Every year, JD Power surveys tens of thousands of US customers about nearly every product and service you can think of. It’s the most repeatable, significant survey of what products and brands people actually like, but when it comes to home internet, it only really proves one thing: The whole system is rigged.
In the 2017 “Residential Internet Service Provider Satisfaction Study,” Verizon, AT&T, Charter, and Cox all featured as the winners in their regions. The survey doesn’t really tell us much about which internet provider is “best,” because it can’t: cable broadband providers stick almost religiously to their coverage areas, and don’t compete outside of that.
JD Power ranks home internet providers on a 1,000-point scale in four markets, East, North Central, South, and West. This year, “Verizon ranks highest in the East region (737); AT&T/DIRECTV ranks highest in the North Central region (699); Charter Spectrum ranks highest in the South region (717); and Cox Communications ranks highest in the West region (706).”
Those scores are within 38 points of each other, a 3.8% difference overall. Those scores might as well be identical.
More importantly, look at where each provider won, and then go look at the FCC’s map of residential internet coverage by company. Verizon won the East, because it’s the biggest provider of home internet in the region. Cox won the West, thanks to its focus on cities like Phoenix and San Diego.
The lack of competition in the home internet market shouldn’t be news to anyone. Around 80% of Americans have at most one provider of high-speed internet; only 20 percent of Americans actually get to choose their broadband provider. That lack of competition is reflected in the JD Power statistics: the “best” internet provider on a region-by-region basis is just the local monopolist, and it’s no coincidence that the satisfaction scores are so consistent between regions.