The truth is that in most areas you only have a few choices when it comes to high-speed internet service providers. It requires a major investment for ISPs to expand into a new area and purchase or add cable, fiber optic lines or other infrastructure, so often only a handful of companies will be accessible in a given area. Nevertheless, in most cases you will have a few choices, and choosing wisely can save you tons of hassle and frustration.
There are several things you can do to find the best internet service provider in your area:
Determine your internet needs.
Though many people nowadays use internet for streaming movies and music, playing games, viewing video, uploading pictures and social media, others are casual users who only get online to check email or read news articles. Here is a basic guideline of the speeds you may want to look for:
- 1.5 to 3Mbps: For light internet users who simply check email, read articles and visit non-media-rich sites from one computer. This speed is usually the entry-level or economy package that ISPs offer, or you can also obtain these speeds by satellite, DSL or mobile phone. If the websites you go to are primarily sites like The New York Times, Huffington Post, BBC News, Amazon or Digg and you do not watch video, this will work for you.
- 10Mbps to 25Mbps: This range is ideal for those who view media, stream music and view images online with one or more computers. This speed is not ideal for more than one computer steaming media or uploading large volumes of videos or images at the same time. If the sites you frequent are websites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Fox News or Pandora this level will work for you.
- 25Mbps to 50Mpbs: Suitable for those who stream movies, upload pictures to social media sites or visit media-rich websites from one computer or more. If you regularly view media from sites like NetFlix, Hulu, ESPN3, Flickr or Vimeo and do not do a lot of uploading, this speed range will work for you.
- 50Mpbs or more: Higher-speed plans also come with a more upload allowance, this is fitting for those who upload volumes of video or images to storage, P2P sites or torrent sites. This range is also ideal for those who intend to have more than one computer actively engaged with the internet at the same time. This speed is not available in all areas, but some services offer speeds of over 100Mbps to residential customers.
Find the ISPs in your area.
There are a few ways you can find out what service providers are available in your area. One way is through our site. From our site you can view a coverage map to see if they might be available in your state and link to the provider. After you link to the provider, you can enter your zip code or address to see if they provide services in your area. Another way to get a list of providers and possible speeds offered is to visit Broadbandmap.gov. This National Broadband Map site has a search tool that will let you enter your zip code and view a list of possible providers in your area. At this point, you should have a list of a few providers so you know what your choices are.
You can read our reviews and user reviews on DSLreports.com. Another invaluable resource is your neighbors. ISPs vary by area; every area has its own infrastructure to maintain, different call centers and its own field technicians. So just because someone loves their service in Tallahassee, that doesn't necessarily mean you are going to receive the same level of service in Little Rock. Talk to a few of your neighbors who have had experiences with several of your choices before you sign up. Odds are if they continue to have problems with intermittent internet or lower than promised speeds or problems with technicians, you might also experience the same problems.
When it comes down to it, finding a provider that can provide consistent, predictable internet speeds will ultimately make you a happy customer. In short, to find the best ISP in your area figure out what you want, find out who can provide it and research their service reputation. You will be happy you took the time to do it.