Choosing the right Internet Service Provider or ISP can be a challenge. Depending on where you live, you may have an abundance of options or just a few. But beware, not all Internet service is equal. As you shop around you will find a wide range of terminology that you may not be familiar with, extreme differences in pricing and speed, and even fluctuations in what you can do with different technologies. Because there is such variation in the market, you need to ask yourself some important questions before you choose your next ISP, so you get the best fit for you.
How many Internet enabled devices are in your home?
Because most homes with Internet have a Wi-Fi network set up, multiple devices can be used simultaneously. In fact, you may not even be aware of how many people are online at once in your household, but by knowing how many Internet enabled devices there are, you can get a better idea of the amount of bandwidth you need. Remember to include your smartphone in the count of devices, because most cell phone users connect to their home network when possible to save on data costs with their cell phone provider.
What do you do online?
Knowing how your household uses the Internet will also help you decide on the right plan and speed for your service. A home that only does occasional Internet surfing and social media will need much less data than a home that relies on streaming video for its primary entertainment. This is important because more and more providers are capping data.
What types of Internet are available where I live?
You may think you know the types of internet service available in your area, but the reality is that there are many options that you may not be aware of. A quick search of Internet service available by zip code will reveal exactly what your options really are.
Do I know the differences between the different types of Internet service and which one might best fit me?
Amongst the various types of Internet service, there are distinct differences.
- Fiber Internet is the fastest option on the market but is the scarcest in terms of where it is offered.
- Cable Internet is a top choice, is incredibly fast and is available to the majority of Americans. However, it is often unavailable to rural residents.
- DSL Internet delivered via the phone line is a fast option for many, but speeds vary depending on how far a consumer is from the central office.
- Wireless Internet is a responsive broadband option that allows for similar download and upload speeds, and requires no wires or cables. It is not as fast as many other options, and is often more costly, but is available in more areas.
- Satellite Internet is the rural Internet choice, providing fast service in many areas where there is no other option. It is a reliable, affordable option, but has limitations such as lagtime, data caps, and slow upload speeds which prevent it from being used for things like real time simulation games.
Is my priority speed, price, unlimited access or something else?
When you are choosing an ISP, be realistic about what your true priority is. What is most important to you- the speed of the service, the monthly cost, unlimited access to the Internet, or something else? It is likely a combination of these, but by knowing which weighs more heavily, you'll be easily able to narrow down your choices.