How to Find the Best Internet Service Provider

[Guest Post by Carmen]

Taking the time to choose a good internet provider can often save you a lot of time and frustration in your internet travels. Many providers take steps to appear as the best option to potential customers, such as aggressive marketing, “one time” offers that are often too good to be true, and social engineering. Knowing the common terminology and spending time going over potential options can help you make a much more informed decision before signing up with an ISP (internet service provider).

Before I can go into the details of negotiating tips and telltale signs of questionable practices, going over the types of Internet connections (the technology that your internet provider uses to deliver service to your house) is vital. In most countries, three prominent technologies are usually used by providers to deliver an internet connection to your home or office.

A digital subscriber line (DSL) is one of the most common types of connection worldwide.  DSL is usually offered by the same company which offers landline telephone service in your area; however, other secondary companies may offer DSL service as well. Under the right conditions, DSL can reach fairly high speeds (50 Mbps+); however, speeds may vary depending on distance from the provider’s node (where the internet is converted to a signal that is capable of reaching your home).  DSL providers often advertise speeds higher than what you are capable of actually receiving. The best way to know if you are truly able to get the maximum speeds would be to ask neighbours.

Cable internet comes in at a close second to DSL, in terms of availability. Cable internet is usually offered by your local cable television company and ran over the same infrastructure as cable TV. This type of connection can reach very high speeds (100+ Mbps); however, the speeds offered by cable internet providers can vary based on the standard used (DOCSIS 3 is the latest cable internet standard, offering theoretical speeds of 300+ Mbps) or back end network capacity. With cable internet, reaching the maximum speeds is usually possible at least at some points in the day. Unlike DSL, network congestion can be a problem with cable. As providers upgrade their networks to meet the demand, this is less of a problem.

Fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) is another viable option and alternative to the two other major options. FTTH uses light over a glass wire to transmit internet. Once reaching the home, there is equipment to convert that fiber signal in something that your devices can understand. With current technology, fiber can reach the highest speeds of all the major methods listed above (1000+ Mbps). Fiber internet can often be expensive however, this is not always the case.

These are the three major technologies currently used for internet service worldwide however there are many other technologies available such as Satellite and Antenna (3G) internet that are in use as well.

Terms of Service:

Before signing on for internet service with a provider, it’s important to  check the terms of service.  Often, many caveats such as hidden data caps (limits on how much you can download and upload), overage charges (charges once using a certain amount of data), or other hidden fees may be buried under the terms of service and not mentioned in a provider’s advertising.

Reliability:

The reliability of an internet connection is one of the most important factors when choosing a internet provider.  Fluctuating speeds and constant outages can hinder your ability to take full advantage of all that the internet has to offer.  Checking reviews online of the providers you are pondering, and talking to neighbours can help you judge the reliability of a provider.

Customer support:

Having good customer support can be the difference between a wonderful and dragging experience with an internet provider.  Checking if a provider has a social media presence (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) is a must.  If they do happen to use social media, you may also want to check some of the interactions between customers and the provider, seeing if the provider is often helpful and satisfactory in fixing the problem.  The ease of reaching support can contribute to the quality. Check what (or even if) the provider allows you to reach them via phone, email or live chat.

Add-ons:

Many internet providers offer “add-ons” or “extras” such as webmail, antivirus software or personal webpages.  Most add-ons can be obtained without going through your internet provider; however some, such as free public Wi-Fi hotspots, can provide great value.  For public Wi-Fi hotspots, checking the coverage is a good idea if you see yourself taking advantage of these.  Some ISPs provide better Wi-Fi coverage across town than others, and some do not provide this at all.

In addition, the cost of the service and whether you are in a contract is good to consider.  Check what specific terms the plan or offer you are contemplating has in place.

Of course, do not be shy to call the internet provider and have a chat before buying.  Often times, there are many plans that are offered over the phone that are not shown on the provider’s website or advertising, and promotional terms may be negotiable.

Resources:

In the search for an internet connection, there are many websites offering provider rankings and reviews. DSL Reports offers detailed reviews for most U.S. and Canadian ISPs from customers.  If average speeds are what you are looking for, the Ookla Net Index shows average internet speeds on major internet providers. Netflix ISP Speed Index shows average speeds for all Netflix streams on major internet providers (outside of Canada).

Keeping all of this in mind, finding an internet provider and package that suits your needs and budget can be quite tough. Nevertheless, being prepared can take a lot of stress out of this process, especially in the long run.

Share your tips and experiences in the comment section below!


About the Author: Carmen has always had a fascination for writing and technology.  For a number of years, Carmen has been writing for numerous blogs about tech and other topics.  When he’s not writing or tinkering with technology, you can find him taking photos, pursuing his studies, or exploring the world around him.

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  • MistaNappy

    After five years with them, Clearwire is weak and now that they have sold their soul to the “devil” Google, I am looking for an independent ISP that is cost-effective.