Each week I receive a lot of questions for the reader mailbag. Over time you start to notice patterns in the questions being asked. People ask for advice about buying a product or internet providers service. How can I compare these products or services? How can I decide which is the best or best value for money? How can I get discounts?
These questions will be answered by launching a semi-regular series called “ultimate guide” that covers various products. These guides are designed to help you understand the details of purchasing a product or service. Because there are many products that work well for different people, I don’t usually make recommendations to internet providers about a particular product. Instead, I will show you how you can find the best price on a product.
These articles will largely be based on my buying decisions. If I am thinking about a service or product, I will research it and make my own buying decisions.
These articles will be posted on Monday afternoons, whether it is weekly or every other weeks. I hope that you find as much value from them as I did doing the research.
This is the first in a series. (Well, it’s the second if I count my Ultimate Amazon Guide from a few months ago). It will focus on internet service providers. It’s possible that you are using this provider if you’re sitting at home reading The Simple Dollar.
Are they offering a great deal on internet service? Are they charging too much for the service I get? Are they really charging me too much for a faster speed? What can I do to get a better deal? Let’s get to it!
What types of home internet providers services are available?
People can access a variety of internet providers services from their homes. There are many services available in different locations.
Before we start, however, I want you to be aware of the term “broadband”. Broadband can be used to refer to all these types of internet access. Broadband is generally defined as anything faster than a dialup internet connection. Dial-up connections are not covered in this article, as they have fallen into disuse in America due to their slow data speeds.
Another term I want you to know is “Mbps”. Mbps stands for Megabits per second and is the most common way of comparing speeds between service internet providers. 2Mbps is sufficient for most home internet-surfing tasks. You will need something faster if you are watching a lot of internet video. Netflix’s guidelines are my guideline for judging how fast video internet providers need to deliver their content.
- Needed broadband connection speed: 0.5 Megabits per Second
- 1.5 Megabits per Second – The recommended broadband connection speed
- 3.0 Megabits per Second – Recommended for DVD quality
- HD Quality: Recommendation: 5.0 Megabits per Second
- Super HD quality – Recommended at 7.0 Megabits per Second
- A 5 Mbps connection is sufficient for most homes. You might want to add more if you plan to stream multiple videos simultaneously.
- What types of these are available? (Remember that not all types are available in every area.
DSL stands for Digital Subscriber: Line. It is delivered to your home via your existing telephone line. DSL is generally the cheapest type of broadband internet that you can get to your house. DSL connections can be used at speeds of up to 25Mbps. However, newer phone services that can reach 100 Mbps are being offered. DSL service has one major drawback: it is entirely dependent on distance. As a rule of thumb, the further you are away from the service provider the slower your service will be.
If your town has DSL service, I would recommend it to you.
Your cable provider delivers cable internet to your home. Cable internet speeds are often higher than DSL and can reach speeds of up to 100 Mbps. Cable service has one major drawback: it’s shared with neighbors, so it can be slower in busy times. This is not the case with DSL.
Cable can be a great deal if you use the internet mainly during off-peak hours (i.e., not in the evenings in most places), If you plan to use the internet mostly in the evenings, I would recommend that you avoid it.
Satellite internet is delivered directly to your home by a satellite provider. Satellite internet is slower than the others, usually staying below 20 Mbps. Satellite service can sometimes have short hiccups, but they are rarely noticeable. It can take Netflix movies a while to get started, but once it does, it’s generally pretty stable.
Satellite is the best option for broadband service if you live in rural areas
FiOS, or fiber-optic internet, is now available in certain areas. It is rapidly expanding. Fiber-optic service works in the same way as DSL, but can provide speeds up to 500Mbps in certain areas. Technology is improving all the time. For similar speed or better, prices for fiber-optic service are comparable to DSL.
To summarize, home internet access for most people will require you to look into DSL or fiber-optic service in your local area. I would look into cable service if it’s not available. If it’s not, I’d consider satellite service.