Internet Providers in Your Zip Code
A Comprehensive Guide
If you have ever wondered why every website that sells Internet service asks where you live before you’ve even ordered the service, this handy guide gives you the answer and helps explain what to expect when shopping for Internet service online. Plus, it will walk you through what to look for in order to get the service that best suits your needs. Hopefully it will also answer some of the major questions that sometimes lead to a frustrating shopping experience.
As anyone who’s ever shopped for Internet service online knows, at some point in the process you will be asked to enter your zip code into a box like the one here:
Why does a website need your zip code before you can see any of the Internet services offered?
Asking for this type of information upfront may seem intrusive and can be a little frustrating, but websites that sell Internet service have a very good reason for asking. They want to help you get what you want.
You Rent the Wires
When you order Internet service, you’re essentially paying to rent the wires that connect your home to the rest of the Internet. Not all Internet service providers use actual wires in the traditional sense, some use fiber-optics, but they all use some sort of material or device that connects your computer to the rest of the Internet. For the purposes of keeping this explanation simple we will call them wires. Satellite Internet providers work slightly differently, but we’ll discuss that a bit later in this article.
The ISP Provides Service to a Hub
Land-based Internet service providers install the connecting wires into a central hub for a general area, like a neighborhood, apartment building, or business complex. Then, when a customer orders service, they finish the installation from the hub to the individual home or business. (That’s why you often have to pay an installation fee.) Not all Internet service providers own wires in every area, therefor, not all Internet service providers are available in all areas. Conversely, several ISPs might install their wires into the same area, or even the same building.
The ISP Organizes Hubs by Zip Code
Companies that sell Internet service keep a database of which Internet service providers own the connecting wires in a particular area. To keep the databases simple to reference, they often define each area by its zip code. So, in order for a company that sells internet service to show you the Internet service packages it can actually sell you, it needs to know which Internet service providers have installed wires in your area. The simplest way to establish that information is by asking for your zip code.
You Enter Your Zip Code to Find Internet Service
You enter your zip. The website’s server checks that zip code in its database, then displays the Internet service providers with services available in the area designated by that zip code. This is what our ISP finder will show you:
Unlike most tools that only show you internet service providers, we drill down all the way to the level of packages and speeds that are available in your area.
Why do I have so few Internet service providers in my zip code?
The main reason for so few ISPs in your area is simply because few companies take on the daunting task of competing with the well-established giants in the industry. Why can so few companies compete?
Current regulations aren’t working.
Internet service providers come in three basic varieties: telephone companies (telcos), cable companies, and satellite companies. Some telephone or cable companies use fiber optic technology, but are still known for their original method of delivery.
The Communications Act of 1934 established the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Tasked with regulating commerce in wireline and radio communication, the FCC still makes the rules regarding telecommunications and TV.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 added Internet to the jurisdiction of the FCC. It also set up the regulations intended to spur competition in the phone, cable, and Internet industries. In fact the law’s stated goal is to “let anyone enter any communications business—to let any communications business compete in any market against any other.”
The current regulations aren’t prohibiting competition, but they also don’t stop a few companies from dominating in one area. The current Federal regulations help new companies navigate local regulations to get started. They also require the existing companies to allow competitors to access their larger network (at a price of course). They are set up to encourage local competition, but they clearly aren’t having the intended affect.
Unfortunately, to be viable, an upstart Internet service provider still has to pour in a huge upfront investment to create a network large enough to give them a potential customer base that could make the business profitable. But, they likely only get 10% of those customers at best. This all leaves the large companies with little to no competition on the local level. Although the appearance of competition exists nationally, companies using the same technology almost never compete against one another.
In most areas you will find one major cable company providing Internet service, one major telephone company providing Internet service, and one or two satellite companies providing Internet service. Exactly which companies will vary based on your area.
These companies aren’t technically monopolies because several of them exist and technically they could compete. However, that competition almost never materializes. Each of the companies stays to their own area of service to avoid competition. When an internet service provider sees an area develop where it might have a particular advantage, rather than attempt to compete with the dominant company in the area, it usually negotiates some kind merger, buyout, or trade of territories. The resulting business environment becomes a patchwork of regional monopolies.
