The best internet service provider
As people rely on the internet more and more at home, they need reliable and fast internet service. The days of using just any company for dial-up service are long gone.
Multiple internet service providers (or ISPs) exist that can give you a fast internet data transmission speed at a great price. Depending on where you live, you may have anywhere from one to several ISP choices.
The following guide will provide you with the information you need to choose a provider that's right for you. Our pick as the best internet service provider is the Spectrum internet service. It has easy-to-understand subscription plans and excellent data transmission speeds.
Considerations when choosing internet service providers
The first thing you must do is determine which ISPs serve your area. If you live in a city of 100,000 people or more, you likely will have multiple options. Smaller cities may only have a couple of choices. Some rural areas might have only one ISP option.
Multiple types of broadband internet service technology are available, depending on where you live. (Any internet technology other than dial-up is referred to as broadband technology.) The following technologies are listed from the slowest speeds to the fastest speeds.
Dial-up: Dial-up uses your telephone landline to access the internet using the same technology as a phone call. This is available anywhere that has landline phone service, but it's extremely slow and it ties up the phone line.
Satellite: Satellite internet service is made for rural areas, much like satellite TV. It sends and receives data through a satellite dish. However, many satellite ISPs have significant data caps.
DSL: DSL technology arrives at your home through your telephone line. However, it works on a portion of the phone line that's separate from the portion used for telephone calls, so you can use the internet and talk on the phone at the same time. DSL speed varies quite a bit, depending on where you live.
Cable: Cable internet brings the signal into your home using the same coaxial cable that delivers cable TV. On average, cable has higher speeds than DSL, satellite, or dial-up.
Fiber: Fiber-optic technology gives you the fastest internet speeds. However, it's also the toughest service to find. You'll need a company that has laid fiber optic cable in your location. As this is a newer service, it's not found in all portions of large cities yet.
Once you've figured out what ISPs are available in your area, here are some features to consider to help you find the perfect ISP for your needs.
Data speeds: Gamers and those streaming HD video will want speeds of at least 5Mbps. Streaming 4K video requires roughly a minimum 25Mbps. If multiple people in the home will be using the internet simultaneously, you'll want even faster speeds. But you must pay more per month for higher transmission speeds.
Data caps: Some ISPs limit the amount of data you can use each month. This is a significant drawback for video streaming or online gaming.
Contracts: Some ISPs require that you sign a 12- or 24-month contract, which means you're subject to penalties if you try to cancel early. Others don't require contracts, which is a great feature, as you can turn the service on and off as needed without penalty.
For average data transmission speeds, you can expect to pay $50 to $70 per month for internet service. Some ISPs offer an introductory price for three, six, or 12 months that may be quite a bit cheaper than the regular price.
Q. Do internet service providers have hidden costs to worry about?
A. It depends on the ISP. Some companies will give you a modem and router for free, while others charge you a monthly rental fee. Some may charge you extra if you exceed your data cap.
Q. Should I bundle other services with my internet service to save some money?
A. You should only bundle if you actually will use those other services. For example, there's no point in purchasing landline phone service in a bundle with internet if you won't use the landline phone.
Internet service providers we recommend
Best of the best: Spectrum's Internet Service
Our take: Offers excellent data transmission speeds without any data caps or contracts required.
What we like: Plans are easy to understand. If you want to bundle other services with your internet, you'll have plenty of options to save some money.
What we dislike: When introductory rates expire, the subsequent cost increases seem excessive.
Best bang for your buck: Frontier's Internet Service
Our take: If you don't mind some customer-service headaches, this is the least-expensive service around.
What we like: Offers certain plans that don't require a contract. Plans are very easy to understand.
What we dislike: Maximum internet speeds are not as fast as some other providers.
Choice 3: HughesNet's Internet Service
Our take: For those who live in rural areas, this satellite internet service is a nice choice -- and might be the only broadband internet choice you'll have.
What we like: Recently underwent a whole system upgrade that delivers significantly better speeds than in the past.
What we dislike: Has strict data limits that may hinder your ability to work or enjoy your internet time.
Kyle Schurman is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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