply Internet (DSL) $50 115Mbps download, 7Mbps upload $10 (optional) None None
Ziply Fiber 100/100 $20 100Mbps download and upload $10 (optional) None None
Ziply Fiber 300/300 $40 300Mbps download and upload $10 (optional) None None
Ziply Fiber Gig $60 1Gbps download and upload $10 (optional) None None
Ziply Fiber 2 Gig $80 2Gbps download and upload $10 (optional) None None
Ziply Fiber 5 Gig $120 5Gbps download and upload $10 (optional) None None
Ziply Fiber 10 Gig $300 10Gbps download and upload $10 (optional) None None
Ziply Fiber 50 Gig $900 50Gbps download and upload $10 (optional) None None

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Source: CNET analysis of provider data.

How to choose the best internet service provider for your home

Finding the right ISP for your household is not easy. This is especially true if you live in a rural or underserved portion of the US. We recommend carefully considering your household’s activities so you can better determine the download and upload speeds necessary to meet your needs. With that knowledge, you can better tackle plan pricing that will fit your budget and broadband demands.

For more thorough tips on finding the top internet plan for your household, check out CNET’s 10 tips to help you get the most out of your internet service.

Download and upload speeds

For most of us, our internet use is mainly focused on our download speeds. It determines how easily we can stream the latest hit Netflix show or how fast we can load our favorite Amazon shopping page. The slower your download speeds, the longer it takes to do tasks on the internet. For example, Netflix suggests 15Mbps or higher if you want to watch programming in ultra HD (to take full advantage of that 4K TV you bought).

The Federal Communications Commission defines “broadband speed” as a minimum of 25Mbps download speeds and 3Mbps upload speeds, though discussions began in 2022 to update those minimums to 100Mbps downloads and 20Mbps uploads.

Speaking of uploads, before the pandemic, most of us couldn’t care less about our upload speeds. But once we started excessively video chatting with friends and family, taking Zoom calls with business colleagues and sending files and homework to our bosses and teachers, we discovered its importance too.

Taking into account what types of activities dominate your household will affect what level of download speed you’ll need. Do you work remotely from home? Are you living with a household full of kids with their own personal devices? Have you recently downsized and are an empty nester?

Plan pricing

At first glance, you might think it would be easy to spot good plan pricing. The cheaper the monthly fee, the better the price, right? Maybe. Because internet providers are not the most transparent bunch (a Consumer Reports broadband study from late 2022 noted that customers found internet bills to be “extremely confusing”), one low monthly rate might not equal the next.

Keep on the watch for promo rates that expire quickly. That means the enticing starting price won’t last, and you may pay more in the long term. Also, look for additional hidden fees that may add to your monthly expense. For example, some providers don’t include equipment rentals in their monthly rates. That could add another $5 to $15 to your monthly bill.

Lastly, one good way to determine value is by examining the cost per megabit per second. You might find a 75Mbps plan for $20 per month from one provider and a 250Mbps plan for $30 monthly from another. Before you sign up for that $20 plan, consider that the cost per Mbps is just under 27 cents. The 200Mbps plan, on the other hand, chimes in at 12 cents per Mbps, so it’s a better value — more than 50% cheaper per Mbps — and you get more than three times the download speed.

Customer satisfaction

Just as you might search the internet for recommendations on a good local restaurant, it can be helpful to research customers’ experiences with an ISP before you sign up. CNET has found it helpful to lean on the annual ISP surveys from the American Customer Satisfaction Index and J.D. Power, but many resources are out there. Learning about constant network interruptions, a negligent help desk or frequent billing mistakes can be valuable info for choosing (or avoiding) certain providers.

How CNET chose the best internet providers for 2023

Internet service providers are numerous and regional. Unlike the latest smartphone, laptop, router or kitchen tool, it’s impractical to personally test every internet service provider in a given city. So what’s our approach? For starters, we tap into a proprietary database of pricing, availability and speed information that draws from our own historical ISP data, partner data and mapping information from the Federal Communications Commission at FCC.gov. 

