How to Choose the Best Internet Provider for You
Most people only have one or two options when it comes to internet providers. Sometimes it is cable versus DSL. Sometimes it is fiber versus satellite. But it is seldom a straightforward choice of good versus bad. And if you are one of the lucky few with three options, the decision can be quite difficult.
Even if you know a lot about the technical details of internet service, it can still be quite difficult to make the right decision. Just look at all the informed decision makers who regret their choice of provider. The other challenge is that it always comes down to a personal decision. No one can choose for you. There is no best provider. There is only a best provider for you. Here are some factors to consider:
Not all services are in all areas. And the service offered by a company in an area may be very different than the service it offers in another. If you don’t live in a highly populated area, the big companies may not be so big where you are. That is why you have to look at high-speed internet by area. National rankings mean nothing. What matters is service in your neck of the woods.
Try not to get caught up with national marketing campaigns. The best provider in the country according to some nameless authority may well provide the worst service to your address. There is something called the last mile. That is an industry term that refers to the hardest part of the country to cover with service. If you happen to be in it, all bets are off. So forget the national campaigns and pay more attention to what works best in your highly localized area.
Need for Speed
How much speed do you need? If it is just you with only a single device to worry about, then any definition of broadband will be sufficient. The FCC provides a list of activities, and the corresponding amount of broadband needed. These numbers are conservative, and represent the minimum. You should inflate those numbers a bit when considering your needs.
But we are usually talking about more than one person in a home, and with a lot more than a single device connected to the internet. Each person might have a data-guzzling smartphone and a laptop or tablet. If you get your entertainment from streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, that has to be factored into the equation.
Everyone might be streaming different shows on different devices. Some of the computers and phones might be downloading and updating software. And all those internet-connected lightbulbs and toasters need some room to work. The general rule of thumb is to get as much bandwidth as you can afford.
You may have enough for your current activities. But if you want to do something new, you might run into limits. So assume that you need a bit more speed than you think you need. Streaming video and games are only getting bigger.
People with a great deal of technical knowledge may not care as much about customer service. After all, they have the ability to take care of themselves. If you can’t troubleshoot and fix problems when things go wrong, you can’t afford to be stuck with the company that offers the worst customer service in the industry.
Even if you end up with the best customer service provider, it will still be helpful for you to learn how to troubleshoot your internet connection when things go wrong. And they will. So if you are a bit of an internet novice, better customer service may be more important than speed, at least until you gain more skills.
The best internet provider for you is the one that works best in your highly localized area, the one that provides you with enough speed for the entire family, and the one that offers the right amount of service you need.