How to Choose an Internet Provider
There are several characteristics that make for a good company, such as simple billing and nationwide coverage, but others are harder to judge and analyze, such as customer service or community involvement. These non-static elements should be just as important to you as the measurable factors found below since they all impact your experience with that provider.
- Reliability: When it comes to internet service, it’s pretty important that you have reliable coverage and immediate access whenever you need it. However, it isn’t enough to simply have a connection; you need a strong performance rating as well. Your connection is meaningless to you if it can’t stream your HD movie or keep up with your gaming on any device. You should have reliable coverage AND reliable performance from your internet, and a good provider will provide that 99% of the time.
- Speed: Not only should your internet be ready to work when you need it to, it should also be able to keep up with all of your online activities. Speed is part of the performance rating that makes up 50% of customer satisfaction ratings for a provider. Your internet should be fast enough to handle all of your gaming, streaming, and surfing on as many devices as your family uses at any given time to avoid lags. A provider that uses cable or fibre networks can usually offer much higher speeds than one using older DSL technology.
- Price: The most important question when it comes to internet services is how much a plan that meets your needs will cost every month. Internet plans can range from a mere $20 per month upwards of $150 for the fastest speeds. Your budget may determine the speeds you can afford, but you also shouldn’t sacrifice necessary speed to save a few bucks if you can comfortably afford it. Tt isn’t worth paying for a service that constantly frustrates and disappoints you, so a good rule of thumb is to get the best you can afford to cover your bases. In general, ISPs are still failing to offer high speeds at reasonable prices, but they’re getting better.
- Billing: An often-overlooked element of your internet service provider is how their billing works. Straightforward monthly billing is important, and you should make sure your provider doesn’t tack on surprise fees or fail to follow their promotional deals when charging your account. They should be flexible with payment methods and should be clear whether you pay pre- or post-usage as that is necessary information for your monthly budget. A company that paperless billing is also a good idea for convenience alone.
Types of Internet Service
The only types of internet service you should be considering for your home are cable, DSL, satellite, and fibre optic networks because dial-up and wireless networks are slow and offer spotty coverage at best.
- Cable: Cable is easily the most common internet type in the US, particularly because it is affordable and uses the same infrastructure as your TV cable, making for easier setup and bundling options with your cable TV. Many high-speed cable internet plans are as low as $40 per month, which is a pretty good value. Cable internet can also reach higher speeds of 300 or 500 MBPS for households with a greater demand for faster speeds.
- DSL: Though DSL is slowly being phased out by the cable and fibre optic options, it is still a popular choice in more rural communities where dial-up can’t provide the reliability and speeds that customers need. DSL also beats out satellite internet in regards to consistency and speed in these communities. However, DSL is best suited to mild internet users without heavy demands and multiple devices being used at once.
- Fiber Optic: When it comes to fast internet and high max speeds, Fiber internet is as good as it gets. This internet type offers the highest download and upload speeds, beating out cable which can only offer fast downloading. This is the ideal type for small businesses, avid gamers, 4K and HD streaming, or anyone sending large chunks of data. Fiber Optic internet is fast enough to provide seamless video conferencing, gaming, and streaming with little to no freezing, buffering, or loading wait times.
- Satellite: Since cable and fiber internet is accessible to only 55% and 20% of rural communities respectively, the satellite is still a popular broadband connection for these areas in rural America, including Hawaii and Alaska. Satellite is available to nearly every county in the US and is the go-to choice over the slower dial-up option.