But it doesn’t end there. We go to the FCC’s website to check our data and ensure we consider every ISP that provides service in an area. We also input local addresses on provider websites to find specific options for residents. We look at sources, including the American Customer Satisfaction Index and J.D. Power, to evaluate how happy customers are with an ISP’s service. ISP plans and prices are subject to frequent changes; all information provided is accurate as of publication. 

Once we have this localized information, we ask three main questions: 

  • Does the provider offer access to reasonably fast internet speeds? 
  • Do customers get decent value for what they’re paying? 
  • Are customers happy with their service? 

While the answer to those questions is often layered and complex, the providers who come closest to “yes” on all three are the ones we recommend. When selecting the cheapest internet service, we look for the plans with the lowest monthly fee, though we also factor in things like price increases, equipment fees and contracts. Choosing the fastest internet service is relatively straightforward. We look at advertised upload and download speeds and consider real-world speed data from sources like Ookla and FCC reports.

To explore our process in more depth, visit our how we test ISPs page.

Internet connection types

There are six major types of internet available: fiber, cable, 5G, fixed wireless, DSL and satellite. Each of these internet technologies provide different quirks and benefits.

For a thorough breakdown of each, check out our guide on internet connection types. 

Fiber

Fiber internet is the gold standard if you can get it. It’s often called “future-proof,” meaning that it offers some of the fastest plans available and features symmetrical download and upload speeds. It’s more reliable than cable and is less prone to outages or network congestion. AT&T, Google and Verizon are among the major players that offer fiber-optic internet.

Cable

Cable internet supplies your internet connection through the same cables (often a hybrid fiber and copper line) that providers use for TV services. It’s more reliable than satellite internet and offers faster download speeds as well. Often, cable internet is bundled with TV to get consumers to buy higher-priced packages to get a deal on internet service. Companies like Cox, Spectrum and Xfinity offer cable internet.

5G home internet/Fixed wireless

5G home internet and fixed wireless go hand-in-hand: 5G home internet services are fixed wireless internet services. But not all fixed wireless services are 5G home internet offerings. Fixed wireless service means the connection between your provider and home is not wired. However, that fixed wireless connection can come via cellular networks or satellite. Fixed wireless networks tend to be slower and more laggy than wired connections. But the promise of 5G home internet — from companies like Starry, T-Mobile and Verizon — is speeds that match up favorably to cable connections.

DSL

DSL, or digital subscriber line, uses telephone lines to provide internet connectivity to users. Companies like AT&T, CenturyLink and Frontier offer DSL internet. The good news is those copper lines are prevalent across the country. The not-so-good news is that download speeds fall short of what cable internet can offer. In some cases, your speeds might even be slower than satellite internet.

Satellite

Satellite internet is the one broadband connection type currently available to people in the rural areas of all 50 states. Serving as a solid alternative for those without access to DSL, cable or fiber internet, satellite internet links a modem in your home to a satellite in space, sending the internet back to Earth.

Other broadband providers we reviewed

The broadband beat keeps our team busy, but we’ll continue evaluating internet providers and updating this post as new options emerge. Here’s a rundown of every other provider we’ve covered, with a link back to our full review.

Provider CNET review score Price range Speed range
T-Mobile Home Internet 7.4/10 $50 72-245Mbps
Verizon 5G Home Internet 7.2/10 $50-$70 50-1,000Mbps
Astound Broadband 7.0/10 $25-$80 100-1,500Mbps
Starry Internet 7.0/10 $15-$80 30-1,000Mbps
Metronet 6.9/10 $30-$115 100-5,000Mbps
Sparklight 6.9/10 $25-$110 100-940Mbps
Kinetic by Windstream 6.7/10 $30-$300 50-8,000Mbps
Armstrong Internet 6.4/10 $35-$80 25-1,000Mbps
Mediacom  6.4/10 $20-$60 100-2,000Mbps
Nomad Internet 6.4/10 $109-$199 60-200Mbps
Earthlink 6.3/10 $55-$190 12-5,000Mbps
Frontier 6.3/10 $50-$155 500-5,000Mbps
Cox Communications 6.2/10 $50-$150 100-2,000Mbps
Optimum 6.2/10 $40-$180 300-5,000Mbps
HughesNet 5.7/10 $50-$150 15-50Mbps

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Source: CNET analysis of provider data.

