How to choose an internet service that matches your needs

Mom and Daughter on computer

Everyone’s internet needs are different, and between the many activities that require an internet connection, it is important for you to select the right internet service provider(ISP) for you.  Whether you are starting service for the first time, switching to a new ISP, or simply making changes to an existing service, you may be asking “What internet do I need?”

If you want to learn how to choose an internet service that matches your needs, we’ll guide you through the process in this review. 

Finding the perfect internet provider

1. Local availability

Internet service providers do not serve all areas. You don’t want to spend time researching an ISP that doesn’t offer service in your area, so when you first begin your search, confirm which ISPs have local availability where you live. Many providers make it easy for customers to determine service availability by allowing them to enter their address or zip code on their website. 

As you search for providers in your area, keep in mind that you will find different internet connections as an option depending on the provider and where you live. Your options can include cable, fiber-optic, and DSL internet. And once you determine your options, you can then move forward with comparing your choices and making a selection. 

2. Selecting the right plan 

As you start to review the plans available in your area and narrow down your choices, you’ll want to focus on certain factors to help you make the right decision. Regardless of the ISP you are considering, you’ll be looking at the same factors when making your selection: 

  • Type of use
  • Internet speed and reliability
  • Data caps
  • Cost

3. Equipment, fees, and contracts

Additional considerations when choosing an internet service that matches your needs include equipment, fees, and contract. 

  • Equipment: Modems, wireless routers, and cables. 
  • Fees: Equipment fees, late fees, and early termination fees
  • Contract: Contracts require customers to use the same provider for a specified time. 

Not all ISPs require customers to enter a contract in order to receive service, but you’ll want to confirm when you choose a provider because if you select an ISP and decide you want to switch after having service for a month or so, you may have to pay an early termination fee. 

4. More on speed

As mentioned above, your internet speed and reliability are important factors to consider when selecting an ISP. You may find varying speeds based on the ISP, but which speed is right for you? To answer that question, you need to know the details of your usage. 

For example, if you want to do light web surfing and emailing, AT&T recommends a lower speed of 0.8Mbps.  However, if you are interested in surfing the web, social networking and a bit of entertainment such as streaming TV shows and movies on Disney+ or Hulu and listening to music, a higher speed of 5Mbps is recommended. You’ll also have to take into account how many people will be accessing Wi-Fi as well as how many devices are going to be in use. 

Not sure of your current speed? We recommend checking an internet speed test to help you get a better idea of what you need. 

5. If you’re moving to a new provider 

Moving to a new provider can cost you, especially if you are in a contract or service agreement. In this case, you may have to pay an early termination fee.  Not every ISP requires contracts, but it wouldn’t hurt to double-check before you switch.  Keep in mind that when you leave one provider and go to another, you need to review the equipment return policy and return your equipment if you want to avoid a fee. 

Although switching providers may cost you, if you do find yourself with a new provider, you will have access to promotional/introductory pricing as a new customer. As with all new customers, your promotional/introductory pricing will only be available for a certain period of time. For example, the internet package you select through a provider may regularly be $79.99, but as a new customer, your price will be $59.99 for 12 months. Once the 12 months has passed, you will be billed the regular monthly price of $79.99.

6. Cable Vs Fiber Optic Vs DSL

Internet service providers offer different types of internet service, and in order to determine which option is best for your needs, you’ll want to know the difference between cable, fiber-optic, and DSL internet. Depending on the type of internet connection, customers can experience a more reliable connection, faster speeds, and low, affordable pricing. Additionally, availability of these connections can differ based on the ISPs offering service in your area. 

  • Cable internet: Signals are received by the modem and converted into internet. With the aid of a coaxial cable, higher bandwidths are supported, making cable internet  faster than DSL and more affordable than fiber-optic. 
  • Fiber-optic internet: Data is transferred as light signals through cables made of plastic fibers or glass. The fiber-optic internet connection supports speeds that are faster and more reliable than what is offered by most cable and DSL internet connections. 
  • DSL internet: Digital data is transmitted and converted into internet service using telephone lines that are connected to a modem. The Digital Subscriber Line internet connection is reliable and less expensive than fiber-optic and cable connections, but slower speeds may be experienced.   

The final cut

The internet has become a necessity to many people whether they need it for work, entertainment, or both. Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to choose an internet service provider that matches their needs. If you stick to looking at the most important factors, including type of internet connection, cost, internet speed, and fees, you will be on the right track to finding an ISP that works for you.

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