Time Warner. Comcast. AT&T. If the names of these Internet service providers make you cringe, you're not alone.
On Tuesday, the American Customer Satisfaction Index released its annual report on "key industries that provide data, voice and video services to U.S. households." For the first time, ISPs were included in the report, along with regulars like the wireless and fixed-line telephone industries.
ISPs received the lowest customer satisfaction ranking of any industry in America. And that's saying something, considering ACSI typically surveys nearly 50 industries per year.
Comcast received the lowest score among Internet service providers, with a customer satisfaction ranking of just 62 percent. Time Warner Cable pulled a close second with only 63 percent of customers satisfied, and CenturyLink took home the bronze in the most-hated stakes with 64 percent of customers content. The Internet service provider industry as a whole had an average customer satisfaction rating of only 65 percent, with just one provider (Verizon FIOS) topping 70 percent satisfaction.
For perspective, according to tech news site BGR, only three other industries ACSI surveyed over the past year had customer satisfaction averages below 70 percent: airlines, subscription television services (think providers like the DISH Network and AT&T U-verse) and online social media companies.
For many Internet users, it's likely the ISP's low rankings are no surprise. It's easy to compare ISPs in America to ISPs in other countries -- and find out, say, that the same data pipeline that would cost $200 a month in New York City costs $25 a month in Hong Kong and $30 a month in Seoul, South Korea. Meanwhile, across the United States, local provider monopolies abound, allowing companies like Comcast and Time Warner to keep broadband prices high while providing service that's subpar.
Maybe ACSI's nasty numbers will get some of these ISPs thinking about how they can better serve their customers. But with provider profits ballooning, we may have to wait for some government regulation to encourage competition -- that, or inroads made by Google Fiber.