Table of Contents
- What You Must Know
- Showdown: Verizon Fios vs Spectrum Business vs AT&T vs Comcast Business
- Go for Speed, Reliability and Flexibility
Selecting an ISP that offers services best suited for your business is crucial, for it can really make an impact on your bottom line. Getting stuck with an unreliable ISP which is prone to frequent downtime can really impact your revenue and operations. Similarly, with the right ISP support, you can accelerate business growth and expansion rapidly.
In order to help small businesses make an informed decision, we have gathered data on some of the most well-known, established and reliable ISPs in the country and pitched them against each other. Depending on what your priority is, you can go for an ISP and plan that best serves your needs.
Before we dive deeper into how different ISPs stack up against each other, there are a few concepts you need to be well-versed with:
The download speed, usually measured in Megabits per second (Mbps), is the speed at which data and information will be downloaded from the server to your device. A higher speed is obviously more desirable. On the other hand, upload speed (also measured in Mbps) is the speed at which data and information will be uploaded from your device to the server.
Most ISPs offer internet services for contracts of fixed durations. Although the usual period is of two years, the duration may vary. The contract makes it binding to use the services of the ISP for the said duration, and early cancellation often evokes charges.
A handful of ISPs also offer month-to-month plans, if signing a binding contract is something that a customer wants to avoid. They may choose to offer the same at a higher cost and hence, it becomes important to check the difference in pricing.
Pricing plans are contingent on the following factors: location, download speed, contract length, additional features etc. Most ISPs offer a diverse range of pricing plans that cater to businesses with just one or two employees as well as those with over a hundred employees.
Let’s jump right in, and compare leading ISPs based on different parameters:
Simply put, the higher the download speed, the better it is for your business. However, be mindful of the number of people (today and in the near future) using the internet. For a 2-3 employee business, a speed of 20-25 Mbps should suffice, but for more than 10 employees, a speed upward of 100 Mbps will be needed. Hence, fast is important, but also take into account how many people will be sharing the speed. Here is how different providers fare in download speed:
Verizon Fios Internet offers different speeds between 75 Mbps (1-4 users) and 940 Mbps (25+ users). Most of these plans have a variety of add-on bundled incentives like a free phone or a gift card, when availed on contract.
Spectrum provides speed starting from 100 Mbps to 940 Mbps across the country. While their services might vary according to location, Spectrum has made a name for itself in offering reliable and high-speed internet. Fiber internet from Spectrum offers up to 10 Gbps speed as well.
DSL internet plans vary from 25 Mbps to 500 Mbps, and fibre optic plans vary from 25 Mbps to 1 Gbps at AT&T. AT&T also guarantees 99.9% reliability or ‘uptime’ per month and is popular for providing one of the fastest speeds in the market.
Comcast Business has on offer internet speeds from 25 Mbps to 1,000 Mbps, and thus, is suitable for a variety of small businesses. Comcast has also established itself as a fast and stable ISP in the market on the back of third-party tests.
An integral factor in any decision is price. Small businesses are offered internet plans starting from $40 per month to upward of $400 a month, depending on the speed, usage and additional features. The length of contract also determines the per month cost of the internet plan. Naturally, plans meant for smaller businesses (1-5 employees) are designed to be cheaper, but also tend to offer slower speeds and lesser add-on features.
Furthermore, ISPs that offer the option of month-to-month plans as opposed to yearly contracts generally charge a higher monthly fee. Here is how different service providers measure up in terms of pricing:
Verizon Fios Internet has the following pricing plans:
- 75 Mbps (Download and Upload): $84.99 per month for the first year; +$5 per month for the second year
- 150 Mbps (Download and Upload): $109.99 per month for the first year; +$10 per month for the second year
- 300 Mbps (Download and Upload): $184.99 per month for the first year; +$10 per month for the second year
- 500 Mbps (Download and Upload): $214.99 per month for the first year; +$10 per month for the second year
- 940 Mbps (Download and Upload): $214.99 per month for the first year; +$10 per month for the second year
Other than the 75 Mbps and 150 Mbps plans, customers also get a $200 Visa Prepaid Card on bundling the two-year term with a phone. The two-year auto-renewal contract means that migrating to another ISP will not be easy.
Different pricing plans for Spectrum are as follows:
- Business Bundle: Internet (100 Mbps) at $44.99 per month + Phone (Unlimited Long Distance) at $29.99 per month; when bundled for 12 months
- Business Bundle Ultra: Internet (300 Mbps) at $89.99 per month + Phone (Unlimited Long Distance) at $29.99 per month + Free installation and Price Lock; when bundled for 24 months
- Business Triple Play: Internet (100 Mbps) at $44.99 per month + Phone (Unlimited Long Distance) at $29.99 per month + TV (40+ Channels) at $24.99 per month; when bundled for 12 months
Known for providing cheap and high-speed plans, Spectrum Business is also one of the few ISPs that offers month-to-month plans at the same prices as that of the contract. This effectively means that you can enjoy all the services without being bound by any contractual obligation. Furthermore, they also offer to buy out the contract with your existing ISP (up to $500) upon migration.
