The Best and Worst ISPs

Our ISP Survey

Internet access expands.
Illustration: Harry Campbell
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.

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