Fast, reliable internet.
That’s the dream, isn’t it?
In today’s world, it’s more important that we have a fast connection than being connected to the internet at all.
To ensure this near lightspeed access to the internet we have to go through an internet service provider or ISP. In a funny twist of fate, we often look around on the internet itself to see who’s the best ISP, why they are the best, and what other people are saying about them.
To save you on time, let’s break down what makes the best ISP for you and your area. That approach may sound odd until you realize that a company simply calling itself “the fastest and most reliable” is simple marketing.
Different factors, some of which are outside of an ISP’s control, affect the speed at your specific location. Much like the internet itself, you’re part of a large web. Each of these factors is a thread that connects to other factors before connecting you to the internet.
(No spiders were harmed!)
The Company Thread
While the technologies mentioned above are the method for delivering internet, an ISP is still a company.
There are plenty of packages that allow you to pick and choose whether you want just internet, just TV, or all of them at once. While some may offer cheap packages for one or two services, make sure to read what the connection speed is, as this determines just how fast the connection will be. More on this later.
Some companies serve a smaller area, like Guadalupe Valley Technology Cooperative. Look around to see what’s available in your specific area.
The big names, like AT&T, Spectrum, and Comcast to name a few, will have a few different technologies you chose from. Again, double check what’s available in your area. For example, AT&T may have fiber, but they may only offer it downtown and not in rural areas.
Smaller companies fare better because they service just a specific area and can respond more quickly to customer concerns. Yet, they’ll be limited in the technologies they can offer.
The Technology Thread
There are different technologies for bringing the world wide web to you. They all have their pros and cons. Not all companies use the same technology either but all of them depend on where you physically are.
Understanding the technology in use allows you to equip yourself when it comes to picking or switching your ISP.
Fiber optic cables are glass tubes that transmit light. To protect the delicate glass inside, heavy-duty rubber or metal is used as a cover. If even a little bit of water gets inside the cable itself, it wreaks havoc on transmissions. This is why fiber optic cables are so expensive and are hard to come by in rural areas.
Thanks to the use of light instead of electricity, these provide the fastest and most reliable internet connection.
You’ll most likely find these in highly populated areas. Check to make sure your ISP has fiber in your area.
Digital Subscriber Line. These are second to fiber, but more widely available. And they’re perfect for those on a tight budget. DSL uses the phone lines that are already installed to transmit data back and forth. This is what gives them their speed and reliability.
On the flipside of this, pay attention to where the central office is. The farther you are from it, the slower your connection will be.
Everyone knows these. Cable is the most common and just as the name implies, companies use dedicated cables to provide these connections. They’re not the standard phone lines.
Of course, everyone complains about the prices as there’s usually a promotion to get it installed in your house. Once the promotion ends the prices soar.
Oh, and the customer service too, everyone loves to hate customer service. But give them a break, they deal with unhappy customers every day. After all, do you call your ISP when you don’t have a problem with your service?
There’s another factor here that many people overlook- Bandwidth.
The bandwidth you’re using is shared in your immediate area. This doesn’t mean you can look into your neighbor’s house, rather, the same cables running to your house are running to their house as well. You’ll notice this in the evening when you see your internet slow down or your streaming-show freeze or lag behind.
This is the hardest to get a good connection with. While you may think a satellite, orbiting the earth, should have no problem establishing an internet connection, it’s the opposite. Clouds, terrain, and distance all affect a satellite’s connection a great deal.
Yet, it may be the only option.
The Connection Thread
ISPs offer different connection speeds.
An internet connection depends on how many megabytes per second, Mbps, can be uploaded and downloaded in a second. Akin to a good juggler, your ISP is tossing up a ball up in the air while being able to catch another coming down- ten, fifteen, even up to 1000 balls in a second.
The faster an ISP can juggle, the better connection you’ll have.
Look for the number to determine how good they are. If they can juggle ten balls, meaning their connection speed is 10 Mbps, that’s pretty good. For those looking for a connection to support more than one person, then look for 15 Mbps or higher. When it comes to an entire business, 40 Mbps or higher is recommended.
Of course, geography will affect how well your ISP can juggle. If you’re wanting to download big files or play online games, then a higher Mbps will be needed to handle that capacity.
In other words, the juggler is going to have to juggle larger balls.
The Human Thread
While it’s all well and good to see how the internet is actually brought to your door, you are missing out on a wealth of information.
And it can be found next door!
While you may enjoy your solitude in your home or apartment, chances are that the neighbor next door is using the internet as well. And when they are, they’re going to run into the same problems you do when trying to establish a connection. If it’s slow for you, it’s probably slow for them too.
So get up, walk to the door, step outside and go to the house next to yours. Knock on that door and ask “How’s your internet?”
This will go a long way in helping you decide which internet service provider is right for you.
The Last Thread
All of these threads lead back to the more vital part- you.
Figuring out which ISP is best for you may not sound like a fun thing to do. It may not seem worthwhile.
Take heart, as taking the time to equip yourself with this knowledge will ease some headaches down the road, and save you money.
Find the best internet deals no matter the ISP