J.D. Power has released its annual satisfaction study of US residential internet service providers, and there’s a familiar refrain: Customers still aren’t happy. Just as the annual American Customer Satisfaction Index ISP survey in June noted a slight uptick in consumers’ outlook toward broadband providers, J.D. Power’s latest ISP study shows a minor rise in provider scores over last year’s results. But those scores are still low compared to other industries. In the ACSI results in June, ISPs were second to last among all industries rather than at the very bottom as in 2022.
Based on responses from over 23,600 customers from October 2022 through August 2023, the study tracks overall internet service satisfaction on a 1,000-point scale. The five factors considered are: billing and payment; communications and promotions; cost of service; customer care; and performance and reliability. Last year’s average score among ISPs was 710. This year’s average ticked up ever so slightly to 712. Improvement? Yes, but like the ACSI results, very incremental.
The study divides the US into four regions: East, North Central, South and West. Verizon took the top spot in the East region with a score of 760, which was up two points from last year. AT&T nabbed the pole position in the North Central (726) and West regions with 726 and 732 scores, respectively. Last year it was tops in the South and West regions. However, the winner of the highest ISP score in the survey is Google Fiber, which nabbed 839 points to take the crown for the South region.
The strong showings by AT&T, Google Fiber and Verizon are no surprise to CNET. Those are three of the top four scores among all CNET ISP reviews. What do they all have in common? Each provider offers a fiber internet connection, which provides symmetrical download and upload speeds. All other internet connection types will have much slower upload speeds. That will impact your ability to upload large files, hop on video chats or enjoy lag-free online gaming.
The significant outlier not directly mentioned in the J.D. Power survey is T-Mobile Home Internet, the fourth of our top-rated broadband providers. It’s unclear why it wasn’t listed among the four regions. CNET has contacted J.D. Power for more information. But the press release states that satisfaction with fixed wireless internet service was higher (at an average of 748 to 712). As noted in our CNET review, the simplicity and straightforward pricing of T-Mobile’s home internet service seem to resonate.
Or, as Carl Lepper, senior director of technology, media and telecom at J.D. Power, said in a press release: “These companies have advertised the benefits of their services, such as greater convenience, speed and bandwidth — and have backed up these claims, as seen in their customers’ actual experience.”
There were a few other notable revelations in the J.D. Power study. First, on the positive side, Frontier made the biggest jump in any region. It went from last place in the South region in 2022 to second place in 2023, a significant jump of 40 points. One wonders if a large part of that is due to the expansion of multi-gigabit plans across its fiber network. Again, fiber for the win. Conversely, the lowest score listed belongs to satellite internet service provider HughesNet, which earned 577.
What does this all mean? Internet access is increasingly vital to our daily lives — whether it’s for working remotely, connecting with our health care providers, banking online or more — and the greater the competition there is for our broadband dollars, the better (and cheaper) our options should become.