Guide to Choosing an Internet Service Provider


You have finally had it with your Internet service provider and now you want to find a new one, a better one. Perhaps, you have moved to a new place and are looking for the best ISP in your new location. Whatever your reason, finding a reliable, and good service provider is not an easy task. The stakes are high too. Most service providers force you to sign multi-year contracts. You do not want to enter into a contract only to find out a week later that your new ISP is terrible! The worst part is that there are still 2 years left on your contract. This guide will help you avoid such a sticky situation and find the right ISP for your home.

How Much Speed Do You Need?

Today, Internet connections start at a speed of 0.5Mbps and go all the way to 1Gbps speed. That’s a broad spectrum of speeds to choose from. The speed you need for your Internet connection depends largely on your Internet usage patterns. What do you use the Internet for? How many hours do you use it on a daily basis? How many Internet users are there in your home? These questions will help you understand your usage pattern.

If you use the Internet to browse occasionally, check mails, access your social media accounts, and do other stuff like that, you don’t need much speed. You can do all of that with an Internet connection of 0.5 to 2Mbps speed. Anything in the range of 3Mbps will allow you to enjoy DVD quality videos over the Internet. This is the minimum speed you need if you love watching videos on the Internet. At this speed, you can also download music and images in less than a minute. You can browse all you want, and you wouldn’t notice any speed lags for the most part.

Heavy Internet users, who primarily depend on the Internet for most of their entertainment, require a speed of at least 5Mbps. This speed allows you to watch videos in high definition without facing any buffering issues. You can download documents, presentations, music, and images in seconds. At 7Mbps or higher, you will be able to stream online videos in pure 4K resolution. If you are a Netflix user, then you will know how amazing it is to watch 4K videos. If you want to be able to do that on a daily basis, then you need a minimum of 7Mbps speed.

Now, here is the thing. All of these speeds are typical for an average Internet user. If you have more people, and more Internet-connected devices, then you will need a higher speed. For an average American family of four, with at least one Internet-enabled device per member, the minimum Internet speed required would be in the range of 30+ Mbps.


What Type of Connections Can I Get?

Depending on your location, there could be multiple types of Internet services and multiple players in the market. They could be competing against each other to offer you an excellent service at the best prices, or there could be just one that charges obscene amounts of money for a limited Internet connection. The slowest and oldest technology is the Dial-up. It is probably dead, and you will hardly find a Dial-up Internet service in the US. So, let’s skip it. The next faster technology is the DSL or Digital Subscriber Line technology. In this case, the Internet is delivered over the existing landline phone lines. Because these lines were not built for the Internet, they can only support a limited traffic load, typically up to 10-25Mbps. Admittedly, DSL connections are slower, but because of the near-omnipresence of phone lines, you can find them virtually anywhere.

If you want higher speeds than DSL, then you go for cable connections. The cables, quite like DSL lines, are not built for carrying the Internet, but for the transmission of TV signals. However, they have a much higher transmission capacity than phone lines. Therefore, they can support up to 100Mbps of Internet speeds.

Cable connections can be generally found in all areas where there is cable infrastructure. If you wish to enjoy still higher speeds, then there is only one option for you – fiber optic cable. This is the latest technology when it comes to Internet connectivity, and can offer incredibly high speeds reaching up to 1Gbps. However, the technology is yet to expand across the country, and is presently available in a handful of cities. As the speeds increase, so does the pricing of these services.

If none of these options are available to you, then you still have one final option left – satellite Internet. This is by far the most expensive option. You should go with it only when you are absolutely sure that there is no alternative for you.

It usually offers speeds less than 25Mbps, and comes with low data caps. This means that you cannot use this Internet connection as an entertainment source, or you will run your Internet bill into hundreds of dollars pretty soon.

What Factors Should I Consider to Evaluate Different ISPs?

If you want the best of service, you should compare the various ISPs in your region on multiple factors. Here are some of the most important factors that you should consider:

1. Speed

Every plan from ISPs clearly mentions the upload speeds and download speeds of that plan. Download speeds are generally higher than the upload speeds, because most of us do a lot more downloading than uploading. However, if you stream your video games, or regularly upload videos, then you will need high upload speeds as well.

2. Speed could be Relative

DSL connections give you dedicated connection lines, while your cable or fiber optic connection is connected to the same network that is connected to other consumers in your area. For this reason, your cable and fiber optic connection speeds will also depend on the Internet usage of other people in your neighborhood. On the other hand, DSL and satellite connections offer fairly regular speeds.

3. Data Caps

ISPs, typically offer high speed Internet connections with data caps. This means you can use the Internet at high speeds until your monthly usage hits an upper mark. After that, your Internet connection is reduced to drastically slower speeds. If your Internet usage is high, you should rather go with an ISP that offers Internet plans with no data caps.