What Should I Look For in a Good Internet Service Provider?

If your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is getting you down and you are looking to switch providers and are unsure of where to begin, read on below on how to look for a good ISP. We will also give you the difference between fiber optics, broadband, satellite, and cable. Getting a good ISP makes a huge different in your level of happiness as a user of the Internet. Relying on where you are living, you probably have a large number of ISPs to select from or maybe you are stuck with just a couple of options. Whatever the case, here are a couple of guidelines to remember when you are looking or a good ISP and how to compare them with each other.

What do I need to know about the different kinds of ISPs?

First and foremost, it is important to know the difference between the different kinds of ISPs available. “Broadband” is actually a general term that umbrellas all types of always on internet connections. This covers satellite, cable, fiber optic service (FiOS), and DSL. These keep you always connected because they are high speed Internet services. Another alternative is the dial-up. There is still dial-up like AOL dial up and people still pay for this. If dial-up is your only choice, then go with that. Otherwise, if you have the option for broadband, choose that instead. Found below is a summary of the different kinds of broad band connections for all customers.

Digital Subscriber Line or DSL

Digital Subscriber Line, more known as DSL, works over regular telephone lines, like a dial-up. It delivers download speeds to as fast as 25 megabits per second. There are two kinds of DSL, particularly ADSL or Asymmetric DSL and SDSL or Symmetric DSL. ADSL is more affordable and provides much faster download speeds (this is how quickly information goes from your computer to the Internet). On the other hand, SDSL equally offers fast download and upload speeds. This might be significant for you if you are always backing up large files in the cloud or are a VPN user.

The main benefit of DSL is that it is usually more affordable than other broadband choices. You will probably have greater than one DSL provider to select from—this is opposite from a single fiber optic or cable provider. Also, DSL speeds are typically very consistent and stable, because in many instances, you have a dedicated line.

On the other hand, the disadvantage of DSL is that its speed and quality is reliant on distance. The farther you are from the central office or CO of a provider, the less reliable and slower will your connection be. In addition, the speed of DSL, although faster than dial-up, is most likely insufficient for the needs of most users and are not yet as quick as other kinds of broadband.

Cable Broadband

Provided by your cable television provider, cable broadband operates using coaxial cable television wires and offers download speeds from as low as 3 Mbps to more than 100 Mbps.

The benefit of having cable broadband is that the speed and quality of your Internet service does not rely on your distance, unlike DSL. Cable broadband is usually much quicker than satellite and DSL and more accessible, as compared to fiber broadband.

The downside of cable broadband is that your accessible bandwidth is most likely shared with other people in your neighborhood. Hence, if there are more people who utilize the cable broadband all at the same time, your Internet service will be slower. This will really slow down Internet surfing, particularly if you are streaming any videos.


As expected, satellite utilizes satellites to beam Internet feed into the installed satellite dishes of subscribers. It does not matter where you are, satellite provides speeds from 3Mbps to 15 Mbps or more, based on Ars Technica.

The basic advantage of satellite is that it covers places where cable, DSL, and fiber are inaccessible. For people living in rural places, this is the only broadband alternative. On the flipside, satellite is not only more expensive, it is also slower than other broadband choices.

Fiber Optic Service or FiOS

Fiber optic service, also known as FiOS, is the most up to date in the types of internet connectivity and works using an optical network that utilizes light. Interestingly enough, these fiber optic lines are made of pure glass that are as thin as human hair! Currently, AT&T U-verse, Verizon, and Qwest are the main fiber optic providers and give speeds to as high as 65 Mbps up and 300 Mbps down.

The advantage of FiOS is that it provides the highest speed (at the speed of light) as compared to typical copper wire connections like cable or DSL. The downside is that fiber is only for limited areas.

But going beyond the kinds of internet connections, much relies on where you are living. There are some areas wherein DSL might be quicker than cable. However, there may be places where cable can be a better value for you if you want to build incentives. Found next is how to compare ISPs to get a good ISP for you.

What should I look for in a good ISP?

Perhaps the most important characteristic you should look for in an ISP is availability. It will be useless to get Verizon FiOS or Google Fiber if the company does not service your place. Check if a service is available to you by going online and looking for DSL Reports (www.dslreports.com) and entering your zip codes. DSL Reports usually gives you the low down on your broadband choices for your area per category (most affordable broadband, cable providers, residential DSLs by price, top ranking ISPs, and the like) and offers user ratings through factors like value for money and connection reliability.

There are other websites that can support your ISP research. If you want a faster comparison of the most well known and major services, WhiteFence provides a chart that is easy to scan and gives you the ability to compare and contrast individual packages. Also, if you are searching for satellite providers, check out ISPProvidersinMyArea, wherein you can compare a satellite, cable, DSL, and wireless providers.

These comparison websites are a great beginning to quickly finding which ISPs are the best for you in terms of price and speed. You will also have to go to the websites of the particular ISPs to receive the finer details on their packages so you can make a more detailed comparison for yourself, according to your requirements. You have to make sure to take note of:

• Upload and Download Speeds – All of us want the quickest Internet at a price we would like to pay. You have to compare services on an apples to apples scenario, meaning you compare the most alike plans according to upload and download speeds. To get the ISPs that have the quickest download and upload speeds that are tested by users all over the world, check out the Net Index of Speedtest.net. Click the map to zone in your area and scroll to the ISP ranking by speed index (this is available for upload and download speeds, including network quality).

• Contract and Cost – There are some services that need you to buy the modem or rent it; other ISPs offer it to you. Some provide free installation, but others will charge you for a service call. Most ISPs discount your Internet service if it is grouped with phone service and/or television (but this is typically only for a couple of months, so make sure to compare the costs that includes bundle expiration as well). For some, you might be able to avoid a multi-year contract, but this is given at a higher price. These are things you have to consider when you are comparing services by price.

• Service Terms – On the same note, you have to guarantee that you know the service limitations. There can be data ceilings. Case in point, they may limit the amount of data you can utilize each month or restrict the types of activities you are allowed to do, like running a file or web server.

• Special Features and Add-Ons – There are a lot of ISPs that give extras to make you feel like you are receiving a great value. These are items such as an email address that is branded with the ISP, subscriptions to anti-virus programs, and personal web pages. These are extras that you do not really require. Quite a good add-on to consider is Wi-Fi hotspot access that is free. Case in point, if you are a customer of Cablevision and is near any of its public Wi-Fi Towers (in a coffee shop, outside the park), you can connect to it. This might actually impel you to sign up with them if you are always on the go with your laptop.

• Dependability – Definitely, none of these characteristics will matter to you if you cannot make use of the service when you need to. DSL Reports gives you the reviews of your neighbors of your service, which is a great beginning. As previously discussed, you can also utilize the Speedtest.net’s Net Index to receive a ranking of real time ISP quality tests.

• Customer Support – If you find that you have outages or other challenges with your Internet (and this will occur, one way or another), you have to see how easy it is to receive support. Does the ISP provide email, chat, or phone customer support? How easy and convenient is the installation process? The Residential Internet Service Provider Ratings of JD Power takes into account the satisfaction of ISP customers using a couple of factors that include customer service and performance.

These are a couple of considerations to look for when searching for a good ISP. Good luck with your search and ultimately, your choice!