Tips For Choosing an Internet Service Provider

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Whether it's because you've moved or you're just looking for a better deal or service, choosing a new internet service provider isn't always easy, even when the choices are limited. Here's how to make an informed decision balancing speed, cost, and reliability...

If you're totally clueless about the difference between DSL, fiber, and cable, and have no idea what Mbps means, this Simple Dollar article offers an informative primer about all things broadband.

One of the first things you'll realize is how much geographic location affects service and options. Though service providers are often limited in urban areas, they're even fewer for our rural friends. I found this guide lays it all out, and it's very friendly even to the non-tech-savvy among us.

Among all the other hard-data research you should do when choosing an ISP (or any utility service), researching about the quality of service specific to your area is essential, as this article lays out. Yelp can be a great place to read reviews on an ISP's service in your area, especially if you're new to town and don't know as many people to rely on for advice. Take reviews with a grain of salt though: most people will take the time to write a negative review, but happy customers are usually a bit quieter. Look at overall ratings and the volume of reviews when making comparisons.

If you know your neighbors, it's even more useful to hear their opinions about local ISP services. One person could rave about a service provider's speeds, while another may note there's regular downtime affecting the service. The more localized the feedback/reviews, the better for assessing cost vs. features.

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Another recommendation not mentioned is using Broadband DSLReports.com ISP speed search option (above); searches by zipcode will bring back summaries of plusses and minuses of all local ISPs servicing your area, alongside search by prices for easier side-by-side comparison.

To test your current connection for comparison with other local, national, and international providers, Net Index by Ookla shows various data, while their Speedtest page will bring back the figures specific to your current service as a base comparison figure to improve upon (and don't forget to check for reliability scores, which in the long term prove just as important as sustained speeds).

The Simple Dollar strongly advises going local when you choose an ISP (alongside choosing DSL and fiber service over cable, surprisingly), if at all possible. Depending on where you live, this can be a great idea, but the benefits of going with a larger national company with a larger staff and network shouldn't be undersold either.

What have your experiences with local internet service providers been like? Any recommendations or advice you'd add to this post?

(Image: anawat sudchanham/Shutterstock; DSLReports.com)

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