It used to be that you had one internet options — slow-speed dial-up, often procured through one of the dozens of free AOL discs that seemed to make it through your front door. These days, choosing your internet plan can be much more difficult. There are different download speeds, different upload speeds, and even different channels available, all of which offer unique advantages and disadvantages. Figuring out which internet package works best for you don’t need to be difficult, though. This quick guide can help you make the decision.
Before you even start thinking about internet speeds and channels, you should know which companies offer service in your area. If you live in a large city, chances are you’ll have several big names to choose from. On the other hand, smaller towns usually only work with one or two providers, and rural areas may leave you with only one choice. Big cities typically can choose service through cable providers or satellite providers and may even have access to fiber optics. Small towns and rural areas typically only receive satellite broadband service, though.
Once you’ve researched the available providers, it’s time to start further research into which services they offer. Specifically, you’ll need to determine how fast you need your internet to be and which companies offer speeds that match your needs. To do this, you must understand bandwidth. Bandwidth is measured in megabits per second. The more you plan to do with your internet service, the higher the amount of bandwidth you need will be. For example, basic internet surfing and social media users about 1Mbps, and online gaming can use up to 3Mbps (depending on the type of game). However, high-definition videos take up to 8Mbps, and if you frequently download large files, you’re looking at 50Mbps or more. Typically, internet providers offer packages categorized by speed.
Of course, pricing is often a consideration when you choose a new internet provider. As a rule, cable providers offer higher and more reliable internet speeds but are also more expensive. Service through a DSL provider is often more affordable but is usually slower. If you live in a rural area that requires satellite service, you’re looking at slower speeds and higher prices. Currently, fiber optic internet is very fast and highly reliable but also very new and not offered in many places. Depending on your location and speed requirements, you may pay as little as $20 per month for service or as much as $100 or more.
As with any business deal, it’s important to read the fine print when signing up for new internet service. There are often hidden fees or other costs associated with the service that you must factor into your overall price. For example, many customers rent their modem and router from their providers, which can tack an extra $10 or $20 per month onto a bill. Some companies put data caps on services and either charge extra or slow service down once you reach that cap.
Don’t forget to think about what happens if you’re switching providers. If you’re currently with AT&T but browsing Frontier internet plans, know that AT&T will charge you up to $180 to leave your contract early. Other providers may even charge more. Be prepared to either switch at the end of your contract or pay a larger upfront fee if you must switch now.
Simply put, choosing your internet service relies on you knowing what you’ll use the service for and on having a good provider in your area. By comparing a few companies and doing just a bit of research first, you can ensure you’re getting the best deal for your money.