Because of these regional monopolies, consumers have fewer choices. Not only is that lack of choices frustrating, but it leads to complacent companies that continually get low ratings for customer service.
Upfront costs inhibit new development.
The upfront cost to set up a new network is so high, few companies venture into the industry.
Nearly all of the industry giants built their networks before the proliferation of the Internet, when the costs were much lower.
The big telephone companies ran phone lines all across the country and throughout the major cities before computers were even invented. The big cable companies developed their networks to deliver cable TV service to the major population centers during the 1980s, just before the Internet gained popularity. Once online commerce took off in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the value of those networks increased and created a sudden demand for developing more networks. As demand rose, so did the cost of building materials and labor. This gave companies with an existing infrastructure a huge advantage.
While those companies have continually expanded and upgraded their networks, they continue to enjoy a virtually insurmountable head start.
Why don’t I have cable, fiber, or DSL options in my area?
Internet service providers maximize profit by serving highly populated areas.
Internet service companies make most of their money from subscription fees. So, in order to maximize their potential revenue, they aim to offer service in heavily populated areas. Put simply, more people means more potential subscribers.
Initial installation costs also play a large role. While subscribers pay for the installation from the local area hub to their particular home (also known as “the last mile”), the Internet service companies pay for the installation of the rest of the infrastructure.
As discussed earlier, installing the initial Internet infrastructure is an expensive endeavor. It requires land surveys, trenching, and lots of cabling that is priced per foot. So, while an Internet service provider could service a million people in a million different locations, they would have to pay to install a million different lines that run to those locations. That cost would be too high for Internet service companies to remain viable.
Instead, Internet service companies run those million lines to one central location in a population center where they can get a million subscribers while digging fewer trenches and running less cabling. This minimizes their cost while maximizing their potential income.
With most companies providing service to highly populated areas, many rural and/or remote areas often go underserved and often find themselves with only satellite Internet options.
Satellite companies can provide service in many areas where wireline companies can’t because instead of having to run lines into an area to provide service, they can do it wirelessly by using a geosynchronous satellite. While putting a satellite into orbit also has substantial upfront costs, the very nature of satellite Internet allows for a wider coverage area than a land-based network. The trade-off is satellite Internet services tend to have a lot of latency because the wireless signal has so far to travel—literally to outer space and back.
But I don’t live in a rural or remote area and I still can’t get cable, fiber, or DSL. Why?
As I pointed out above, Internet service companies try to maximize their profits by building their networks to serve areas with the most potential customers. Usually this means providing service in highly populated areas. However, sometimes an area can be densely populated by people who, on average, have little expendable income.
In this case, the ISP companies may decide against investing in the network infrastructure for that area, because, although it may have a lot of people, the company may believe those people will not likely become subscribers.
Unfortunately, what makes economic sense for ISPs often leaves many low income areas with very few Internet options. As a result, poor areas have less access. Socioeconomic studies have shown limited access to the Internet can lead to lower academic performance among students. That weaker academic performance leads to lower paying jobs and the cycle starts all over again.
Because of this connectivity disadvantage in lower income areas, some municipalities have begun providing publicly funded Internet service. Many more have already begun discussing this option and are waiting to see the impact publicly-funded Internet services have on the communities that have already implemented them.
If you live in a low income area and satellite Internet is currently your only option, you should contact your local government to find out if they plan to offer any Internet service options in the near future.
Why do the search results show me providers that aren’t actually available at my address?
As stated in an earlier segment of this article, most databases listing Internet service providers use zip codes to identify particular areas. Although this is this quickest and least intrusive way to separate Internet service options into the areas they serve, it is not 100 percent accurate.
When you enter your zip code into a website that sells Internet service, that website searches its database and displays ALL the Internet service providers offering service to any building in that zip code. However, sometimes an Internet service company may provide service to only a portion of a particular zip code, not the entire zip code.
For instance, you may live on the east side of a zip code that has a big apartment complex on the west side of it. Some ISPs may provide service at that apartment complex, but not at your address just a few blocks away. When you search for Internet service providers by zip code, the ISPs that provide service to the apartment complex will show up in the search results even though they only provide service to a portion of the zip code.
