One of the most common questions we are asked is how to choose the best internet service provider (ISP). Most have confusing contracts, endless package choices filled with fine print. This makes picking the right one complicated and unnerving. However, we broke it down easily for you to choose the best ISP for your budget and needs.
Types of Home Internet Services
It is important to first know the speeds needed to stream videos. Use Netflix’s guidelines as the gold standard of streaming.
- 0.5 Megabits per second – Required broadband connection speed
- 1.5 Megabits per second – Recommended broadband connection speed
- 3.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for DVD quality
- 5.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for HD quality
- 7.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for Super HD quality
For most homes, have a 5 Megabits (Mbps) connection will be enough. However, if many people are streaming videos or using Zoom, then you may need more. You can get a speed recommendation using our bandwidth calculator. These are the most common types of home internet services, however, they are no available in every area.
DSL uses an existing telephone line to deliver internet service to your home. Speeds range from 25 Mbps to 100 Mbps in some areas. However, the biggest negative of DSL is it is based on distance. The further from the ISP, the slower the service.
Cable internet uses a cable to provide interest services. Speeds often are faster than DSL ranging above 100 Mbps. However, the neighborhood shares the cable service, so the internet can slow down tremendously during busy times.
Satellite is a common option for rural areas. It requires a dish installed onto your house to provide high-speed internet access without using a phone or cable line. However, it is expensive since there has to be an orbiting satellite to use the service. Therefore, this takes a great deal of time and planning to set up, which ends up being paid by the customer.
Also, weather conditions directly impact satellite internet. Since the signal pings off a satellite orbiting the earth, storms in another state could disrupt your service. Then, there are data caps. Using too much data will result in penalties from your service provider. This usually results in over-usage charges or speed restricting known as throttling. If anyone at home frequently watches online videos, this quickly eats up data limits. Watching videos could be difficult due to the considerable lag since the satellite is far away, which is bad news for gamers
Fixed wireless internet uses a receiver installed on your house, however, it doesn’t communicate with a satellite. Instead, this receiver communicates with a nearby wireless base station, which is normally affixed to locations like cell towers. Then, your house receives high-speed internet via a cable carrying the broadband signal from the receiver to the router in your house.
Unlike satellite internet, it is much quicker and easier to set up since there isn’t any need to plan for a satellite or even cables to bury. Plus, there are no caps with lightning-fast download speeds, which aren’t affected by the weather. Usually, the nearby wireless base station is within 10 miles of a customer’s home. Therefore, the clouds above it and storms miles away won’t affect the signal transmission.
Availability in Your Area
Now that you know the different types that are available, the next obvious question is “What can I get at my house?” A simple Google search with your zip code will show a large number of ISPs in your area. Plus, Google has reviews right there for you to read. Don’t forget to crowdsource family and friends on their ISP. Ask about speed, data caps and additional costs. Most companies are all about what speed they offer. However, it is hard to tell the exact speed at your house. Ask about data caps. Is there a certain Mbps limit before they throttle you? Do you need to rent a router? Is the price just an introductory deal? Can you save money by bundling multiple products? Call the company and see how their customer service is.
Also, before switching check if you are currently under a service agreement and what the terms are. The last thing you want to do is pay hundreds in early termination fees. Good luck in your decision making. We hope we helped make it a bit easier for you learning how to choose an internet provider.