The Best Cable Internet Providers
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How We Found the Best Cable Internet Providers
10 IT experts interviewed
9 months of research
4 providers evaluated
The Best Cable Internet Providers
The best cable internet provider for you depends largely on what’s available at your address, as you may not have a choice at all. If you do, you’ll want to think about the speeds that you need and then compare packages to find the right price. We ranked some of the nation's largest cable internet service providers based on customer service, speed offerings, and extras like fees and bundling. Any of these providers are good options in your search for cable internet — we recommend using the ZIP tool above to get started.
The Best Cable Internet Providers: Summed Up
How We Chose the Best Cable Internet Providers
We looked at the nation’s four largest cable internet providers and dug into their packages, bundling options, and customer service reputations to see how they stacked up. The best cable internet service is fast, reliable, and painless to work with, but the best cable internet service for you depends on what you prioritize in a provider.
We should start by saying that your choices for a cable internet provider are likely limited; in fact, in many cases, you may not have any options at all. The limit in options is the result of regional monopolies and technological restrictions. Essentially, a cable provider won’t invest in building infrastructure and wiring if it has to compete with another provider who already dominates that region. Our favorite providers were ones with a nationwide presence who you were likely to encounter in your search.
The best cable provider doesn’t just offer the cheapest price; it also comes with limited fees, a range of speed options, and bundling discounts. We also preferred features that added a more rounded value to your internet package — like price locks, advanced equipment, or no data caps.
The telecommunications industry is notorious for its mediocre customer service. From faulty equipment, surprise fees, incorrect bills, and endless phone trees, cable internet providers can be tough to deal with. We used third-party satisfaction surveys from J.D. Power and the American Customer Satisfaction Index to gauge the customer service of cable providers. High-scoring companies are more likely to tell you exactly what’s on your bill, promptly schedule installations, and provide promised speeds — all without forwarding your call to three different departments.
Our picks below offer a balance of fast speeds, decent customer service, and chances to save on your monthly bill. Once you've decided on your priorities and found out what's available in your area, any of these options should seamlessly fit into your life.
The 4 Best Cable Internet Providers
- Charter Spectrum — No Data Caps
- XFINITY by Comcast — Most Plan Options
- Mediacom — Fastest Speeds
- Cox Communications — Good Customer Service
Why we chose it
No data caps
Charter Spectrum is our only top pick to offer no data caps. Mediacom comes close to offering a deal as generous with data caps that reach 6,000 GB — but internet junkies and workaholics will rejoice in an unlimited supply of uploading, downloading, and streaming. And while average households likely won’t reach the caps placed by other companies, Consumer Reports claims that as entertainment trends continue to advance and technology like 4K streaming normalizes, data demands will increase. Charter’s lack of data caps will ensure that your plan can keep up.
For those looking to change providers, Charter Spectrum also offers a unique contract buyout promotion for qualifying Triple Play packages. After you’ve installed the service, Charter will cover any early termination fees from your current provider up to $500. That bundle comes with a free modem, free installation, and free DVR service — items for which other providers typically charge around $10 to $15 per month.
Points to consider
Only two plans
In 2016, Charter Communications bought Time Warner Cable and rebranded the collective service as Spectrum. Part of that rebrand was a focus on simplifying its services. The result? Only two speed options for your internet service: 60 Mbps and 100 Mbps. If your internet usage falls near either of these speeds, it’s an easy purchasing process, eliminating the debate between plans that differ by just 10 Mbps. But if you need far less than 60 Mbps (the average US internet speed is 72 Mbps), you may want to consider a provider like Comcast, which offers a more diverse range of options.
Why we chose it
Super fast speeds
A high-speed cable option with an impressive range, Mediacom's plans start at 60 Mbps and rocket up to 1,000 Mbps. For internet-obsessed users, speed is the most important factor; and while Mediacom’s max offerings are astronomically excessive for the majority of households, these high speed options (in addition to high data limits) mean that heavy internet users will never have to worry about maxing out or cutting back.
Bundling your TV and internet service starts at just $40 per month in most locations. The base plan comes with 60 Mbps and 100+ channels, though Mediacom’s packages allow for easy customization. You aren’t limited to specific channel numbers or internet speeds if you want to bundle: Within each channel tier, you can choose any of the available internet speeds, so it’s simple to cater your plan to your needs.