This type of discrepancy can also happen with different service tiers from the same Internet service provider. This is the reason the speeds that are actually available in your area may be different than advertised speeds. An ISP may be able to provide 100 Mbps in one part of a city, or even one part of a zip code, but only be able to provide 25 Mbps to other parts of the same general area.
The easiest way to get an accurate list of the Internet service providers available at your exact address, is to call and speak with one of our Internet experts. They can look up your address directly from the Internet service providers themselves and tell you exactly what your options are.
Do I have any other Internet service options?
You may have more Internet service options than you realize. Satellite Internet is available almost everywhere. If that’s not enough, you may also have options from your wireless phone carrier. Sometimes accessing the Internet via the 4G networks from companies like Verizon and AT&T is a good option. When 5G rolls out in the near future, it will be an even better option. If you’re still not happy with your Internet options, you should talk to your local government and find out if they have any plans for publically funded Internet service.
What happens after I enter my zip code?
The zip code search narrows down the list of ISP providers to only the ones available in your area. After you have that list you can search through the packages each provider offers and choose one that suits your needs. Before you make your final decision about which package to order you’ll want to know exactly what those needs are. Most providers will have several speed tiers from which to choose, so the first thing to consider is how much Internet speed you’ll need.
Determine your speed needs here:
You also might want to compare the speed you need to the speed you already have. You can check the speed you’re currently getting with this tool.
Next you’ll want to understand what kind of customer service each brand provides and understand any fees or unexpected charges that may be looming upon completing your order. Fortunately, you can do all of that by simply reading expert reviews like those on this site. Reading user reviews by current customers is also a good way to learn about a high speed Internet service provider BEFORE you sign up with them.
Find Internet service providers in your zip code.
Hopefully you now understand why entering your zip code is the first step in the process of finding the Internet service that’s perfect for you and your particular needs. It is an important piece of information that helps guide you to the best service options. Armed with the knowledge you gained reading this article, you can feel confident as you seek your Internet service options. And if you need help at any point along the way, you can always call one of our helpful Internet experts. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s find your Internet service.
High Speed Internet Providers in My Zip Code—What Are My Options?
Getting the best high speed internet service provider by zip code for many consumers is simply a case of browsing the speeds offered by service providers and then selecting one that falls within their budget. The problem with this approach is that the speeds advertised are rarely the ones you actually receive. That’s because they’re “up to” speeds so you’ll typically only receive a fraction of this cyber-velocity. Moreover, most users find that one of the most important criterions for getting access to high speed internet is location. In other words, where they live and how close they are to their closest DSL exchange. If you live farther away you will typically receive lower speeds for DSL broadband whereas fiber optic services lose very little speed.
We make it easy for you to choose an internet service provider (ISP) by offering a side-by-side comparison of the plans in your area using our availability checker.
Whether you’re looking for a fast connect speed, plans with Wi-Fi, or just the cheapest deal out there, Broadband Expert can help. We present a huge range of plans from many different suppliers including their discounts and promotional offers. That way, you get the best price each and every time.
Our website allows you to check and compare the different carriers who offer either cable or DSL service at your address. Simply enter your area or zip code to filter the suppliers. On average, most people who live in rural areas will be able to receive DSL or cable. If, however, you don’t live in one of these areas you may need to register with a more expensive satellite internet provider such as DishNet or Exede.
- DishNet: 1 (855) 422-2256
- Exede: 1 (888) 659-2080
Once you’ve found the right service, call up the company to inquire about the details of their plan. Here’s a few common providers. For a complete list, just search for providers in your zip code. For a complete list of which provider has the highest satisfaction rating, check out our section on user reviews.
- Time Warner Cable: (855) 890-6574
- AT&T: (855) 861-8659
- Verizon: (855) 862-7054
- Xfinity/Comcast: (855) 890-6490
If you are not sure what speed you currently have, then you can run a speed test to find out. This is important since speeds differ by location. For example the provider offering the fastest high speed internet service in your area may not necessarily offer the fastest speed where you live.
What Else Should I Consider?
