Last year, frustrated with the disparity between the speeds ISPs claim to sell, what's reported on popular sites such as BroadbandReports.com and PC Pitstop, and the too-slow reality of day-to-day surfing, we created the SurfSpeed application. SurfSpeed connects to ten popular Web sites as an ordinary Web browser would and averages the time that it takes to visit them and download pages.
Optimum Online is at the top of the pack, averaging speeds of 283 Kbps—that's 20 percent faster than last year's 235-Kbps score. The second-fastest ISP was, again, Cox Communications, this year averaging 254 Kbps.
The fastest provider in our testing was Speakeasy, which achieved speeds of 278 Kbps—nearly as fast as the fastest cable. AT&T's various services trailed behind, with speeds closer to the 200 Kbps mark. Watch out for ZoomTown, which lacked the pep its name promises, and FrontierNet, which is a lot like a Wild West saloon—the last place to look for a nice broadband connection.