You can also customize your data cap based on the speed you need. And while Mediacom doesn’t offer Charter’s unlimited data, the range is still impressive: 400 GB to 6,000 GB. That top tier is six times larger than Comcast’s and Cox's data caps.
Points to consider
Unfortunately, Mediacom hits the lowest of the low for customer service. It falls behind Comcast with a 56/100 from ACSI. Additionally, its J.D. Power scores were so low that it only ranked in the West region and with a 2/5 in all categories. In online forums and comment boxes, customers complain that issues are rarely resolved and that they experience frequent outages. Customers also note that they’re often double-billed and spend long periods of time waiting for customer service to respond.
If high speeds are worth a few phone calls or some occasional internet downtime, Mediacom is still a solid bet. It does offer a 90-day money-back guarantee, so if you experience any of these common grievances within the first three months, you can cancel your service without contract penalties.
Why we chose it
Cox fares well when it comes to servicing its customers, winning the J.D. Power customer satisfaction award for the West region. Its worst score comes from the Cost of Service metric, aligning with what we found on its poorly valued plans. But, overall, customers are generally more satisfied with Cox than Comcast or Mediacom. The company tends to have reliable service and decent customer interaction, a rarity within the cable internet space.
Cox also strives to break out of the pack with its Panoramic Wi-Fi, a router upgrade that is basically Cox Communication’s version of a Wi-Fi Mesh system. This system extends its wireless farther, eliminates dead zones, and covers your whole home with fast connections. It comes with a free professional install but will cost you $10 per month. If you live in a large home with many areas that struggle to maintain a strong signal, this could be a convenient solution, although it may not be worth the cost if you’ve never had issues with your Wi-Fi’s reach.
Points to consider
While Cox’s low speeds of 10 Mbps may appeal to ultra-light internet users, those plans don’t come at great value. In most cities, 10 Mbps of speed costs $30 ($40 after the promotion expires), and an additional $10 gets you 30 Mbps. Charter’s most popular promotional deal, by comparison, is $30 for 100 Mbps. Smaller households with few devices and basic internet activity, may be interested in Cox’s light plans, but you can get much faster speeds for the same price from other providers.
How to Find the Right Cable Internet Provider for You
Find your local providers
According to the FCC’s Broadband Progress Report, 70% of Americans have fewer than three provider options (and that's counting all internet types). Satellite internet is available nationwide and is usually one of those options. DSL and cable have pretty varied availability based on state, and fiber-optic internet is the most rare. Your first step should be checking which providers service your home. Our tool above can help you find the providers available to your ZIP code.
Audit your speed needs
When it comes time to purchase your internet plan, you’ll need to know how much speed your household needs. Internet service is sold in speed-based packages, measured in Mbps (megabits per second). Typically, cable internet packages range between 10 Mbps and 100 Mbps and accommodate HD video streaming, online gaming, and file downloading. If you only use the internet to check email or social media and you don’t want to pay for excess speed, DSL or satellite internet might be best for you. Keep in mind, these slower speeds usually come at a poorer value.
Determining your needs depends on your usage habits. A couple of things play into usage demands, including the number of connected devices and the type of internet activity. Internet speed works kind of like a traffic highway: The more people using it, the slower you’ll have to go. High-demand usage like video conferencing or real-time gaming requires higher speeds and more monthly data.
Light use: emails, web browsing, social media, SD video streaming
Moderate use: music streaming, occasional online gaming, streaming HD video on one or two devices
High use: Multiple devices streaming HD video simultaneously, real-time gaming, video conferencing
Very high use: Multiple devices streaming HD or 4K video simultaneously, large file downloading, real-time gaming, video conferencing
Determine your data requirements
Internet data works similarly to your phone data plans in that you receive a certain allotment of gigabytes (GB) to "spend" over the course of a month based on your online activity. Most cable internet companies implement data caps starting at 250 GB. For some context, 1 GB is needed for about one hour of Netflix SD streaming and 3 GB per hour for HD streaming. If you’re just using the internet for light emailing and web browsing, you can stay near 50 GB per month. Heavy users should look for a plan with around 500 GB of data or more. If you happen to go over your data limit, providers will issue a warning and eventually charge a fee for more data.
Cable Internet FAQ
Our Other Internet Reviews
We've been digging into a variety of internet providers over the years, and we’ve found the best providers for other internet types. If cable internet isn't available in your area, check out our other reviews below: