Once you determine you're going to get a high-speed connection to the Internet, the choices are more than a little overwhelming. Your decision to leave dial-up was straightforward, but now you've unearthed a treasure trove of speeds, deals and incentives. Here is how to evaluate which service is best for you.
First, understand there are really three different types of services you'll be investigating: providers of high-speed Internet service include companies that provide satellite, phone (in the form of Digital Subscriber Line or DSL) and cable services. Second, realize that some of the information overload here results from the fact that just because you have cable TV doesn't mean you have to go with the cable company's high-speed Internet offerings; likewise, many phone companies also offer various options. You can generally mix and match. However, if you have cable television, you won't be selecting satellite service, and vice versa. But you could select the phone company's service regardless of your television setup. Third, and finally, know your budget and get a grasp of what each service includes. Remember, too, price isn't the only factor.
Overall, there are a number of factors to consider when purchasing a high-speed Internet provider
Availability. In many markets, there are still limited offerings. You may not have much of a choice depending on where you live. If you have options, the next step is to check out the plans each provider offers. Digital Landing is a great place to start.
Buy what you need. Go into this decision knowing what you need - don't settle for less but don't buy what you do not need. Few people actually need the top speeds offered, but do note both download and upload speeds. If you're a shutterbug you'll need and want faster upload times.
Check out the bundles of multiple services. Once you know how fast a connection you'll want to purchase, investigate the bundles offered. It may make sense to get a digital voice phone deal, or perhaps the phone company offers an unlimited calling plan that is more reasonably priced.
How satisfied are your neighbors with their service? Finally, investigate the company's reputation. Are customers generally happy? Try to find a customer satisfaction surveys. Customer care can be particularly important if you're planning on installing equipment yourself. And there's no better time to find out how providers treat their customers than before you become one.
Certain sparsely populated areas of the country have limited choices for Internet connection. Some remote locales have no cable television because it's far too costly to run cable. So, the choice for high-speed Internet in those areas is between the phone company and the satellite provider(s). DSL, too, is not available everywhere. Ironically, many areas that are mountainous only offer satellite because they are so remote and sparsely populated, although mountains can block your signal if the receiver (dish) is not correctly positioned. In areas that do offer cable, some people choose satellite TV mainly for the diversity of programming (you can just about watch anything at any time). When there is a choice, however, bear in mind that satellite connections are affected by cloud cover, weather and geography
Your phone company may offer up to two different high-speed Internet technologies, called DSL and fiber optic service or FIOS. You can get a DSL hookup for about what you pay for dial-up service. The good thing about DSL is that you can install it anywhere in your home where you have a phone jack.
However, because DSL runs along phone lines (though it does not interfere with your making phone calls, as dial-up does), it is slower than cable.
Fiber optics (FIOS)
The phony companies also offer services over fiber optic cable, called FIOS by Verizon. The FIOS service, if available, is the fastest service, but it is also more expensive than DSL. You have to replace the copper wiring connection from your home to the street with fiber optics. It is only available in a limited number of areas.
Cable companies seemingly invented the triple-play concept. Prices vary widely from area to area. Frequently promotional rates start as low as the $19.99 per month deal currently offered by Comcast. But those increase -- often doubling--after the introductory period ends. Be sure to understand how long your contract is and for how long the promotion is in effect. Also, some rates are for new customers only; if you have cable TV with the company already you may not be considered "new." Further, you may have to agree to install the cable modem yourself for the low rate. Like the phone companies, email and storage are provided with the service; in general, they are simply benefits of joining and are unlikely to make or break a deal.
Theoretically, cable is faster than DSL. In fact, the Optimum Online service offered through Cablevision boasts download speeds of 15 Mbps - five times faster than a fast DSL connection. So why say "theoretically" faster? Because cable slows down when many people in a neighborhood are online at once; DSL offers consistency
The good news is that cable companies are currently working with new technologies to resolve the issue of slow downs due to heavy usage. If you already have cable TV, many cable providers will offer discounted packages or 'bundles' combining your TV, Internet and even your telephone service to encourage you to utilize them for combined services. This means paying just one bill for all of those services and calling just one company for help when any of those things go wrong.
A final word on speed
Your high-speed Internet service provider may offer a variety of speeds at different price points. Which speed is right for you will vary depending upon your usage and your expectations.
The good news is no additional equipment or changes to your computer are necessary to upgrade your speed (if offered) from your provider. A simple phone call is all it takes and the change to your service (and your bill) typically takes affect within 24 hours.