Contention Ratio: Rush Hour On the Internet
The contention ratio is one such consideration and this means that you will have to share your high speed line with other users. Even with the fastest broadband connection the contention ratio for residential users is usually 25 or 50 users on a single line meaning the maximum available bandwidth (bandwidth describes the capacity and potential speed of the connection), could potentially be split between 50 users (although it is unlikely all will be online at the same time). In areas where most people use a particular company for their high speed internet access, using this service would simply mean that at peak time speeds will be much slower than using a lower speed connection from a provider that is used by fewer people. This is why broadband speeds are often much quicker late at night when fewer people are online. A good analogy is to think of the highway, you can drive much faster when there’s less traffic but when everyone uses it at the same time speeds get much slower, it’s the same with your connection speeds!
Fair Use Policy: Some ISPs Throttle Your Data
When choosing the cheapest high speed ISPs by zip code another factor to consider, that may affect connection speeds is the fair usage policy in place. Anyone exceeding a certain monthly download limit faces a reduction in their available bandwidth which in turn reduces connection speeds at peak times. The limits imposed will differ from one supplier to another and are not imposed by all companies.
Web Hosting: Do You Create Part of the Internet In Addition to Simply Using It?
One other factor to take into consideration if you are a small business is that you may want to choose a carrier that also provides web hosting services so you can have one supplier for both internet access and web hosting. This will save you money and the hassle of dealing with multiple carriers.
Will my ISP always deliver the best speed available?
The first question a lot of people ask is “What’s the fastest ISP in my area?” and then they narrow it down by price. If you’ve used our tool to determine how much speed you need, you still may want to add a certain amount to future-proof your service. That is, if you get the bare minimum for your needs, you might notice less than stellar results if you upgrade your streaming service, or purchase additional computers or end up with more people on your WiFi at a time than you anticipated.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the three main types of internet service, how they transmit data, and how their speeds vary:
Dial Up vs DSL vs Cable Vs Fiber Optic vs Satellite
Dial UP and DSL both use phone lines. These are copper wires installed for the purpose of transmitting phone calls. They were mostly installed before the internet was really a thing. This is why the speeds are so much lower.
Dial Up: Can You Hear Me Now?
Dial up is the slowest and usually cheapest. You can’t use the internet and your home phone at the same time, and the internet is so slow that modern applications such as video streaming probably won’t work at all. Also, since dial up probably isn’t cheaper than the cheapest DSL package, you should probably never get it. Generally people looking for an extremely cheap ISP are the only ones to consider dial up, but the cost savings are not usually worth it (or even significant). If you think you need dial up, do yourself a favor, and just get the cheapest DSL internet provider in your area.
DSL uses the phone line but differently from Dial Up. With DSL the speeds are much faster, and phone calls don’t interfere with the internet. Many DSL subscriptions are a great mix of relatively low price, but fast enough speeds to do most internet things, such as gaming, streaming, checking email etc.
Cable uses cable TV lines. These are copper wires installed for the purpose of transmitting television programming. Like phone lines, these were mostly put in place before the internet took off. But, because television has higher requirements than phone calls, cable lines are better equipped than phone lines to handle large amounts of internet data. This is why you’ll typically see higher available speeds for cable internet than DSL. But the price is usually a little higher as well.
Fiber: We Have the Technology
Fiber is a new technology, and the first to be implemented largely after the meteoric rise in internet popularity. It’s the only one out of the bunch that is designed primarily with internet usage in mind. Instead of using copper wires to transmit electrical pulses, it uses glass fibers to transmit light pulses. The amount of speeds and data are usually astronomically higher than DSL or cable internet, and often for similar or only slightly higher prices. The only downside of fiber is that because it is relatively new, it is not as widely available. Most urban areas have DSL and cable internet, but only a handful of areas have fiber. An interesting spin-off of fiber is wireless internet. See the section on Wifi internet service providers below for more information.
Satellite: 3 2 1 Blastoff!
Satellite is a space age technology with stone age speeds. Instead of using physical wires made of copper or glass it uses radio waves that are shot way out into space, bounced off a satellite, and sent back to earth. Sounds like a great idea until you realize how far away the satellites are.
