If you are stuck in a remote location or a rural area, then you hardly get a choice in terms of Internet service providers (ISPs). On the other hand, if you live in an urban setting, you get to pick from numerous service providers. It is then that you may be faced with a decision-making nightmare. There are so many factors to consider, and so many plans to compare.
It's crazy! Who do you listen to? You are not going to find anyone who has tried all the service providers in your region to share their expertise with you. Then, how do you compare? But, you do know what you need. So, here is a general approach to finding the right ISP for your needs.
Local vs National
In most urban areas, subscribers get to choose between local ISPs and national ISPs. They come with their own pros and cons. The national ISPs generally have a much greater experience with offering Internet services. They usually have fewer issues with their infrastructure because they are well prepared to deal with the problems even before they happen.
You can expect a certain level of consistency in terms of Internet service quality with the national service providers like Comcast. If you have tried a service in one region before, you can expect the same level of service quality in another region.
Local service providers, on the other hand, are generally more about customer support. They offer excellent customer service. While the national service providers may take days to address your issue, local service providers are often known to visit you even within an hour.
You will usually find a guy to address your problem a short distance away from home at the local service provider's office. However, when you get in touch with a national service provider's customer support, you often find yourself talking to a person in another city, or sometimes, in another country altogether. When it comes to customer support, local service providers take the cake hands down.
Speed vs Reliability
High Internet speed and high reliability of the service is all that we need from an Internet service provider. Here's the bummer. You cannot find the best of both in the same ISP. DSL, and satellite connections usually have a high reliability factor, but a lot less speed in the range of 25 Mbps or less.
Cable Internet speed, in contrast, varies greatly throughout the day. The reason for this is that in case of DSL and satellite Internet, you get dedicated connections. However, in case of cable, your connection is part of a network that shares connections with other subscribers in the region. Therefore, your connection's speed is dependent on the usage of other subscribers in your area.
When the Internet usage traffic is high in your area, you will get a slower speed. That's why Internet speeds are higher during the night, as most Internet users are not active during that period. The same is the case with fiber connections, but fiber-optic offers such high speed that you hardly ever notice any fluctuations. However, when it comes to speed, cable and fiber are the best options available.
Although satellite Internet speeds are usually highly stable, satellite services do not offer high speed Internet, maxing out at 25Mbps.
Hidden Costs and Bundle Discounts
The Internet service plans of ISPs usually do not include various add-on charges in their advertisements. You have to dig a little to find this important information. Getting an Internet connection is not as simple as paying for the plan. You might also be required to buy or rent multiple devices from the service provider.
In addition to the modem and router charges, you may also be charged for installations. So, when you place a service call, ask the ISP about all the charges that go into having a fully functioning Internet connection in your home. Some service providers allow you to use your own modem or router, so that you don't have to pay them a monthly rental.
Most national ISPs are part of big telecom companies that also offer home telephone and TV services. These ISPs combine all their services into one big bundle that ends up saving hundreds of dollars in just one year. If you can find these heavily discounted bundles offered in your region, then they deserve at least a glance. Actually, more than that. Some bundles do offer unmatched value.
High Prices vs Data Caps
You must already know that Internet service plans come with data caps. After you consume the monthly data quota of your plan, your high speed Internet is downgraded to significantly lower speeds. You will then have to drudge through the remainder of the month on a low Internet speed. Higher data cap means more money.
On the other hand, some ISPs do not have any kind of data caps on their plans. You can download all you can and upload all you want. Your Internet connection will be available at high speeds, irrespective of your data usage. If your monthly Internet usage is well within the data caps of the plan you choose, then you need not worry about this at all.
Why Not Ask Around?
Do you know who the best person is to inquire about a service provider? The one who has or is actually with the service provider. Word of mouth is the most reliable review of quality. Someone who has been with a service provider knows from experience the overall quality of service.
Ask them about their experience with the ISP. Whether they have had any issues, how did the customer support respond, how reliable is their service, do they overcharge, and more questions like these will get you the answers you need about the service provider.
Introductory Deals and Contracts
Usually, these two go hand in hand. ISPs offer introductory deals, wherein you get a new high speed Internet connection at incredibly low prices. However, once the introductory period expires, you will be charged a markedly higher fee for your Internet connection.
To make sure that you do not drop out after the introductory period ends, ISPs make you sign multi-year contracts. So, now you have to pay high prices for a service that you cannot quit.
There is a silver lining though. ISPs tell you how much you will be charged post the introductory period. If you think that that price is not too much, then you have an advantage. Their contract will usually have a clause that locks in the pricing for the period of the contract.
So, for the length of your contract, they will not be able to increase their prices, whatsoever. This is a good thing if you are worried about increasing Internet fees.