How to choose the best internet service providers

By:    Updated: February 8,2017

Once you have determined what services are available to you, you need to decide what type of internet connection will satisfy your needs. If you have a landline telephone and only need the internet for checking email and other simple tasks, a dial-up service will work for you. If you have a landline telephone and use the internet primarily for checking email, reading articles or light research, a DSL service should satisfy your needs. However, if you are a moderate to heavy internet user and use it for gaming, watching movies or streaming music, you will want to look for a good cable or fiber optic service. Keep in mind that dial-up is typically one of the cheapest internet services you can buy.

 

Comparing internet service providers is a difficult task. Most urban areas only offer a few high-speed choices, while rural areas often only have DSL, satellite or dial-up options.To filter out the marketing hype and contentious criticism, we narrowed our focus to answer three simple questions: How fast is the connection? Where is it available? Can I get help if I need it?

Connection Speed

Most home internet services tout fast speeds, or report speeds in multiples of standard dial-up speed or even in potential kilobits per second (Kbps) or megabits per second (Mbps). However, reported speeds do not always match average performance speed; speeds vary greatly depending on the time of day and even your location. The posted speed is only the potential speed, not the actual average performance speed. We rated highest the services that can provide high-speed options such as cable or fiber optic connections coupled with good third-party tested speeds. The companies that offer dial-up rated higher if that company also provides faster DSL services.

 

This criterion may include Download Speed, Upload Speed, ...

Service Area

When looking at an ISP, check the number of subscribers that company has as an indication of the company's longevity and potential to expand the existing infrastructure. Most urban areas have high-speed options such as cable or fiber optics available. Rural areas usually have a few dial-up, satellite or DSL choices. We made note of approximately how many access numbers are available for dial-up in rural areas; the more access numbers available, the better chance a customer has of securing a dial-up connection quickly and consistently.

Additional Features

It is helpful if the provider can supply security software that is always up-to-date, as well as parental controls. A few of the large providers offer low-income internet solutions for families with young students, veterans and the elderly.

 

This criterion may include Internet security software or service, Parental Controls, Low-Income Option, ...

Help and Support

Fast, helpful, knowledgeable support is critical. Look for services that provide numerous avenues of contact such as by phone, email and chat. Check to see if the company provides convenient tools such as online support documentation in regards to billing and service, and note if the company provides an easy-to-use online bill pay option.

This criterion may include Online Documentation, Online Bill Pay, Local Repair Services, ...

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