Last Updated: March 10, 2021.
If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re one of the billions of users on the web trying to find the best bang-for-your-buck internet service available in your area. The fact that you may have heaps of options to choose from keeps you up at night, wondering which service provider will give the best bargain for a speedy connection.
In this article, you’ll discover everything you need to know about choosing an internet service provider. From the most common terminologies to everything that makes for a seamless internet connection, you’ll see all the answers here.
Terms You Need To Know Beforehand
For someone who isn’t very tech-savvy, talking to an internet service provider’s (ISP) customer service representative may pose a challenge if you fail to understand the industry jargon.
But if you know the industry terms, you're able to ask more relevant questions that can help you further understand the service they're offering.
Here are three of the most important terms you need to be familiar with to get started:
- Broadband—the term ‘broadband’ is an all-encompassing term used for internet connectivity faster than dial-up. A dial-up connection is the Jurassic predecessor of broadband internet.
- Bandwidth—to understand what bandwidth is, you first need to know that you are sending a request data that passes through massive cables across different locations whenever you access any information on the internet. As a result of your request, response data is sent through those same lines to your computer. Bandwidth is the amount of data (request or response) per unit of time that a transmission medium (internet cable) can handle. The higher the bandwidth, the faster data travels, the quicker your internet.
- Mbps—is the acronym for Megabits per second. This term is the unit used to measure the bandwidth or speed of your internet connection. You may see this advertised on ISP websites like OCCOM as ‘internet speed up to 45 Mbps.’
In choosing an ISP, you also need to learn about the type of services they offer. Each class provides varying speeds and may or may not be available in your area.
There are four types of service types:
- Satellite connections that go into our home via a satellite dish. This type of connection is the slowest out of the four types since there is no hard-lined connection; therefore, data transfer occurs through satellite waves. This type of connection is common in rural areas. Internet speed rests below 20 Mbps.
- Cable Internet uses your TV box to pass-through data. Cable internet provides the bandwidth that rests upward of 100 Mbps. The only trade-off is that you’re sharing the service with your neighbors. That means your internet connection might slow down during busy hours of the day.
- Digital Subscriber Line or DSL Connection receives data through your phone line with maximum speeds of up to 25 Mbps. DSL is one of the cheapest options for the average user who doesn’t need a lightning speed connection. It’s important to note that DSL bandwidth is highly dependent on your home’s distance to your ISP’s central office. The longer the cables they use to reach your home, the more likely you’ll receive slow connections.
- Fiber Opti or FiOS functions the same as a DSL connection. But speeds could go up to 500 Mbps. Fiber Optic internet service uses cables made out of glass which provides a seamless and faster data transfer. That’s why download and upload speeds are faster than DSL connections.
Not all of the services mentioned above will be available in your area. If you live in a rural area, chances are you’ll be stuck with fewer options in terms of the service available to you.
Before you jump the gun and shop for an internet service provider, do your research about the type of service that’s available in your area. You can do this by going online to find out which service providers are covering your zip code. Do note that finding a service using your zip code does not necessarily mean the provider covers that whole area.
You can also find a great deal of information about a]*n internet service by reading consumer reviews online. Doing so can help you weigh the pros and cons of each service provider available in your area. It’s important to note that online forums often come with a significant number of negative reviews. So, take each review with a grain of salt, and make sure to look at positive reviews as well.
Your best option for gathering information is your neighbors. If you’re new to the neighborhood, this is your chance to introduce yourself to your neighbors and ask around which ISP provides the best internet bundle in your area.
In choosing a provider, speed is also an essential factor. Before you decide which ISP to subscribe to, consider how much bandwidth you’ll need.
Internet service providers typically charge more for faster internet connections. If you’re an average user who only needs the internet to send emails and do some light browsing, then 5 to 10 Mbps should be enough. However, if you stream videos or play online video games heavily, you may want to look for a faster plan.
Your internet experience does not end with you getting online. One of the most critical factors you must consider in choosing an ISP is reliability. Since most people rely on the internet to accomplish their most important tasks, you need a reliable internet connection that doesn’t suddenly go offline.
Of course, there are cases when outages may occur in your area. But service providers should be able to fix any technical issues within 24 hours.
Choosing an internet provider is a huge commitment. ISPs typically lock their users in their service for at least two years. As a web user, you don’t want to get stuck with a provider that delivers subpar results. Before you shop, know your terms, consider the type of service, availability, speed, and reliability of each provider.