What’s the final word on the best internet providers?

Finding the right ISP is easier said than done, especially if you live in a rural part of the country with limited options for getting online. While fiber internet is almost always the best internet connection type, we recognize that many Americans don’t currently have access to fiber internet.

Some providers we listed might not be the perfect fit for your situation. Often, the best provider is simply the one available at your address. We recommend carefully considering your household’s activities so you can better determine your broadband demands. 

Best internet providers FAQ

What’s the cheapest way to get internet?

That depends. We know, not helpful, but stay with us.

One of the cheapest ways to get internet service is through the government’s Affordable Connectivity Program. It’s a long-term subsidy to help qualifying households receive $30 per month ($75 for those on Tribal lands) towards internet service. There are also other permanent programs available for low-income families, as well as for seniors and students. 

Lastly, you can try negotiating with your current internet provider to secure a lower rate on your broadband service. Or you can keep your eyes open for broadband deals or other internet promotions each month.

Who’s the fastest internet provider?

The good news is it’s now common to find gigabit plans offered by almost all major ISPs. But, as we often say, the fastest internet service for you will depend on your location and specific address. Of the major providers, Xfinity and Kinetic by Windstream often extend the fastest plans available for residential homes, with a 6,000Mbps and a 8,000Mbps plan, respectively. However, those aren’t as widely available and may require a site survey to ensure serviceability.

In 2022, a Chattanooga, Tennessee, provider announced it was offering a 25Gbps plan. Though that’s impressive, Ziply Fiber recently released a 50 gigabit plan, topping its 10-gig service for speed. That’s crazy fast, and you probably don’t need that much speed at your household anyways.

What is the most powerful internet company?

If fast is what you’re looking for, Ziply Fiber has two of the fastest internet plans of any major ISP, with advertised symmetrical upload and download speeds of up to 10,000Mbps and 50,000Mbps. However, if you’re more interested in customer care and value, Verizon offers the best sign-up bonuses among high-speed internet providers.

Who has the best Wi-Fi coverage?

Since internet providers tend to operate in specific areas, which provider has the best Wi-Fi coverage will come down to where you live. Currently, T-Mobile Home Internet is available in 49 states and has 89% nationwide coverage.

What internet speed do I need?

The FCC defines “broadband speed” as a minimum of 25Mbps download and 3Mbps upload speed. But that definition is out of date. As mentioned above, most providers now offer a gigabit plan, but most households won’t need that much speed. According to a recent report from OpenVault, the average American household uses approximately 348Mbps download speeds (though nearly 70% of households get less than 200Mbps) and 23Mbps upload. Does that mean you’ll need that much? Not necessarily. The internet speed you need will depend on how many people use the internet in your home and for what activities you need.

Should I self-install my internet or have a professional do it?

Most internet providers offer a self-installation option, where they’ll mail you your home internet equipment after you sign up for service, and you’ll set it up yourself on your own time. In most cases, the process is pretty straightforward, with clear instructions on how to plug everything in correctly. In some cases, opting for self-installation can save you money, too.

All of that makes self-installation a great option for homes that don’t require much labor to get a network up and running — for instance, if you’re setting up a cable internet modem and your home already has the necessary coaxial wiring running through your walls. Check with your provider when you sign up to see if it’s an option for you, how much work it would entail, and how much money you could save off of the cost of letting the pros handle it.

Tier 1 internet providers have direct access to the network, letting them offer services directly to customers without relying on other providers. A few Tier 1 ISPs include AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink, which all have extensive networks and complete control of their network and routing.

How many ISPs are there in the US?

Approximately 2,000 ISPs operate in the US, including national, regional and local providers. While some offer nationwide coverage, others cater to specific areas or communities.

Which internet service providers offer bundles?





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