While internet access has become essential for most homeowners, there is definitely a knowledge gap that can expose them to overpriced services. Indeed, most local internet service providers (ISP’s) offer a standard service that is adequate enough for many families, but just because customers “stumble upon” a package that works doesn’t mean they are getting the best deal.
If you’ve ever been frustrated by the performance of your internet service, or if you have any interest in knowing what the heck you are paying for, then you’ll want to pay attention here. It turns out that ISP satisfaction and performance are not always obvious to the consumer.
Measuring Your MBPS
The key measurement for comparing internet service providers is megabits per second. This number tells you how fast your connection will allow you to upload and download files. Every email, file and web page you view online must first be downloaded into your internet browser. So in short, the higher your mbps the faster your computer processes the information you want.
A common ploy ISP’s use to confuse customers is presenting their connection speeds in tiers. Often times you’ll see a basic, standard and premium service plan, each with a different rate of mbps. Customers can be misled by reading that the highest tier provides more mbps, but keep in mind that this is all relative to the network’s capabilities. While one company’s “premium plan” may well give you 5x the speed of their “basic plan” it won’t make much difference if the baseline itself is low.
For example, would you rather have 5x a baseline rate of 2 mbps, or 5x a baseline of 20 mbps? This is why you need to compare connection speed between providers instead of packages. The difference can be significant, especially when you begin to compare broadband service to DSL.
Home Networking Needs
Another often-overlooked essential for home internet is wireless connectivity. Every internet connection has the potential to be transmitted wirelessly when used with a wireless router. But once again, speed plays a role into how well your wireless network will perform. Data transfer rates lose a percentage of their power when transmitted through the air. If you have a slower connection to begin with, then you can expect your wireless network to run even slower.
Local ISP’s typically provide and install all the equipment required to setup a wireless connection in your home. This ultimately saves you money and eliminates the hassle of having to configure everything yourself. Wireless modems and routers are also quite sensitive to power surges, and it is not uncommon for homes in stormy locations to go through one or more of these devices each year. At $35 to $100 for new units, you will appreciate the “free hardware” that comes standard with many local internet services.
Connection speed and wireless access are the two most essential components for home internet use. Other elements to compare before you buy include the availability of support, uptime guarantees, and of course price. Generally speaking though, if you get a good connection speed and professional installation, then the other things usually fall into place. It is the low price providers that try to fool customers by advertising their “best packages” that in reality, are not much better than the old dial-up services.
Elliot Sanders is a freelance writer and technology bargain hunter.