Consumers are less satisfied with their internet connection in 2021

Photo (c) Marko Geber - Getty Images

Fiber customers are the happiest of the bunch

A new study suggests that internet users aren’t getting what they want. The team at asked around 2,000 Americans just how happy they are with the speed, price, and reliability of their internet connections this year. 

The study concluded that consumers are less satisfied with their internet connections this year, stemming mostly from experiencing frustrations related to the pandemic. For more than a year, COVID-19 forced many people to count on internet service more than ever -- to work remotely and for families with school-aged children to do their classwork virtually. 

The winners

On the positive side, EarthLink, AT&T, and Verizon came in as the top 3 providers for customer satisfaction this year. The researchers said all three of these providers offer fiber internet connections, which ranked higher in every category compared to other connection types. 

Each of those internet providers is also neck and neck in the good score department with ConsumerAffairs reviewers. Earthlink earns 3.8/5 stars, AT&T earns 3.8/5 stars, Verizon earns 3.9/5 stars.

One of the reasons Daniel from Cleveland, Ohio, gave Earthlink 5 stars was because, rather than own and operate its own infrastructure, the company has partnership agreements in place with local ISPs like Spectrum and AT&T to install internet service on the ISP's network. 

“That's not a problem because for some reason the Internet service costs less when you go through Earthlink to get it,” Daniel wrote in his review. “Any installation problems that you have are therefore caused by the ISP (Spectrum or AT&T) technician, not Earthlink,” he said.

Good but not great

The researchers say it’s important to note that customer satisfaction ratings reflect customer sentiment but are not an exact representation of actual quantitative internet performance. That proved to be the case for Xfinity and Spectrum.

The study’s researchers said those two cable providers dropped “significantly” in this year’s ratings compared to 2020. However, while “significantly” sounds like the bottom completely fell out for those companies, it’s not that bad. In all actuality, 87% of Xfinity and Spectrum customers in the study -- as well as Xfinity and Spectrum reviewers on ConsumerAffairs -- said their speeds meet the needs of their household.

If there's any particular knock on Xfinity and Spectrum, it’s price. As an example, Helix of Farmington, N.Y., said Spectrum is generally “very good, however they raised the rates significantly in the past 2 years. $80 a month for internet service is too high.” 

Cedrick of Lilburn, Ga., feels the same about Xfinity. “I have been with [the service] for now for four years. I have enjoyed the speed, the price is a little on the high side but we don’t have too many choices,” he wrote in his review.

Fiber lovers and bundlers love their services

When it comes to DSL, cable, or fiber internet, the fiber customers are the happiest internet users. They feel they get a better bang for their buck on speed, price, reliability, and customer service than those who use DSL or Cable internet connections. 

The researchers also found that internet customers are prone to bundling services when they can. The team found that customers who bundle have a significantly higher satisfaction rating compared to those who don’t. The majority of those surveyed (58%) say they bundle their internet with TV service from the same provider. 

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