Around the World in 80… minutes?
Most satellites go fly around the earth pretty fast. Take the International Space Station for example. Go outside on a clear night right before the sun goes down, and you might see it pass around the earth about once every 90 minutes. In order to get all the way around the world once every hour and half, the Space Station hustles along at a brisk 17,000 mph.
Slow it Down
But, internet satellites need to have a ground speed of zero mph, so that they will appear to hang in the same spot in the sky. They’re still moving around the earth, but they’re moving at the same speed the earth itself is spinning. It turns out that only way to slow a satellite down is to place it farther out into space. So, while the Space Station is about 200 miles up, satellites for internet are about 24 thousand miles up.
Satellite: What it Means for You
What’s this mean for internet speeds? Well, if you’re an American, and you’re accessing an American website via DSL or cable internet, the signal is realistically probably travelling only a few hundred miles.
But if you’re on satellite internet, the signal travels about 100 times farther. This huge distance means satellite latency is usually pretty long, and usually means things like online gaming are virtually impossible. A significant advantage satellite internet has is availability. Since the satellites have a bird’s-eye view of basically the entire world, you can probably get satellite internet anywhere. In many cases satellite might be the only ISP near you. Learn more about your satellite internet options at our Satellite Internet page.
Satellite is also great for television. Because television is less interactive than internet (the user generally begins a show and then does not interact with the device until the show ends), long latency is not a factor. There might be a few seconds of delay when beginning a movie or television show, but once it’s going the user will notice no difference. Learn more about your satellite TV options at our Satellite TV page.
Wireless Internet: Over the Airwaves
Cellular Internet: Mobile Broadband
The term “wireless internet” is used to describe two technologies that are similar but which do have distinct differences. The first usage is in reference to cellular wireless carriers that offer mobile broadband or wireless internet over cell networks. These services use the cell networks to deliver internet using 4G LTE technology, which, if translated to DSL speeds is the equivalent of roughly 5 to 12 mbps. Other common terms for wireless internet are “Wifi internet” and “mobile broadband”. Common wifi internet service providers are synonymous with your cell phone carrier.
Advantages: Wireless internet providers can provide service in areas where DSL and cable lines don’t exist. Anywhere you notice the 4g LTE icon on your smartphone you can probably get a cellular internet service. Disadvantages include high cost for a given amount of data, and low data caps.
Wireless Internet: Fiber Speeds Without The Fiber
The term “wireless internet” is also used to describe a technology that is like a combination of fiber internet and the mother of all Wifi networks.
Hub with Invisible Spokes
It’s a relatively new technology that involves running a line (either fiber or cable or DSL) to one house in a neighborhood (the hub house), and placing an antenna on the roof and beaming internet to about 10 of the neighbors. Wireless internet service providers usually give free or hugely discounted internet service to the hub house in exchange for keeping the router on all the time (which draws about as much power as a 100 watt lightbulb).
Fast and Cheap
Speeds with wireless high speed are usually really fast: The hub house probably gets up to gigabit speeds, for free. All you have to do is have a small antenna on your roof and pay about a dollar a month more in power. For the non-hub, surrounding houses the deal can be good, but trees and other obstacles can block or slow the signal. But even non-hub houses on a high speed wireless internet service will get between 100 and 1000 mbps. And because wireless has less infrastructure than cable or DSL or fiber to install, it can mean the wireless broadband internet providers can offer more competitive pricing than a traditional DSL or cable provider. High speed wireless service providers are available in very limited areas, so just search by zip code and see if wireless internet is available near you.
Internet Options Need Not Be Confusing
If your worry is that “I have so many internet options in my area”, then follow the steps below to quickly and easily get the internet, television, and phone service that’s right for you:
Step 1: Determine your internet needs. Use the tool mentioned above.
Step 2: Decide if you want your internet bundled with other things such as phone or TV service.
Step 3: Search by zip code to see what’s available in your area:
Step 4: Filter your search to only show pricing or packages that are within your needs and range to find the best ISP in your area.
Step 5: If there are multiple options that fit your price range and needs, check user reviews to make the final call.