Whether you're looking for dial-up, cable, DSL, or satellite, it's easy to compare the costs and features of Internet service providers to find the best company for your needs.
- Compare prices. All companies charge a monthly fee. However, there may be discounts for paying for several months at a time or for setting up automatic payments through your bank account or credit card.
- Compare additional costs. The monthly cost of service is rarely the only price you must pay when signing up for Internet service. Are there any installation or set-up fees? Will you need to buy or rent special equipment to begin your service?
- Compare speeds. Find out the uploading and downloading speeds you can expect. If you spend the majority of your time online chatting and browsing websites, then you don't need lightning-fast speeds. If you like to download music and video, then you'll want a better connection. If you play games online, you'll also want to find out how much lag to expect from your connection; these pauses can quickly ruin your game play.
- Compare reliability. Research the companies' track records. Do they appear to offer consistent service? Ask friends and family members for feedback on Internet service providers they've used, and search for customer commentary online. If you do face service outages, what does the company offer as compensation?
- Compare installation requirements. Will your connection require professional installation or can you simply plug in your modem and start surfing the Internet? What hardware and wiring will be required? Does your location allow for a convenient and stable connection? Having to run cables across your entire house because the best connection point is in the back corner is certainly an inconvenience, and may be enough motivation to go with another Internet service provider.
- Compare contract terms. How long must you commit to the Internet service provider? What are the penalties for leaving before the end of the contract? Is your monthly fee guaranteed for any period of time? You may want to pass over an otherwise favorable company if you don't feel comfortable with the rigidity of its contract terms.
- Compare restrictions. Are there any restrictions on how you may use your Internet service? This can include daily or monthly limits on connection time or bandwidth usage. Are you limited in how many computers you can connect at a time? Keep your projected Internet use in mind when comparing companies. A cheaper price won't be worth it if you're cut off from service halfway through the month.
- Compare incentives. Companies often provide sign-up bonuses to attract new customers. These incentives can include everything from discounted rates to free gift certificates and products from electronics and computer stores. These offers can be a nice bonus when you're already planning to sign up for Internet service. However, don't be swayed by a great deal if the Internet service provider doesn't fit your needs.
Whatever company you choose in the end, you can be assured you'll enjoy quality service with the features you need if you have carefully considered all of the preceding points.