The Internet service provider (ISP) is the gatekeeper to online commerce. However, consumers now can choose from several ISPs, each offering multiple levels of speed and price.
Here is a list of 20 large domestic ISPs. There are cable, DSL and dial-up providers. Most of the ISPs offer multiple ways to access the Internet. The larger ISPs are at the top.
Comcast. The largest cable provider in the U.S., Comcast provides services to over 17 million internet customers at speeds of up to 105 Mbps. Comcast also provides additional features such as internet security and parental controls. Accounts come with 7 email accounts, but storage is limited to 10 MB/ea. Plans start at $29.99/month for 6 months.
AT&T. AT&T provides DSL and dial-up services, as well as fiber optic connections with its U-Verse service, to over 17 million subscribers. DSL delivers speeds up to 6.0 Mbps. U-Verse fiber optic delivers speeds up to 24 Mpbs and includes 10 email accounts with unlimited email storage. Dial-up is $22.95/month. DSL starts at $14.95/month. U-Verse starts at $19.95/month.
Time Warner Cable. Time Warner Cable serves 14 million customers in 39 states. Through its cable network, it delivers speeds up to 50 Mbps. Its Road Runner service delivers speeds from 768 Kbps to 30 Mbps. Plans start at $19.99/month.
CenturyLink. With its recent acquisition of Qwest Communications, CenturyLink has become the third largest telecommunications company in the U.S. and has 6.4 million Internet subscribers. It offers DSL and fiber optic services with speeds up to 40 Mbps. Plans start at $14.95/month.
Charter. In 2009, Charter declared bankruptcy and sold off assets to clear $8 billion worth of debt. Now it has over 5 million customers in 25 states with cable speeds up to 60 Mbps. Accounts include Internet security, parental controls, and ten 1GB email accounts. Charter does not offer services in the western mountain states. Plans start at $19.99/month.
Verizon. Verizon provides fiber optic, DSL, and dial-up. Its fiber optic service, which is called FiOS, is available in California, Texas, Florida, and a group of northeastern states. DSL plans starts at 0.5 to 1 Mbps and include nine email accounts and 10 MB of storage. FiOS offers speeds of 15 to 50 Mbps. Dial-up is $14.99/month. DSL starts at $29.99/month. FiOS starts at $49.99/month.
Cox. Cox provide cable Internet services to approximately 4 million customers in 16 states. It provides speeds of 3 to 50 Mbps. Accounts also feature 10 email addresses, security software, and responsive customer support. Plans start at $15.99/month for 3 months.
Optimum. Optimum is part of cable provider Cablevision. Optimum provides cable Internet to over 3 million subscribers in the New York metropolitan area and the Rocky Mountain states. It offers speeds up to 50 Mpbs. Each subscription comes with five 2GB email accounts, security and parental controls. Added features include 12GB site hosting. Plans start at $29.95 for 6 months.
Frontier. Frontier provides Internet access to over 3 million subscribers in primarily rural areas. It offers a DSL service. Subscriptions come with eight email accounts, security and parental software, and call waiting. Plans start at $14.99/month.
Suddenlink. Suddenlink is a cable broadband company that provides service to 1.4 million subscribers in primarily southern states, such as Texas and Louisiana, and rural communities. It features Suddenlink2GO, which can access TV and movie content from any computer across the U.S. Plans start at $19.95/month.
EarthLink. Earthlink offers dial-up and DSL to over a million customers. DSL provides speeds from 1.5 to 6 Mbps. Cable offers speeds up to 15 Mbps. Subscriptions feature a security center for virus scanning, anti-spy ware, email and chat protection. Dial-up is $9.95. DSL starts at $14.95. Cable starts at $29.95.
Windstream. Windstream provides Internet access to over a million people in the eastern half of the U.S. It offers three DSL residential plans ranging from 3 Mbps to 12 Mbps. It also has bundled plans for small businesses. Plans start at 39.99/month.
Cable One. Cable One is a cable company that provides Internet, phone and TV to approximately 750,000 customers in 19 states. It offers three plans: 1.5 Mbps with 2 email accounts; 5 Mbps with 15 email accounts and 100 MB of web space; and up to 50 Mbps with 15 email accounts and 50 GB data plan. Plans start at $20/month.
NetZero. NetZero provides dial-up, accelerated dial-up and DSL to over 6,000 cities. Each subscription gets eight email accounts that can store 100MB each. Also it provides a personal home page with social networking status and a Google search box. Internet security and parental controls are add-ons. Plans start at $9.95/month.
Juno. Juno offers dial-up, accelerated dial-up and DSL with virus and spam protection to over 6,000 cities. The basic plan provides speeds up to 55 Kbps and comes with eight email accounts. Dial-up subscribers receive a one-time free support session during the first month, but have to pay per minute after that. Dial-up starts at $10.95/month.
AOL. AOL provides dial-up services. It also offers high-speed services, such as security and AOL media tools, if you purchase high-speed Internet from you cable or telephone company. Dial-up features McAfee security, an email account with limited storage, and AOL media content. Dial-up plans start at $9.99/month.
MSN. MSN provides dial-up, as well as dial-up with an accelerator. Accounts feature anti-spyware tools, a personal firewall, a photo editor, organizer, and an email account that can hold up to 10GB. You can try your first month of MSN dial-up free. Dial-up is $18.95/month.
Mediacom. Mediacom is a cable company that offers service to over 1,500 communities in 22 states. It provides speeds up to 12 Mbps. Plans start at $29.95/month.
Basic ISP. Basic ISP offers dial-up and DSL access and provides over 46,000 access numbers in the U.S. and Canada. It also offers satellite broadband through a third-party provider. Subscriptions feature call alert, and email archiving. Also, Basic ISP’s dial-up accelerator is Mac-compatible. Dial-up starts at $8.95/month. DSL starts at $19.95/month.
ISP.com. ISP.com offers dial-up and DSL access and provides over 3,000 dial-up numbers in the U.S. and Canada. It provides DSL to over 20 metropolitan areas. Subscriptions come with 10 email addresses, spam and virus protection and free customer service. DSL provides speeds from 786 Kbps to 15 Mbps. Dial-up starts at $8.95/month. DSL starts at $14.95/month.
Editor’s Note: We’ve updated this list for 2015, at “32 Leading Internet Service Providers.”