It’s easy to sign up for a bundle of services that includes High Speed Internet, Home Phone, Cable TV and many other features. Although, you may get a discount each time you add a service, a good bundle can quickly climb to over $100. If you’re looking to cut costs, a better value may be getting only the services you need on an individual basis. For Internet, the fastest service does not always provide the best value. To find the best Internet services for the money, you have to determine what you want and get a basic service that fulfills your needs.
There are many national and regional Internet service providers and their services are not available everywhere. Because the areas they serve, their prices and the level of service they offer change continuously, you may want to avoid long-term contracts, if you always want to be sure to get the best deal.
You can often get a free month or reduced rates as a promotion for signing a contract, but you have to evaluate how much you really save to ensure you sign up for the best Internet services at the highest value.
Broadband speed is expensive. Whether you’re on cable, DSL or optical fiber, your ISP charges more for higher speeds, measured in Megabits per second. Unless you have a specific need for very high speeds, such as online gaming or the quick transmission of very large files, the highest Internet speeds are not good value. If you’re only doing email, social networks and ordinary browsing with a few videos, anything around 10 Mbps will be adequate.
Some remote areas get by with broadband running at 3 Mbps and, although you may have to wait for large web pages to download occasionally, the lower cost often makes these slower services a good value. A starting point is to find out how fast your present Internet service is.
How much data you can download without incurring extra charges is an important feature of your Internet service. Some service providers have caps on your bandwidth, after which they charge extra fees. Average Internet use with a 10 Mbps connection rarely exceeds 50 GB, but if you start viewing high-definition movies over the Internet, even 100 GB may not be enough, and you have to look for a more costly, unlimited service. If you check your existing service and find that you’ve only been using a few Gigabytes a month, you can look for a less expensive service with a low cap.
A great way to find good Internet service providers in your area is to check with your neighbors. Internet service can vary from block to block and the quality can be different, depending on your region. Your neighbors can tell you who their Internet service provider is and how satisfied they are. You can then check the provider’s website for their standard rates.
It’s a good idea to call up the providers available in your area and ask for special deals. They often don’t put everything on their websites to avoid competitors matching what they do.
Many ISPs offer services beyond a simple Internet connection. Typical additional features include free email addresses, space on their servers for storage of backup and other files and free website hosting. Most of these services are available for free on the Internet. The disadvantage of using your ISP for these functions is that it locks you in. If you change ISPs, your email address changes, your backup files are no longer accessible and your website goes down.
One service that does add value is free security software. You can use it without worrying about updates or licenses while you stay with the ISP and replace it with free anti-virus software if you decide to change.
You’ll get some idea of how customer-friendly a company is when you call them to ask about their Internet service. How you value the quality of customer service depends on how much trouble you normally have with your computer system. Once you’re set up, Internet service usually runs until something changes or the service goes down. In the latter case, all customer service can do is tell you that they know it’s down, they’re working on it, and it will be back soon.
If you don’t download much, don’t install new software or hardware and keep doing pretty much the same things on the Internet, nothing will change and you won’t need much customer service. If your system changes often, good customer service will be important for you as you need advice on how to fix your settings. The best Internet services for you will be those that give you excellent customer service without costing more.
Searching for the Best Internet Services
Once you know what to look for in terms of speed, bandwidth and customer service, you can start checking websites, speaking with friends and neighbors, and calling service providers. If you consistently want the best value, you may have to change providers frequently and it’s worth keeping notes. There are big differences in cost for Internet service and the rates change often.
Keeping on top of the costs can save you a substantial amount in the long term, even with the best Internet services.
Photo Credit: 401(K) 2012