In today’s hyper-connected world, it is difficult to get by, personally or in business, without access to a fast, reliable internet connection. People count on the internet for activities dreamed of only a few years ago: entertainment, education, communication, games, and for work in almost every kind of business. One of the most important decisions anyone can make after choosing their computer hardware is figuring out how to find internet providers, an important skill set to assure you get the service you need at the best price. So, without further ado here what’s needed.
Which Providers Are Available Locally?
Before a customer can do any research, they need to identify the providers available. Most counties, townships, or cities have contracts with individual providers to offer them with “rights of way,” through which their signal is broadcast through wires on poles or below ground. In some areas, there is no choice: there is only one ISP available, usually through a cable provider. Some localities make the cost of running wires prohibitive, discouraging competition.
Luckily, in other areas, especially metropolitan zones, and surrounding communities, there are many more options for the consumer to choose from. Cable, Satellite, DSL, and the fastest choice, fiber optics, can be available for those seeking service.
What Do You Use Your Internet Service For?
Different families have different needs when it comes to internet service. A larger family with many devices, such as tablets, computers, and streaming services, for example, need a faster, more reliable internet signal with no limits on data use. Some companies ration internet traffic at peak hours, the time when your family wants to use it most.
If someone in the house does work or runs a business from home, they may need a faster upload speed than the average home internet service provides, and no access or speed limits. The same holds true if people in the household do a lot of online gaming.
Once the purpose of the internet and the general usage patterns are well understood, it is easier to determine what speed of services is required. These are first determined by the manner of internet, and then the speed controlled by the ISP.
The general kinds of internet access and their basic speed ratings include:
- Dial-up: This is the slowest kind of internet, and is rarely in use today. The internet user dials into the service using a telephone modem to access the web. It doesn’t offer broadband speeds.
- Digital Subscriber Line (DSL): DSL runs broadband on normal phone lines, and tends to be one of the slowest means of access. The farther the subscriber lives from the main company data center, the slower the access tends to be. DSL may be cheaper than other broadband access types.
- Cable: The most common kind of internet service available in the majority of areas. It moves data over the coaxial cables used for television. Download speeds can vary widely, depending on what is offered by your cable company, and how many people in your neighborhood are using the signal at the same time.
- Satellite: Satellite is often the only choice available where infrastructure doesn’t allow for other kinds of wiring needed for internet access. Unfortunately, it is the slowest type of access.
- Fiber Optic Service (FiOS): Fiber is the newest internet access technology, and is not widely available outside of metropolitan areas. It is the fastest access method.
Bundles and Extra Services
With competition high in some areas, many companies offer special plans or bundles to make their offers more attractive to new customers. Whether it is the combination of internet with other services such as cable or satellite television or phone service, extra internet security suites, free email or personal website space, companies are willing to go above and beyond to get customers’ business in a competitive environment.
Once the customer has determined which providers offer the speeds, features, and service they need and what is available in their neighborhood, it is time to determine how much they can and/or are willing to pay for internet service. Choosing the right internet service provider for the needs of your home and family can be confusing. However, if you do a little research ahead of time, and are honest about the amount and kind of internet usage your family needs, you can shop around to find the best value and services for the way you use it in your daily life.