The Best and Worst ISPs
Our ISP Survey
What else do PC World readers like and dislike about their Internet service providers? Our ISP survey asked more than 6400 readers to rate their home broadband providers--and this year, for the first time, their small-business and mobile service--on performance, reliability, support, and features. Some key findings:
- As in last year's survey, most respondents are happy with their current ISP, though there's room for improvement. About two-thirds of home users say they're satisfied or extremely satisfied overall with their Net service. Satisfaction ratings are a bit lower among business users (see "Broadband for Business: Going Beyond E-Mail") and significantly lower for mobile broadband services (see "Mobile Broadband: Up and Coming").
- Cablevision, Cox Communications, and Verizon (fiber) are respondents' favorite home ISPs. (We did not receive sufficient responses about business and mobile ISPs to draw statistically significant ratings for individual carriers.)
- Verizon's FiOS fiber-optics-based service is the overall home favorite, earning above-average rankings in all nine of our major categories, which include upload and download speed, reliability, tech support, and customer service, among others.
- Cablevision, last year's winner, finished in a tie for second place with Cox Communications, with six above-average scores. Both cable Internet service providers earned above-average marks in speed, reliability, customer satisfaction, and other areas.
- As for the low end, readers are most dissatisfied with Charter Communications, giving it below-average scores in seven of nine categories. AOL is second-worst, with six rankings in the cellar.
- Cable and DSL remain the overwhelming favorites for Internet access, accounting for 84 percent of surveyed readers' connections; cable is slightly more popular in homes, while DSL has the edge at work. Dial-up use continues to slide among our readers, with only 8 percent of respondents saying that they use dial-up at home.
- Fiber, satellite, power-line, and wireless services are still marginal players, used by a combined 7 percent of respondents. But that's a notable increase from last year, when only 1 percent of surveyed readers reported using these technologies.
- About two-thirds of respondents get two or more services, such as phone, Internet access, and TV, from their home ISP--roughly the same proportion that reported purchasing a service bundle last year. Half of these customers pay between $90 and $150 for their bundle.
In short, the big picture is changing slowly. Internet bandwidth is improving, but the speed boost isn't reaching every city and town--not yet, anyway. In some regions of North America, superfast Net connections with download speeds of up to 30 mbps are common. But other areas, typically rural ones, remain dial-up backwaters. And like Hesler, many customers continue to experience a wide gap between upload and download speeds.