Five Questions to Ask When Choosing an Internet Service Provider

8 min read

Choosing an internet service provider can be tricky business, especially if you are not the most tech savvy person. In fact, it can be difficult for even the most tech savvy among us. There are several things that you should find out before committing to a single internet service provider. Before you do that, however, it is necessary to decide how you would like to receive internet in your home. For many people, DSL will be acceptable. Others prefer to have cable based internet. There is even the possibility of satellite based service. In some areas, fiber optic networks are possible. Once you have decided which one or two of those methods you would prefer, you need to figure out which internet service providers, or ISPs, offer your desired choice and look for the best one. With your short list in hand, it is time to ask each of these ISPs a series of questions before finally deciding on a provider so that you can find the best satellite provider – or whichever type of service you should decide to go with.

What Speeds are Available?

This is a question you likely will not even have to ask. Every ISP likes to brag about the speeds they have available. It is important to consider what sort of activity you will be doing online. If you only use email and simple websites without video streaming (no longer common) you likely need 1Mbps download speed or less. More likely, you will be watching at least a few videos online once in awhile. For video streaming, the recommended minimum speed is 1.5Mbps. At this speed, you will not get super high quality videos, but they will be visible. For higher quality videos, aim for between 3Mbps and 7Mbps. Playing online games also requires a beefy internet connection.

On the other hand, for most people, upload speed will not matter. If you plan on uploading data-heavy media to the internet, however, you will want to keep it in mind.

How Far am I From the Central Office?

The advertised download speed is not an exact representation of what you will receive at home. Generally speaking, the further away from your ISP’s central office you are, the further from the advertised speed you will be.

Is There a Data Cap on Your Service?

Data caps used to be unheard of, but they have become quite ubiquitous. A data cap limits the amount of data you can access online in a given month. If you intend to use the internet for any sort of video streaming, this is a huge inconvenience, as videos, even short ones, can eat through data at a surprising rate. If you can avoid receiving service from an ISP that caps their data, do so at all costs. There is nothing worse than being throttled, or worse, completely cut off halfway through the month.

What Bundles are Available?

You may think it is crazy that a telecom company might charge more for internet and cable without telephone service than they do for all three. You are certainly not wrong, but it is a fairly widespread practice. For this, and a few other reasons, it is important to inquire about what the prices of bundled services are. If you are already a customer with a telecom company, you may want to ask them how much it would cost to add internet to your current service. Make sure to find out the prices of bundles with each different possible combination: just internet, internet and cable, and cable, telephone, and internet. You should also do some research about individual pricing policies, as sometimes, unbundled services are, for some unknown reason, cheaper.

Are There Any Hidden Fees?

This just may be the most important question of all. Hidden fees can take a seemingly value-priced ISP and make their service more expensive than what had previously seemed like the most expensive ISP. Hidden fees are generally extremely well hidden, so you will need to question the representative thoroughly that you are speaking with. Hidden fees often present themselves as modem rental costs and email addresses. Additionally, don’t fall for their scam of trying to sell you additional software for your computer. The price of the software is almost always lower when purchased from a retailer. Make sure to get a written statement of estimated cost before signing up with the ISP that you have chosen.

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