Types of Internet Service Providers
Once you've identified the internet service providers operating in your area, consider what type of internet will give you the best value and speed for your money. If you're in an area with a lot of coverage, you may be able to choose between cable, DSL, fiber, wireless, or satellite internet. Here's a quick look at each:
Cable broadband leverages existing high-bandwidth cable television networks to provide internet to customers, allowing cable companies to offer money-saving bundles that include TV service (and sometimes phone). Cable broadband tends to be faster than DSL, though speeds may be less stable during peak hours.
DSL stands for Digital Subscriber Line and operates over your phone line to deliver consistent speeds that are now comparable to cable. It's often less expensive than other broadband options and tends to be very stable.
Fiber optic service (FiOS) is relatively new and operates over a network of fiber optic lines. There are only a few major providers delivering FiOS, but it has the advantage of being one of the fastest types of internet delivery.
Wireless (also known as Wi-Fi internet) is quickly becoming one of the most widely distributed internet access methods. As networks expand, more customers have access to high-speed internet in areas where the infrastructure for wired broadband services is nonexistent.
Satellite makes use of satellites to send internet service to customers in rural areas where DSL, cable, and fiber aren't available. It tends to be more expensive than other options, but for the people who choose it, satellite broadband is sometimes the only option.
Things to Consider When Choosing an Internet Service Provider
Your goal may be to get the most bandwidth for your money, but that shouldn't be your only concern. Always make sure the high speed internet plans you're comparing by price have similar download and upload speeds. Be aware that some services will require you to rent or buy equipment, or to pay to have equipment installed on your home.
Bundles may seem like the most attractive option, but sometimes the advertised cost is actually a time-limited promotional price. Be sure you understand your ISP's service limitations (e.g., data caps or restrictions). And know that many special features aren't as useful as they seem. For instance, you can find your own email address or anti-virus program, while add-ons like free 24/7 customer support and anytime Wi-Fi hotspot access are much more valuable.
Ready to learn more? Start comparing the internet service providers in your area.