How to Choose the Best Internet Service Provider

By: petershimming

Is your internet bothering you? Are you tired of being disconnected all the time? It’s time you thought of switching your provider. But, like many, you’re not quite sure where to start. Looking for a reliable internet service provider is definitely an important decision. Your choice of ISP can make an enormous difference in your internet usage. Depending on where you live, you might have a number of ISPs to choose from or you might be stuck with just a few.

What You need to know about different types of Internet Service

The first thing to do is to understand the difference between the types of internet services available for your home or business. For instance, you can opt for high-speed internet services such as cable, satellite, DSL and fiber optics that keep you constantly connected. The other option is dial-up like AOL dial-up, which still exists. You should opt for a broadband connection unless you’re stuck with only dial-up in your area.

Here are the different types of broadband connections available to you and a few guidelines for what to look for in an ISP and how to compare the ones available in your area:


Digital Subscriber Line or DSL operates over a regular copper telephone line like dial-up with download speeds as fast as 25 megabits per second. It is expected that 100 Mbps or more is expected later this year. There are two types of DSL – Asymmetric DSL (ADSL) and Symmetric DSL (SDSL). ADSL is cheaper and offers faster downloads than upload speeds. On the other end of the spectrum, SDSL provides equally fast down and up speeds, especially important if you use VPN or backup large files to your cloud. Every subscriber should be aware of the issues associated with the technology and method they are using for a more informed decision regarding your choice for an ISP. You need to know if what you are purchasing is the best choice for you and your household or business and you’re being offered the best price, performance and reliability.


It is cheaper than other internet options and you have a lot of choice as opposed to cable or fiber optics. It’s stable and consistent because of a dedicated line. You get independent service, which means loss of high speed data doesn’t mean you lose your telephone service. It’s secure. That means unlike cable, each subscriber can be configured so that everybody will not be on the same network. Easy integration, which means DSL can interface with ATM, Nx64 and WAN technology easily and without too much hassle. Another advantage is that telecommuting may get easier, you can enjoy high bandwidth with cheap line charges from the phone company. Also, it can be perfect for spurts of online traffic.


The quality and speed of DSL can suffer because of distance to the provider’s central office. That means limited availability, slower speeds and a less reliable connection. In some cable modem networks, computers on the same network can be left vulnerable and are easily susceptible to break ins as well as data destruction. And if you’re moving you’ll have to buy a new modem and equipment.

Cable Broadband

This service is offered by your cable television provider. It operates over coaxial cable TV wires and provides download speeds ranging from 3 Mbps to over 100 Mbps. It is also known as Hybrid Fiber-Coaxial (HFC). It is a broadband technology that uses a combination of fiber and coaxial cables to connect you to the internet. Fiber emanates from a central node in your neighborhood through a coaxial cable to connect houses and buildings. Coaxial cable is similar to the copper used to deliver ADSL, but is insulated to prevent interference.


Distance has no effect on the quality and speed, like it does with DSL. It is also much faster than DSL and satellite, and more widely available than fiber optics. The best advantage is that it doesn’t need a phone service to operate. Connection is easy and always-on. Cable Internet Service is set as the industry standard. Speeds offered are much faster than many other types of broadband connections. It is best suited for frequent use. And you get reliability of service.


Your bandwidth is shared with others in your neighborhood. That means slower internet speeds as more people will be using the cable broadband service all at the same time. Data transfer speeds can be slow during peak hours. For instance, it can really affect your movie and video streaming at peak times.


There are a few places on earth that are without terrestrial internet access or the quality available is poor and unreliable. But some of us don’t have a choice as we want to live and work in these places where the satellite is the only form of connectivity. And since it’s a remote location it may take weeks, sometimes even months, to get a terrestrial broadband connection installed. Sometimes it takes longer than that before the provider finally admits it cannot be delivered in your area at all. Consumer grade satellite internet service is typically provided to subscribers through geostationary satellites offering high data speeds. Satellites beam internet feed to subscribers who have satellite dishes installed on their premises. And because it’s satellite it doesn’t matter where you are on earth, it will offer download speeds of up to 15 Mbps and upload speeds of 3 Mbps. Newer satellites use Ka band for downstream data speeds of up to 50 Mbps.


