Perhaps you haven’t given much thought to choosing an internet service provider. There are differences, and you should consider which service is best for you.
If you’ve moved recently, or have become frustrated with your internet service provider, you may be thinking about choosing a new company to provide internet access in your home. If you’re wondering what to look for in an internet service provider, start with a few basics: availability, speed, and bandwidth.
In some areas, especially rural areas, you won’t have a lot of choice about your service provider. Broadband internet is still unavailable in many more remote areas. Internet services can come in over:
- Phone lines (Digital Subscriber Line or DSL): here the company provides internet over existing phone lines.
- Cable: many people get their internet service from their cable TV provider.
- Satellite: this may be the only option in rural or remote areas
Some providers are offering speeds of exceeding 100 Mbps (megabits per second), and the newest services use multimode or single fiber optic cabling that can deliver up to 500 Mbps. FiOS (fiber optic service) isn’t available in many places yet, but big telecom companies are rolling it out to more areas as competition accelerates.
Mbps means megabits per second and defines download and upload speed. You may see another measure of speed, MBps, which means megabytes per second. A megabyte is larger—one megabyte equals 8 megabits. Megabytes per second refer to the size of files or the amount of data transferred. If you’re downloading a file, like a PDF or a video, all at once, megabytes define the size of the file. Megabits, however, define the speed at which the file downloads. One megabyte file (8 megabits) downloads in one second at a speed of 8 megabits per second.
Generally speaking, satellite connections are slowest, followed by DSL, then cable, and fiberoptic networks are fastest.
Bandwidth affects speed, but it isn’t exactly the same. Bandwidth refers to how much data the provider’s network can deliver all at the same time. Limited bandwidth is why your speed slows down when everyone in the neighborhood is sharing it at once.
Price and Packaging
When deciding what to look for in an internet service provider, price is often the deciding factor. Even if you don’t have much choice about speed or bandwidth, companies may offer packages or “bundles” of services, like including phone service with internet service at a cheaper overall rate.