ACSI: Customers prefer fiber internet where available; satisfaction with streaming at record high

ANN ARBOR–The fiber rollout may be slow and concentrated in urban areas, but it’s customers’ preferred choice when available.

Fiber internet service providers outshine non-fiber ISPs 76 to 68 (on a 100-point scale) for customer satisfaction, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) Telecommunications Study 2024. Yet, although fiber remains the top broadband choice, 5G has emerged as a viable alternative.

“5G satisfaction scores were on par with fiber in some regions, suggesting wireless technology is stepping up to deliver the high-speed experience customers expect,” says Forrest Morgeson, Associate Professor of Marketing at Michigan State University and Director of Research Emeritus at the ACSI. “Continued growing demand for connectivity underscores the need for both fiber buildouts and robust 5G networks to reach more communities nationwide.”

Along with fiber and non-fiber ISPs, the ACSI Telecommunications Study includes video streaming service and subscription TV service.

AT&T Fiber again tops all ISPs, but Verizon Fios is in hot pursuit

Despite remaining near the bottom of approximately 40 industries measured by the ACSI, overall customer satisfaction with ISPs improves 4% to 71, thanks to gains for both fiber and non-fiber providers.

Amid revenue growth, AT&T Fiber again leads fiber ISPs with an ACSI score of 80 (unchanged). Several fiber ISPs land within 3 to 4 points of the leader, including the group of smaller ISPs and Verizon Fios (both up 3% to 77).

While most fiber ISPs maintain or improve customer satisfaction compared to a year ago, CenturyLink Fiber is the exception, dropping 3% to 76 — the same score as Frontier Fiber (up 3%) and Google Fiber (unchanged). Those three providers are just ahead of Xfinity Fiber (up 3% to 75). Meanwhile, Kinetic Fiber by Windstream and Optimum Fiber make their ACSI debut on the bottom end, with scores of 72 and 66, respectively.

The two non-fiber, 5G providers, T-Mobile 5G Home Internet (up 4% to 76) and ACSI newcomer Verizon 5G Home Internet (74), lead the segment. AT&T Internet is next despite falling 4% to 69. Cox and Spectrum both surge 6% to 68.

Optimum sees one of the largest increases in customer satisfaction among ACSI companies this year, gaining 9% to an ACSI score of 63. Xtream falters 6% to 61, but that’s nothing compared to last-place Kinetic by Windstream, which plummets 20% to an ACSI score of 56.

Amazon Prime Video leads video streaming services, which hit record high

Video streaming customer satisfaction climbs 3% to an all-time high ACSI score of 79.

Amazon Prime Video moves into sole possession of first place after improving 3% to 82. The highest-rated video streaming service earns praise for its original programming, mobile app, and performance and reliability. Peacock (up 1%) and YouTube Premium (up 3%) are next at 80 apiece.

Four streamers — Apple TV+ (up 4%), Hulu (up 1%), Netflix (up 1%), and Sling TV (up 4%) — score 79, while Max (up 1%) and Paramount+ (unchanged) are at 78. Hulu + Live TV, last year’s industry co-leader, drops 4% to meet Disney+ (up 1%) at an ACSI score of 77.

The smaller streamers (up 1%) and a stable YouTube TV tie with a score of 76. ESPN+ and Crackle, which offers free ad-supported service, climb 4% and 7%, respectively, to meet at 75 — a few points ahead of last-place DIRECTV STREAM, unchanged at 72.

Crackle’s substantial improvement signals that cost may start playing a larger role in the marketplace. After all, Gen Z and millennials already feel they are spending too much on streaming services. Fifty-eight percent of respondents of a Harris Poll (on behalf of Tubi) reveal they would rather watch ads than pay more for ad-free streaming, while 71% of Gen Z and millennials confess to canceling memberships that require a premium to gain more access.

Verizon Fios in control of subscription TV service industry

Despite losing subscribers for the 13th consecutive year, customer satisfaction for subscription TV service remains relatively steady, up 1% to an ACSI score of 70.

Verizon Fios leads the way after improving 1% to 75. Frontier Communications sits in second place despite slipping 1% to 71. Cox and Xfinity climb 5% and 3%, respectively, to meet at 69.

Optimum, which improves 3%, still finishes last with an ACSI score of 62.

The overall subscription TV industry improves across most aspects of the subscriber experience. The range of sports programming is a strength for the industry relative to video streaming services. However, satisfaction with call centers is one area that significantly lags other aspects of the customer experience.

Cord cutting is still in vogue … and picking up steam

ACSI also provides satisfaction results for four customer segments — cord-stacker (81), cord-shaver (79), cord-cutter (79), and cord-never (77) — within the video streaming and subscription TV industries.

While the percentage of people in each category is roughly stable from last year, satisfaction scores for cord-cutters and cord-nevers show the most improvement.

“As more people embrace streaming options over bundled cable packages, this trend suggests that consumers are finding greater value in à la carte streaming services that let them customize their entertainment experiences,” adds Morgeson. “Streaming bundles, for example, are popping up left and right, offering customers even more ways to consume the content they desire. It will be important for cable providers to adapt to these changing viewing habits and preferences.”

The ACSI Telecommunications Study 2024 is based on interviews with 25,468 customers, chosen at random and contacted via email between April 2023 and March 2024. Download the study, and follow the ACSI on LinkedIn and X at @theACSI.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI®) has been a national economic indicator for over 25 years. It measures and analyzes customer satisfaction with approximately 400 companies in about 40 industries and 10 economic sectors, including various services of federal and local government agencies. Reported on a scale of 0 to 100, scores are based on data from roughly 200,000 responses annually. For more information, visit www.theacsi.org.

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