Below is a list of the top seven broadband Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the United States. They are listed by the number of subscribers, which range from nearly 20 million (Comcast) to less than three million (Cablevision). All of them offer bundled services, whereby you can choose to bundle cable TV and/or telephone service with your Internet service for one reduced package price. The speeds of service differ for all providers, but generally speaking, the ones that offer fiber-optic and cable service are faster than those that merely offer service via DSL (telephone lines).
Comcast (now known as Xfinity)
Comcast is the largest broadband ISP in the U.S., servicing approximately 40 percent of all U.S. broadband consumers in 40 states as of 2011. The company has rebranded its Internet service “Xfinity Internet,” after the name of its media bundles if you also subscribe to the company’s telephone and/or cable TV services. There is some speculation that the rebrand was to get away from controversy surrounding the Comcast name, which was identified with poor service. In fact, between 2005 and 2015, Comcast was named the worst company in America more than once by a number of publications.
Xfinity Internet is offered at 3 Mbps, 6 Mbps 25 Mbps, 75 Mbps, 150 Mbps and 505 Mbps speeds. All Comcast customers are given dynamic IP addresses.
AT&T Internet Services is the trade name for several different companies that are affiliated under the AT&T umbrella (previously it was known as SBC Internet Services). These include Ameritech, Pacific Bell, Nevada Bell, Prodigy, SNET, Southwestern Bell, and AT&T Worldnet. In 2008, AT&T gave up a partnership with Google to work with Yahoo, who provides the group’s web portal and email services and co-brands the group’s dial-up and DSL service.
AT&T provides at least one of two different broadband varieties in all 50 U.S. states. The two varieties are their normal high-speed DSL broadband, available at 3 Mbps and 6 Mbps speeds, and U-Verse, a fiber-optic-based option, available at 3 Mbps, 18 Mbps and 45 Mbps speeds. 12-month contracts may apply. AT&T caps users at 150Gb of data per month and charges users $10 for every 50Gb in excess of this amount that they use.
Time Warner Cable
Previously known as Road Runner High-Speed Online, the service is now known as Time Warner Cable Internet (the Road Runner cartoon character was borrowed from Warner Bros., which is now an unaffiliated company). Time Warner Cable will be merging with Charter Communications (see below), pending regulatory approval. If the merger goes through the combined entity will be known as Spectrum.
Time Warner Cable offers broadband service in 29 states. The company uses DOCSIS-compatible modems and offers speeds as fast as 300 Mbps under their new “Maxx” plans in select areas of Texas. Normal Time Warner broadband service is available at 2 Mbps, 6 Mbps, 15 Mbps, 20 Mbps, 30 Mbps and 50 Mbps. Time Warner allows users to use their own cable modems but doesn’t service these. It charges a monthly fee of $8.00 for its own cable modems. Time Warner at one point tried to roll out a plan to implement monthly data usage caps but canceled it due to user protests.
Verizon High-Speed Internet is the DSL broadband service offered by Verizon. In some areas, the company also offers FiOS service, which runs over fiber-optic cables intend of copper lines. In the case of FiOS, cable TV transmission is possible, and economical bundles providing both services are offered by the company. In the case of DSL, telephone service and Internet can be run on the same line simultaneously (although as of 2012 telephone service costs extra), and as a phone company, Verizon is ideally set up to offer both services as a bundle. Verizon’s DSL service comes in 1 Mbps, 3 Mbps, 7 Mbps and 15 Mbps varieties, whereas their FiOS service provides speeds between 25 Mbps and 500 Mbps, depending on the package selected.
Verizon offers DSL broadband services in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Texas, California and New York and FiOS broadband services in select cities in all those states except California, plus some cities in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Florida and Rhode Island.
CenturyLink is the third-largest telecommunications firm in the U.S. after AT&T and Verizon, serving 37 states, and offers fiber-optic cable direct to the home in some markets, bringing speeds of up to 1000 Mbps (touted by the company as “gigabit fiber”) in some cases. These are by far the fastest available Internet speeds for consumers.
This service is available in 16 major metropolitan areas in the states of Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin. In areas where the service is not offered, the company still uses fiber to boost DSL speeds up to 40 Mbps in some regions using ADSL+ or VDSL2 technology. Basic broadband service is available from CenturyLink at either 10 Mbps or 20 Mbps. Many of its contracts require 12- or 24-month sign-ups with autopsy enrollment.
Charter is the third-largest cable TV company in the U.S., backed by billionaire John D. Malone. The company’s bundled Internet, cable TV and phone service packages were rated as some of the worst in the country in 2007 and 2008. The company has admitted to privacy and mail deletion issues on its network in the past. Charter issues DOCSIS cable modems although in the future customers will be able to use their own, as they did in years past before a company policy change. On May 26, 2015, Charter announced it would be merging with Time Warner Cable (see above), subject to regulatory approval. If the merger is successful the combined entity will be known as Spectrum.
Charter provides broadband service via its Charter Spectrum brand in 29 states, with a heavy concentration on California, Texas, Michigan and Missouri. Charter currently offers two levels of service: Plus, featuring 30Mbps speeds and Ultra, which offers 100 Mbps. All new Charter users receive dynamic IP addresses.
Cablevision Systems Corporation, offering broadband Internet under its Optimum Online brand, is the fifth-largest cable TV provider in the U.S., but only operates in New York State. The CEO of Cablevision, James Dolan, is also the Chairman and partial owner of Madison Square Garden and its three affiliated sports teams, integrated theater, television network (the MSG Network) and television rights to the games played at the Garden. In addition, the company owns a number of other entertainment networks and venues.
Cablevision offers broadband Internet via its Optimum Online service, which offers speeds up to 101 Mbps with its Ultra service variants, available at 50 Mbps, 75 Mbps and 101 Mbps levels. Optimum Online’s basic service level is 25 Mbps. Cablevision has the second-fastest average broadband speed per user of any company in the U.S.