AT&T offers the following plans for small businesses:
- Internet Only Plan: Internet (up to 100 Mbps in download speed): From $60.00 per month
- Internet + Phone Plan: Internet (up to 100 Mbps in download speed) + Phone (Unlimited calling and lower tariff to select countries): From $70.00 per month
- Internet + Phone + Business Solutions Plan:Internet (up to 100 Mbps in download speed) + Phone (Unlimited calling and lower tariff to select countries)+ Business solutions (24/7 IT support, website solutions, online data backup etc.): From $85.00 per month
All the above plans offer additional rewards up to $500.
The following are the different plans available with Comcast:
- Deluxe 75 Internet (Two-Year Agreement): Internet (75 Mbps speed) at $99.95 per month; Internet + Phone at $114.90 per month
- Deluxe 150 Internet (Two-Year Agreement): Internet (150 Mbps speed) at $139.95 per month; Internet + Phone at $154.90 per month
- Deluxe 250 Internet (Two-Year Agreement): Internet (250 Mbps speed) at $199.95 per month; Internet + Phone at $214.90 per month
- Business Internet 1 Gig (Two-Year Agreement): Internet (1,000 Mbps speed) at $499.95 per month; Internet + Phone at $514.90 per month
Another essential factor that must be given due consideration, while choosing your ISP, is the kind of customer support on offer. While most providers should offer basic support (technical and otherwise) free of cost, some might charge a fee for the same.
Depending on your level of expertise and the resources you have available at your disposal, you need to assess how frequently you would require the assistance of your ISP. For instance, if you need help in resetting the wifi password each time or setting up a new device on your network, it would be best to opt for paid assistance. Here is how the customer support services of different ISPs fare:
Verizon has built a reputation for providing excellent customer services to businesses. For as low as $10.00 per month, you can opt for Tech Support Pro, and enable instant assistance in installation, configuration, and troubleshooting. Tech Support Pro offers 24/7 access to experts and ensures support for all devices like computers, tablets and printers. Verizon scored the highest scores in J.D. Power’s U.S. Business Wireline Satisfaction Study 2017.
The one area where Spectrum falters is providing customer support. The American Customer Satisfaction Index granted it a score of 65 on 100, which does not do well for a company of its size and reach. Due to its recent merger with Time Warner, Spectrum is still in the process of smoothening out some of the kinks that might have appeared in its operations and processes. However, with time, one can expect customer support to be at par with other providers. Furthermore, although with an extensive reach and network, Spectrum tends to focus on areas with a higher population and might not be able to provide a uniform customer support service experience.
Although AT&T offers customized customer support, and has a robust network, its customer satisfaction ratings have been dipping in the recent past. J.D. Power’s US Business Wireline Satisfaction survey has shown that the scores in 2017 are lower than that of 2016 and 2015. AT&T, alongside its fast speed and extensive network, has a dedicated customer support division, which handles commercial and business clients.
Comcast, as an organization, has had a rather unflattering public image, but the internet arm of the company fares better. Despite being one of the more expensive players in the market, the ISP enjoys a decent market share and has mixed to positive feedback regarding the internet speed and support. Although it provides a variety of plans, Comcast has built a reputation for not being customer-friendly, having higher charges and fee as compared to similar providers.
In addition to the above factors, things like duration of the contract, early cancellation fee, coverage area etc. must also be taken into account. Here is an overview of these factors for different ISPs:
Verizon internet plans are available for a period of 2 years which are auto renewed, and a fee equivalent to 35% of the remaining balance is charged on early cancellation. Although a few newer plans do offer the option to go for a month-to-month plan, they come at a higher price than the annual contract plans.
Spectrum is one of the few ISPs that offers month-to-month plans for a rate similar to that of annual contracts, and does not charge any cancellation fee. Furthermore, it also offers the provision to buy out a contract from your present ISP, provided it is valued up to $500. Spectrum has established itself as a reliable, high-speed and cost-effective player in the market, but lacks the reach and network size of its bigger competitors.
AT&T also has two-year contracts, and does not offer a month-to-month option. Early cancellation fee is one of the highest in the market: 75% of the remaining balance. However, owing to its dominant market position, AT&T remains a popular choice despite commanding a premium fee. It offers some of the highest speeds and has an extensive network.
Comcast offers two-year contracts, and has no option for month-to-month plans. It also charges a cancellation fee of 75% of the remaining balance. Although Comcast internet services have a decent market reputation, customer support, fine print and hidden charges are some of the areas where it lags behind its competition.
Now that you are equipped with the elemental information regarding different ISPs, you are likely to make a much more informed and fruitful decision. Do remember to read the fine print of the agreement and understand installation and maintenance costs as well. Question your ISP regarding the hardware that will be installed. While going for bundles of services usually does make the services cheaper, be sure that your business really needs the additional features that are on offer. Lastly, also enquire about speed throttling and data caps from your service providers, and learn ways to work around the same.
At the end of the day, you need to zero in on an ISP that offers a speed that you can work with, in a price range that is suitable for you and one that offers a fairly flexible contract. Big players like AT&T and Verizon have made a name for being reliable and speedy, but do explore other names to determine if your business needs are met by other ISPs as well.