Utah’s mountainous terrain and vast deserts haven’t stopped broadband providers from laying down the infrastructure that has made the state one of the most connected in the country. It consistently ranks in the top 20 - and often in the top 10 - for broadband speeds, and it’s also one of the most connected states. 83% of residents have access to broadband, which means that chances are good you’ll have plenty of options when you’re looking for internet providers in Utah.
The problem is how to choose between them. Internet providers in Utah (like Internet service providers everywhere) seldom include all of their packages in their marketing materials. It’s common for broadband companies to try to sell customers features they don’t really need. And the terminology of internet delivery? Can be very confusing for those of us who aren’t technologically inclined.
Given all that, you may be tempted to simply sign up for whatever broadband plan offers the highest speeds at the lowest prices, but that’s a recipe for paying too much for your connection. The good news is that there are unbiased sources like BroadbandSearch that you can use to compare internet providers in Utah, and once you get a handle on the lingo, you’ll be able to make the smartest choice now and in the future.
This guide will walk you through the steps you can take to find the best internet providers in Utah and then choose between their plans.
Step 1: Know the State of the Internet in Your Area
Most Utah residents have a lot of options when it comes to broadband delivery, from mid-range 10 Mbps plans to super fast gigabit speeds. These are delivered mainly by the big names in Broadband - Xfinity, CenturyLink, and Frontier - though there are a number of smaller providers that also service the state.
Fiber broadband is available in some parts of Utah, thanks in part to CenturyLink’s efforts to build out its gigabit fiber network. As you might expect, most of the efforts to lay down fiber optic cables has happened in and around Provo and Salt Lake City. That’s where you’ll find relatively affordable fiber internet.
Providers like Xfinity are filling in the gaps by using the existing cable infrastructure in new ways to delivery gigabit internet to customers in all of its service areas. Cable internet has its downsides (like slowdowns during peak hours and a higher price tag) but super fast cable plans are widely available whereas fiber is still only available in select neighborhoods where there is a fiber optic network in place.
So what’s the state of the internet in your neighborhood? Plug your address into BroadbandSearch to find out.
Step 2: Start Learning the Lingo
Comparing internet providers in Utah is easier when you understand the terminology ISPs use to describe their services. These are the basic terms you need to be familiar with to figure out if a package is a good deal:
Broadband: Always-on, high bandwidth internet delivery for homes and businesses.
Bandwidth: The volume of data that your internet connection can handle in a specific period. Bandwidth is measured in megabits per second (Mbps).
Download speed: A measure of how fast data (e.g., an email, a web page, or a video) moves from a server to your device.
Upload speed: A measure of how quickly you can send information from your device to others. Upload speeds are typically slower than download speeds.
Symmetrical speeds: A broadband signal that has download and upload speeds that are equal is referred to as symmetrical.
Bundles: Broadband packages that include not only internet delivery, but other services like phone plans and television that are delivered by the same company.
Data cap: A limit on the amount of data you can use each month. If you exceed your data allowance, you either pay a fee or deal with a significantly slower connection until the end of the month.
Step 3: Understand the Pros and Cons of the Technology
Broadband internet signals come into users’ homes in different ways. The two most common types of high speed internet in Utah are cable and DSL, though as noted above fiber internet is becoming available to more households and businesses as the infrastructure expands. Satellite broadband and fixed wireless are both available in Utah, though the state’s many mountains make these types of broadband less reliable than they are in other parts of the country. Mobile broadband is popular with people who want to be able to take their internet on the go.
If you live in or close to the city, you may have access to most or even all of these technologies, and after doing some research, you might find that all are relatively reliable. But rural customers and people in lower income neighborhoods may find that they have fewer choices. In some cases, their ISP options will be limited to just one, in which case their location will have made their choice for them.
So what are the pros and cons of the various technologies used by the internet providers in Utah? Let’s take a look:
CenturyLink and Global Capacity both offer this type of connection, which uses existing copper telephone lines to deliver broadband internet. Pro: It’s one of the most common types of broadband because most households and businesses are wired for telephone service. Con: While some DSL providers advertise download speeds up to 100 Mbps, this type of broadband tends to be slower than cable.