Satellite covers areas where DSL, cable and fiber are unavailable. For millions of people in rural areas in the US, it’s the only broadband option. With satellite you get global coverage, high-speed access, location-independence, bandwidth availability, instant installation and deployment, cost effectiveness and reliability.


It’s both slower and more expensive for the rated speeds than other broadband options. Not only that, it is also subject to Fair Access Policy and weather. It could be rainy, cloudy, windy or snowy, satellite signals can be lost, leaving customers without service. Furthermore, trees, buildings and obstructions can block the signals make it less than an ideal choice. On top of all that dish location plays a large part in how well you receive the signals and how well the service works.

Fiber Optic Service

Fiber optic service, also known as FiOS, is the latest in internet connectivity. Operating over an optical fiber or fiber optic cable it is a flexible, transparent fiber made of pure glass as thin as human hair. It transmits light between both ends of the fiber for wide usage in fiber-optic communications. They permit transmission over longer distances and at higher bandwidths or data rates than wire cables. Leading fiber optic providers at the moment are Verizon, AT&T U-verse and Qwest offering download speeds of 300 Mbps and upload speeds of 65 Mbps.


Fiber optics offer the highest speeds available, compared to traditional copper wire connections such as DSL or cable. Extremely high bandwidth, longer distance, resistance to electromagnetic interference, transmission is virtually noise-free, low-security risk, small size saves more space, lightweight and easy to accommodate more bandwidth.


The main disadvantage of fiber optics is that it’s expensive to install. Another disadvantage is that the cables are more fragile than wire and are difficult to splice and can’t be curved. Moreover, it’s only available in limited areas.

What You Should Consider Before Choosing an ISP

Leaving internet connection types besides, a lot depends on where you live. In some areas DSL might be faster than cable or maybe the latter will offer better value for service if you factor in bundling incentives, for instance, TV, internet and phone, as well as the individual ISP. Here’s how to compare ISPs to find the best one for you.

The most important feature, naturally, is availability. Do your research before to find what’s available in your area. What good is it to you if, for instance, you want to get Verizon FiOS or Google Fiber, which 100 times faster than other broadband services, if none of them have service your area. Look for cable providers, cheapest broadband providers, top ISPs, DSLs by price and user ratings including factors such as connection reliability and best value for money. Also compare individual packages. If you’re looking for satellite providers, comparison sites that offer DSL, cable, fiber and wireless deals and prices are a good starting point to identify which ISPs have the best combination of speed and price. Also visit their websites for details on packages they’re offering so you can make a thorough comparison for yourself, based on your needs and make an informed decision.

Look at download and upload speeds they offer and provide. Compare services based on similar plans with both download and upload speeds. Other factors to look for are costs and contracts. Some providers require you to rent the modem or buy it yourself, others provide the equipment free of additional cost to you. Some offer free installation while others charge you for the same. Most offer bundle deals with your internet service if you package it with television and phone, often only for a few months. So be sure to compare costs including after the bundle expires as well. Also, some offer multi-year contract, for a higher price, of course, which you might want to avoid. These are some of the factors you may need to consider when comparing services by price.

Another area you might consider comparing are the Terms of Service to make sure you understand service limitations. Check to see if they have data caps every month or restrictions on the kinds of activities you’re allowed to do, such as running a web or file server.

Add-ons and special features are another areas you may want to compare. Many ISPs offer extras that you don’t need to make it seem like you’re getting a great value. A lot of them offer extras such as anti-virus program subscriptions, an ISP-branded email address and personal webpages – features you likely don’t need. One add-on you might find useful, though, is free access to their Wi-Fi hotspot. For example, if you are a Cox Internet subscriber and you’re in a coffee shop or outside in a park near one of Cox’s public Wi-Fi towers, you can access their hotspot anytime. That decision alone might force you to subscribe to their service if you frequently use your laptop on the fly. That’s why you should go for Cox’s Preferred Internet optimized for all your broadband needs like online shopping, banking or downloading music and photos or you can save time and enjoy the power of Essential Internet.

Another consideration is reliability. If your connection isn’t reliable it doesn’t matter if you use any of the above features. What good is it if you can’t use the service when you need to?

Lastly, customer support. If your connection keeps quitting on you or you’re experiencing outages or other problems with your internet is it easy to get support? Does your provider offer phone, email, or chat support on their website? How easy or difficult was/is the installation process? Your satisfaction as a subscriber will spread across several factors, including performance and customer service.


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