The process of finding the best Internet provider in your area is a time-consuming experience, but the real work becomes easier and more fun when you do a little research. As you may already know, the Internet is one of the best resources available for finding a range of services.
If you don’t have Internet access, try borrowing your neighbor’s computer or visit the library — both options will save you time and won’t cost you anything. It also helps to have some idea of the type of service you’re looking for. If the speed of the connection doesn’t matter, you may want to consider a dial-up connection for a cheaper rate. On the other hand, if you need a fast (or even lightning fast) connection, DSL (direct subscriber line), Cable, or Fiber-Optic providers are your best bets.
Once you do a few searches, you’ll soon discover that big hitters like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and AT&T have become more competitive, and as a result, these companies (and many others), offer better services at lower rates. Some of the smaller, up-and-coming providers like CenturyLink and EarthLink offer some competitive rates as well.
To help you narrow the search and get you started with your new service right away, we’ve narrowed the focus to some important questions:
- Which providers are available in your area?
- How fast is the Internet connection?
- Can you get help when you need it?
- How easy (or difficult) is it to set up?
DSL, Cable, or Fiber-Optics: Which Ones are Available in Your Area?
For the most part, it’s easy to find out which Internet providers are available in your area. If you live in a larger city, you may have already been inundated with TV/radio ads, billboards and flyer from providers touting their services. If you’re tired of all the hype, try spending a little time on your own to research a few reputable companies. You can also enter your street address here to see which services and deals are available in your area.
Cable companies like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and AT&T have been around for a long time, and these companies are well-staffed with trained employees. As mentioned before, they’re also very competitive, and more than willing to offer the best Internet services and rates available. In addition, these companies offer bundled services that include Home Phone, Internet, and Cable TV. You can also choose from the services you want. For example, you can subscribe to Internet/Phone, Internet/Phone/TV, or Internet. Choosing to bundle these services will save you money down the road.
If you live in a metropolitan area, chances are you can choose from many companies that offer Cable, DSL, or even Fiber-Optic options. If you live in a rural area, however, your choices are a little slimmer, but you can still get dial-up, DSL, or satellite in most cases.
Connection Speeds: An Important Factor When Choosing a Provider
Most services tout fast connection speeds in multiples of kilobytes (1,000 bits) or megabits per second (Mbps), however, you must keep in mind that these speeds can vary greatly, depending on the time of day and place. In order to stay competitive with one another, the best Internet providers go out of their way to offer lightning-fast Internet connections. For example, Comcast recently announced its latest and greatest connection of 305 Mbps. Wow! That’s fast.
More recently, smaller providers like CenturyLink and Earthlink offer some fast Internet connections (40+ megabits per second) at some very affordable rates. For example, you can get high-speed DSL from either company for around $15 a month, which is a good deal. EarthLink offers a range of Internet options (dial-up, DSL, broadband and Satellite).
How Good is the Support?
Reliable, helpful, knowledgeable support is critical when it comes to choosing the best Internet provider. Since Internet services rely heavily on software and hardware components, you should be able to get the answers you need quickly if/when something breaks down.
To stay in competition with each other, ISPs across the country typically offer a number of different ways to contact them, such as by email, chat and phone. When you’re shopping for the best provider in your area, you may want to ask a few questions to get a feel for the company’s quality of service. Talk to your neighbors and colleagues to find out what kind of success they have had with their ISP in your area.
How Easy Is It To Set Up?
With most Internet services, installation and setup is fairly simple. For DSL and Cable service, you need a computer, modem, and a connection. Some services allow you to connect your computer and modem to phone jack. If you’re moving into a new place, chances are your new place already has a connection, and it’s just a matter of choosing the best local provider.