Xfinity delivers cable broadband in Utah using high bandwidth cable television infrastructure. Pros: Cable is faster than DSL because the copper coaxial cables the providers use have more bandwidth than telephone lines. Cons: Cable plans are often more expensive and are more likely to have strict data caps.
CenturyLink and Utopia both offer fiber service to its Utah customers in certain neighborhoods. This type of internet connection uses ultra-thin, transparent glass filaments and light to transmit data at speeds that were once considered extraordinary. Pros: It’s the fastest type of broadband around and super stable. Cons: It’s unavailable in many neighborhoods and can be pricey for even basic plans.
This type of internet connection is delivered by a user’s mobile phone company to either a phone or devices enabled with 4G SIMs or equipped with mobile dongles. Pros: It’s available anywhere you can get a cellular signal and goes where you go. Cons: No cell service means no internet, most plans have low data caps, and it’s relatively expensive.
Exede and HughesNet are two companies that provide satellite broadband in Utah using geostationary communication satellites in orbit to send and receive data via satellite dishes on users’ homes. Pros: It’s technically available anywhere because it doesn’t rely on wired infrastructure. Cons: There needs to be a clear line of sight from the dish to the southern sky so mountain views and satellite broadband aren’t always compatible, and weather conditions can interfere with your signal.
JAB is one of the internet providers in Utah offering customers broadband that is delivered wirelessly via ground stations (also called transmission towers) to special transceivers on homes and businesses. Pros: It’s faster and more reliable than satellite broadband. Cons: Users must be within the line of sight of one of the ground stations to receive a signal so getting fixed wireless is still tough in rural areas.
Step 4: Carefully Look at Packages and Plans
Once you know which broadband companies service your neighborhood, what all those terms they use mean, and which technologies will meet your needs, it’s time to look at what each company is offering. Price is the obvious way to compare internet providers in Utah, but it’s not the only way. And that’s a good thing, considering that many ISPs in your neighborhood will probably have plans that look similar at first glance.
Here are other ways you can compare providers:
Speed: While Utah’s urban centers still enjoy the fastest internet in the state, many suburban areas are catching up as wired networks grow. There are still rural residents whose access is limited to dial up and satellite, but expect to see rural access grow in the next decade. How much speed do you need? That will depend on your household. A multi-person household should go with a higher bandwidth plan to ensure that everyone can be online at once without a slowdown. A single casual user can get what they need from a lower-bandwidth plan.
Bundles: Bundles can seem like a great deal at first, but before you sign up for bundled service take a long, hard look at your habits. Do you really need a landline? Do you watch enough TV to justify paying for a cable package when there are so many inexpensive streaming options? Bundles are the smart choice... for some users. If an internet-only plan makes the most sense, you may have to reach out to ISPs directly for more information since they usually prefer customers choose a bundle and advertise accordingly.
Time-Limited Deals: The low price plans you see in broadband companies’ advertising probably represents a limited time only promotion. Before you sign up for a hot promo, ask how long you’ll get the discount for and what your monthly bill will look like after the promotional period ends. An amazing deal that lasts three months may not be as good as a less expensive plan that won’t jump in price. Always compare plans using the post-promotion price since that’s what you’ll eventually be paying.
Other Considerations: Hidden fees can be a nasty surprise when you get your first bill, so make sure you know what the total price of your internet delivery will be before you sign up. If your ISP is charging you for things you don’t need - like a branded email address or anti-virus software you can easily get yourself for free - see if you can have those charges taken off your total. If the provider won’t budge, they might not be the best fit.
As mentioned above, a lot of broadband companies (especially cable and cellular broadband providers) have strict data caps. Going over your monthly limit can cost you big time. Do you do a lot of streaming or gaming? All things being equal, choose the plan with the higher cap if you use a lot of data.
And finally, does the plan require you to lock into a contract? Sometimes getting the lowest possible price requires signing a multi-year contract that has penalties for canceling early or even upgrading or downgrading your service. If flexibility is important to you, opt for a no contract plan.
At this point, you may be asking yourself why all of this is necessary. Here’s the bottom line: When you’re choosing between internet providers in Utah, it pays to do your due diligence. Signing up with the wrong ISP can lead to months or even years of headaches caused by spotty service and big bills. You can avoid all that by using these tips to make the smartest possible choice.
Are you ready to start comparing and contrasting the internet providers in your Utah neighborhood? Start by finding internet providers near you.