The following describes our 360 approach to researching and analyzing Internet service providers to guide potential consumers.
1. We researched the companies and products people care about most.
US News analyzed and compared several publicly available data, including Internet search data, to determine which Internet service providers consumers are most interested in. We found 25 companies that stood out for further evaluation based on the number of searches and consumer research. After a thorough analysis, we were able to summarize the first list to the 12 best Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Taking it one step further, from the top 12 ISPs, we determined which is best by connection type, best for gaming with latency (provided by the Federal Communications Commission) as a parameter, best for rural areas, best prepaid plans, and the cheapest in terms of the lowest regular rate. Fastest ISPs were also another subcategory to consider, but without the right speed testing platform, this couldn’t be captured properly. 360 Reviews instead offered consumers the fastest published ISP plans from our overall best ISPs. After the companies were determined, we examined their key features to create a general layout of what consumers need to know to help them with their purchasing decisions.
We compared the different plans, along with the monthly costs and associated fees that each company generated relative to the needs of its customers. The plans emphasized features such as connection type, download/upload speed and data limits. We also considered the Federal Communications Commission’s latency, consistency, and packet loss data regarding connection type and gaming ISPs. With these factors in mind, we’ve created a comprehensive set of guides that provide a 360-degree view of what consumers should consider.
2. We have created an objective 360 overall rating based on an analysis of third-party ratings.
Our scoring methodology is based on a composite analysis of the ratings and reviews published by credible third-party professional and consumer review sources. The ratings are not based on US News’ personal opinions, tests, or experiences. To calculate the ratings:
(a) We have compiled two types of third-party ratings and reviews:
Professional Ratings and Reviews: Many independent review sources have published their ratings of Internet service providers and products online. We consider several of these third-party reviews to be reputable and well-researched. However, professional reviewers often make contradictory recommendations. Rather than relying on a single source, US News believes consumers benefit most when these opinions and recommendations are collectively considered and analyzed using an objective, consensus-based methodology.
Consumer Ratings and Reviews: US News also rated published consumer ratings and reviews of Internet service providers. Sources with a sufficient number of quality ratings and consumer reviews are included in our scoring model.
Please note that not all professional and consumer review sources met our criteria for objectivity. Therefore, some sources are excluded from our model.
(b) We standardized the input to create a common scale.
The source data of external reviews has been collected in a variety of forms, including reviews, recommendations, and awards. Before including each third-party data point in our scoring comparison, we standardized it so that it could be accurately compared to data points from other rating sources. We used the scoring methodology described below to convert these systems to a comparable scale.
The 360 scoring process first converted each third-party rating into an overall scale from 0 to 5. To balance the distribution of scores within each source’s scale, we used a standard deviation (or Z-score) calculation. to determine how each company rated by a source scored compared to the source’s average score. We then used the Z score to create a standardized US News score using the method described below:
Calculating the Z-score: The Z-score represents the relationship of a data point to the average measurement of the data set. The Z-score is negative if the data point is below the mean and positive if it is above the mean; a Z-score of 0 means it equals the mean. To determine the Z-score for each external rating of a company, we calculated the average of the ratings of all companies rated by that external source. We then subtracted the mean from the company’s rating and divided it by the standard deviation to obtain the Z-score.
Calculating the T-score: We used a T-score calculation to convert the Z-score to a scale of 0-100 by multiplying the Z-score by 10. To ensure that the mean was equal across all data points, we added our desired score mean (between 0 and 10) to the T-score to create an adjusted T-score.
Overall Rating Calculation: We divided the adjusted T-score, which is on a 100-point scale, by 20 to convert the third-party rating into an overall 0-5 point system.
(c) We calculated the 360 Overall Score based on a weighted average model.
We assigned “source weights” to each resource used in the consensus scoring model based on our assessment of how much the resource is trusted and recognized by consumers and the extent to which the published rating process indicates it is both comprehensive and editorially independent. The source weights are assigned on a scale of 1-5. Any source with an assigned weight of less than 2 was excluded from the consensus scoring model.
Finally, we combined the converted third-party data points using a weighted average formula based on source weight. This formula calculated the consensus score for each product, which we call the 360 Overall Rating.
Cheap internet providers should be affordable for most people. For this subclassification, we’ve collected and compared the lowest monthly cost plans from each company to determine the cheapest ISPs.
Also the Fastest High-Speed Internet service providers should be able to provide fast service. For this sub-rating, we looked at the highest plan of each company and compared their speeds.
Internet service providers have different types of internet such as fiber optic internet. We collected companies with fiber internet and scored them in their overall ranking.
Internet service providers also have prepaid option plans. We included companies with prepaid plans and scored them based on their overall ranking.
Internet providers have different types of internet, such as DSL. We included companies that have DSL Internet services and scored them based on their overall ranking.
Internet providers have different types of internet, such as satellite. We included companies that have satellite internet and scored them based on their overall ranking.
Internet providers have different types of internet, such as cable. We included companies with cable internet and scored them in their overall rankings.
Internet gaming is highly dependent on latency. The lower the latency, the better the internet subscription for gaming. We scored the best ISPs for gaming based on how low their latency is.
Internet service providers can be found in different areas. For rural areas, we scored the companies based on the extent to which they provide services to, especially rural areas.