Are you thinking of switching internet providers because your internet ticked you off but not sure where to start? Do you need some advice on how to shop for the best internet provider and what is the difference between them all? If you answered yes to the above questions then you have come to the right place.
Choosing an ISP (Internet Service Provider) is an important decision that can result in you either living happily ever after or frustrated ever after. Depending on your location, you may be offered a wide array of ISPs to choose from or may be stuck with only a handful. In any case, the below-discussed guidelines will help you look for the best ISP available to you by comparing them all and choosing the best amongst them.
Different Types of ISPs
First, let us find out about the different types of ISPs available in the internet industry. It is worth knowing the difference when you are deciding upon the best one for yourself. When we talk about ‘broadband internet’, it includes all types of high-speed internet connections, i.e. cable internet, satellite internet, DSL internet, and fiber-optic internet. A few examples of ISPs offering high-speed internet connections could be Windstream, Frontier, Optimum, etc. Before these high-speed internet connections came into being, the only option used to be dial-up and you may be surprised to know that it still exists and people still pay to use it (I can feel their pain).
For the purpose of this article, we’ll only discuss broadband connections since dial-up should be the last resort for times when all else fails.
- Satellite Internet
As the name suggests, this type of connection uses satellites orbiting Earth to beam internet signals to the satellite dish installed on your roof. Therefore, regardless of your location, you can receive internet services through a satellite connection. However, generally speeds range between 3 Mbps to 25 Mbps.
Satellite internet is available in areas where none of the other broadband connections dare tread. Therefore, for several people in rural areas and remote locations, this is the only option. Even though the availability is an impressive feature, satellite internet is the slowest among broadband internets and the most expensive too (when plans are compared with similar plans of other broadband connections).
2. DSL Internet
A Digital Subscriber Line connection is provided through telephone lines just like dial-up but with much faster speeds. An Asymmetric DSL being the cheaper option provides a download speed higher than the upload speed, whereas a Symmetric DSL connection offers matching download and upload speeds. Speeds can normally go up to 100 Mbps.
DSL is the most economical option among the broadband options and typically provides the most stable speeds since in most cases you do not share a line. You also get to choose among a few providers in your area, unlike cable and fiber-optic where you would usually find just one provider in each area.
However, speed depends on the distance between your location and the telephone exchange. The farther you are the slower the speed you receive and the less stable the connection will be.
3. Cable Internet
The same providers offering you cable television services at your home provide a cable internet connection. They make use of the same infrastructure to provide high-speed internet in your living room along with cable television at speeds usually going up to 500 Mbps.
Due to the infrastructure already available, cable internet is widely available. It is much faster than DSL and Satellite and the stability of the connection does not depend upon the distance between the user’s location and the central office, as is the case with DSL.
However, since the entire neighborhood uses the same network, sharing the bandwidth can result in a very slow internet connection during peak usage hours.
4. Fiber-Optic Internet
Also known as FiOS, fiber-optic is still the latest addition to the list of broadband internet connections. With internet signals transmitted through fiber-optic cables using beams of light, speeds can go up to as high as 1 Gig.
As compared to the first three types of connections discussed above, FiOS literally provides the internet at the speed of light. However, it still has limited availability and can be quite expensive due to the special infrastructure required for it to function.
Crucial Things to Remember
Besides the type of internet connections, there are a few other things you need to consider. Here are the crucial things you need to keep in mind when comparing ISPs so you can choose the best one for yourself.
The most important and the first thing to consider is availability. A provider who does not serve your area is no good to you. Websites like localcabledeals.com can help you find out which providers serve your area by just entering your zip code. It also gives you a comparison of all the available plans so that you don’t have to juggle between websites of different ISPs.
2. Download/ Upload Speeds
Look for the highest download and upload speeds you can afford. However, make sure that you compare similar plans by all available ISPs to find out the best value for money option.
3. Total Cost
On top of the base price advertised by the ISP, you will probably need to pay for equipment rental as well as installation. There may also be other applicable fees, surcharges and government taxes. Most ISPs also offer discounts when you bundle TV and home phone with the internet. Although, all these differ according to your location and the ISP chosen. So it is best to confirm everything with the provider when signing up.
4. Contract Term
Several ISPs offer no-contract internet connections, which should be your priority. If you have to sign a contract, then try to go for the shortest term available. Some ISPs let you subscribe without a contract for an additional fee, which in my opinion is not a bad idea, considering that you are free to leave without the fear of Early Termination Fees.
5. Data Caps
You must find out if your chosen ISP imposes any data caps. If possible, sign up for an unlimited data plan. Although, sometimes that may not be available, in which case try to go for the highest data cap you can afford so that you do not end up paying additional fees for data used over the limit.
6. Customer Support
As much as the reliability of an internet connection is important, so is the customer support department of an ISP. You will be dealing with them for the entire period you use the internet connection. Enquire about the channels through which the ISP provides customer support and if they run 24/7 support. This plays a crucial part in case of outages or any other issues. Windstream Customer Service is great example well-rounded customer support that includes phone, email, as well as live chat support round the clock.
Now you are well equipped to make the right decision for yourself. Best of luck!