Buying Internet: A Complete Guide to Choosing the Right Provider

Did your patience for your current internet provider finally run out? Are you looking to switch providers but do not know where and how to find the right one? 

As people choose to stay and do their business at home because of the pandemic, having the best possible internet service is paramount. Unfortunately, 21 million people in the United States do not enjoy high-speed internet. 

Furthermore, COVID-19 pandemic is causing a surge in online traffic. This led to the slowing down of video streams and download speeds.

But buying internet is not as simple as getting items in the grocery store. Though there are many internet providers out there, choosing an internet provider involves several considerations. 

Continue reading below for a comprehensive guide in choosing the right internet provider.

The Speed that You Need

The first thing you need to do when buying internet is determine the speed you need. When talking about internet speed, it is better to use the term “bandwidth.” Bandwidth is what we use to measure the maximum rate you can download data from the internet to your computer or device.

The equation is quite simple when choosing the right bandwidth. The more activities that need data, the more bandwidth of megabits per second (Mbps) you need. 

Let’s take a look at some examples. If you only need the internet for your emails, social media, and general web surfing, 1 Mbps will suffice. But if you are also heavy in gaming, bump it up to 3 Mbps.

If you are working at home and you need to do video conferencing, 1 to 4 Mbps should be enough. Moreover, you need at least 1 Mbps of upload speed to ensure the quality of your video conferencing. 

In case your business requires you to stream standard-definition videos, you need at least 3 to 4 Mbps of bandwidth. Meanwhile, high-definition video streaming requires at least 5 to 8 Mbps.

But if your business requires you to download large files, you will need a bandwidth of at least 50 Mbps. 

Other key considerations are the number of people who stream and download in your home or office. The number of smart home devices that will connect to your internet directly affects your bandwidth.

What’s Available in Your Area?

After determining the speed that you need, your next step is to find out what is available in your area. One of the hard truths is that not every internet service provider is available in all areas. The coverage areas differ from one provider to another.

This means the only choices that you will have are the ones offering services in your area. Even if you wish to go for the best internet provider today, you may not be able to do so if the provider doesn’t offer any services in your vicinity, to begin with.

Also, the location affects the speed, prices, and packages of internet providers. Even if you see a special offer in an online ad, you need to verify first if that is available in your area.

Thankfully, there are online resources that can help point you to the internet providers available in your area. Check out InMyArea and see the available internet providers in your location. 

If you live or work in the metro area, you will have more options compared to those coming from rural locations. You may have the option to secure internet service through your phone company.

You may also do the same via a cable provider or satellite company. And if you’re lucky enough, you may find a provider for fiber optic internet. This is the fastest internet connection you will find today.

Consult with Your Network

After checking the available providers in your area, consult with your network. And by “network,” we mean your closest friends, colleagues, and relatives.

Ask them what internet provider they are using at home. Ask for their opinion regarding the quality of service they are receiving. Are they satisfied with their current internet speed? 

What can they say about the customer service? Do they receive immediate action from the provider? Your goal for consulting your network is to determine if they will recommend their current provider or not.

Create a Shortlist When Buying Internet

Since you are upgrading to a faster provider, it is a must that you limit your options to the best ones. High-speed internet providers like Shentel may not be as cheap as your old DSL connection. However, such a provider will give you a bang for the buck.

Create a shortlist of the best available internet providers in your area. The first thing you need to compare each provider is your current internet provider.

Test your current connection against your new options. How does it fare? Test your current connection’s actual speed vs what the other providers are offering. 

This is the first test and minimum requirement for making your shortlist.

Next, read plenty of online reviews to get an idea of how customers feel regarding their services.

The key is to visit their respective websites and social media accounts. Go through the customer feedback and take note of what their clients are saying. List the positive aspects that their customers are raving about.

Also, take note of the negative comments they receive. List the complaints from their customers. See if and how they responded to these concerns.

Did they respond promptly? Did they provide the appropriate resolution? From there, match their strengths to your specific needs and requirements.

The Pros and Cons: Making Comparisons

After finalizing your shortlist, you can start comparing the pros and cons of each provider. Start with the plans and pricing they are offering. 

You will see many internet providers offering all sorts of plans and bundles. The most common bundles include internet and phone connections. Others offer internet plus television service. 

These bundles can easily confuse most consumers. Hence, you want to make sure that you are getting the bundle with features that you will be able to maximize. 

If you’re eyeing an internet-phone bundle, ask yourself first if you need a landline. Do you need a whole cable package or can you live with just steaming television via the internet?

Another aspect to look into is the promos. One of the most popular offerings of internet providers is a lower monthly rate for first-time subscribers. For example, instead of paying $60 a month for internet service, the provider will offer a $40 promo every month for the first year of your subscription.

Of course, you need to compare the internet speed they are offering. The internet type that you choose plays a big role in the speed that you will get.

DSL uses the telephone line to bring data to your computer. You can find plans that offer up to 25 Mbps. The cable can give as much as 100 Mbps. However, fiber-optic internet can give you speeds of up to 500 Mbps.

This depends on your location. As we mentioned earlier, fiber-optic internet is not yet available in all cities.

Finalizing Your Decision

As you finalize your decision, don’t forget to negotiate for a better offer. This may not work all the time but you may pull off something better than the first offer. Some first-time customers receive promotional rates or faster internet speeds through negotiations.

But whether you receive a better deal or not, make sure to compare all the pros and cons before deciding. You want to sign with a provider that meets your requirements, as well as your standards.

Tips for Boosting Internet Speed

As a bonus, there are tips and tricks that can help boost your internet speed further. First, scan your computer and other devices for viruses. Viruses can cause your computer to slow down.

They enter your computer system and eat up your resources, slowing down your speed. 

If you’re using a DSL internet, make sure to check your filters. These filters are the small plugs that connect your internet through a phone line. Check if the filters are clean and free of any damages.

If you’re using an old router or modem, then perhaps it is time to replace it with a new one. A bad modem is one of the main culprits for slow internet. 

Also, make sure that you are using the right modem for your current internet plan.

If you’re using DLS, make sure to replace old cables with new ones. Moreover, go for shorter phone cables instead of long ones. Cable length may affect internet speeds.

Last but least, update your software and firmware regularly. And this doesn’t only cover your computer’s software but also your modem’s.

Continue to Increase Your Computer Knowledge

Now that you know the essentials in buying internet, you can limit your choices to the best ones and find the provider that will meet your specific requirements. But improving internet speed is only one of the many things you should learn as a computer user.

Increase your computer knowledge by checking our other blog posts. We discuss topics that will help you maximize the way you use your computer and other devices.