While using the internet is great, setting it up can be overwhelming. Packages, bundles, contracts, and speeds can all blur together after a while.
If you’re looking for an internet service provider (ISP), you may be wondering where to start. If you prepare beforehand and then take your time, the good news is that the process is quite manageable. Here is a step-by-step breakdown of how to choose between different internet options.
When searching for a good internet connection, it’s tempting to start shopping for internet service providers. And make no mistake, this is an important part of the process. Before you get there, though, it’s wise to begin by assessing your current needs. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How many people use the internet in your house?
- Do you have a lot of smart home devices?
- Do you work from home?
- Do you stream a lot of tv shows and movies?
- Do you play online games or download huge files?
- Do you stream media in a high resolution?
As you get a feel for what you’re doing, identify how much speed each activity takes. For instance, a video call might need 3-5 Mbps (megabytes per second), whereas streaming a 4K movie needs more like 25 Mbps.
Next up, take some time to round out your internet terminology. The three most important terms worth understanding are:
- Upload speed: The speed at which your devices can send data from your devices up into the cloud.
- Download speed: The speed at which your devices can bring data into your house from the internet.
- Modem: A device that translates incoming data into a format that is viewable on your media devices.
As you prepare to choose your internet, make sure you’re at least somewhat comfortable with the words that you’ll be using.
Now that you’re prepared, it’s time to gather that list of internet providers in your area. Many tools can search this information for you by using your zip code or some other geographically-based identifier.
Look up each company on the Better Business Bureau. Drop by their Google My Business Listing. Pop onto their social media profiles. Once you have your list, it’s worth taking a few minutes to review each option.
The goal should be to see what customers are saying about each company. Do they have good customer service? Is their internet dependable? What are people saying about their prices? As with many businesses in similar industries, you’ll find plenty of negative reviews. Don’t let a bad word from a past customer be your only deciding factor. Still, reviews and ratings are a great way to gauge how good or bad the company’s reputation and services are.
Next up, take your list of the ISPs you want to consider and review their product offerings. As you do so, you want to:
- Identify the speed that you need: Which plan or tier of service that the ISP offers fits your needs?
- Look for fees: This could include data caps, overage fees, and even a charge to “rent” a modem.
- Note if there is a contract involved: Some ISPs require you to agree to stay with their service for a certain length of time if you want to pay a lower price.
- Consider installation requirements: Do you need to set up coaxial cables, a modem, a router, etc.? What elements of the installation will the company do for you?
This process can take a few minutes, especially if you have several options. Try to make notes as you go not to lose track of everything in your head.
Once you’ve gathered your list of ISPs, considered their customer reviews, and compared their services, it’s time to make a decision. If you’re lucky, a clear top contender emerged throughout this decision-making process. However, you may find that there are still many different ISPs with very similar product offerings.
If that’s the case, you may want to see if either one is running a promotion. Many internet service providers will offer incentives for first-time sign-ups. If that’s the case, you can see which ISP has the better promotion at the moment.
You may even want to call each one or chat with a rep online. Tell them that you’re deciding which ISP to go with and see what deals they can offer you.
Once you’ve chosen your internet, the next step is installation. If the company does this, it will require minimal work from you. If it’s up to you to do part of the process, they will still likely provide you with detailed steps on how to set up your at-home internet.
Once your internet is up and running, you’ve finished the hardest part. However, there are a couple more things worth checking.
First, run a quick speed test after the installation is complete. This can help you ensure that you’re getting the right upload and download speed. If you aren’t, call the company to see if it’s on their end (they’ll be able to check over the phone). If it’s on your end, you may need to upgrade your home equipment, which leads to the second follow-up.
While the ISP may provide a modem, chances are you will need to buy a router to provide your house with the internet. If you already have one and want a better signal, there are multiple ways to boost it.
Choosing an internet provider can feel scary at first. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. If you assess your needs and consider your local provider options, you can choose the service that makes the most sense for your household with minimal difficulty.