Every provider these days are claiming to offer high speed broadband internet, which can be very deceptive if you don’t do your homework before choosing your service. When you think of high speed internet, what do you expect? What will you use it for, and how much speed do you really need? Who offers the most speed for the best value? Before you choose an Internet Service Provider (ISP), you should consider the following:
Where you live
Where you live can seriously restrict your choice of ISP. I live in Los Angeles, so I have Verizon FiOs, which is powered by a true fiber optic network. If you live in a rural area, you may be stuck with dial up access, because the cable and fiber networks don’t extend into your town or neighborhood. Sometimes, it’s not a matter of network infrastructure, but merely which providers are established in your area. Comcast mainly serves the east coast, like Philadelphia and Boston, while Cox Communications serves only 15 states (in Nevada, only Las Vegas is covered). The apartment or condo complex you live in may have existing contracts with specific providers, so if you want to choose an ISP in your area that’s not approved by your association, you’re out of luck. Thinking about this aspect takes the fun out of shopping, but until the entire country has a properly built network infrastructure, where you live can be the biggest factor in determining the speed of your internet.
What is a true fiber optics network?
Hailed as the latest in broadband internet technology, fiber optics is far faster than cable or DSL. Verizon FiOs uses a complete fiber optic network (this means the fiber extends to the premises), while AT&T U-verse offers a complete fiber network only in certain areas. The rest of the competing ISP’s offer a hybrid fiber coaxial network (a combination of fiber and traditional coaxial cable) that are still pretty fast, as long as you don’t have people engaging in online gaming and streaming HD movies on their devices all at the same time. Google has recently launched Google Fiber in parts of Kansas City, which is the fastest complete fiber network in the nation at 1oooMbps (1Gbps). Unfortunately, this is not yet available to the rest of the country. Verizon FiOs comes second, offering maximum speeds of 300Mbps, which is plenty fast enough to download full length HD movies in only 2.2 minutes. Comcast’s fastest internet plan allows up to 105 Mbps, while Time Warner (at least for residential customers) and Cox max out at only 50Mbps. Believe it or not, AT&T U-verse is slower, offering the top speed of only 24Mbps! Considering that some areas actually have a complete fiber optic infrastructure, this comes as a big surprise. Satellite ISPs like Dish Network and DirecTV are even worse, maxing out at 12 Mbps. Then again, TV is their main service, so their anemic version of high speed internet service is to be expected.
I’m not made of money-so who offers the fastest internet at a price I can afford?
Glad you asked. This is where comparisons get sticky because we need to figure out what we are going to use all that bandwidth for. Let’s just say that you are a hardcore online gamer and you live with someone else who only used the internet for email and watching cat videos on YouTube. You still need a lot of broadband, but it’s not like there are 3 people in the house simultaneously downloading feature length HD movies on their laptops at the same time. Comcast Xfinity offers speeds of up to 20Mbps for only $29.99 a month, while Time Warner charges $49.99 for the same speed. AT&T U-verse offers 24Mbps for $44.95, so I would say that in terms of value and price, Comcast is the winner (unless you think that an extra 4Mbps is worth an additional $15 per month). However, selecting Comcast is a moot point if they don’t service your neighborhood. That said, 20Mbps is usually plenty of bandwidth, as long as you don’t have to share it with multiple users who need as much bandwidth as you.
Determining the fastest ISP is a pretty straightforward affair, as long as price is no object and you live in a metropolitan area. Check out the competing ISPs for yourself and see if what they offer is the right price for what you’re actually going to use. In the end, it’s important to remember that while never having to wait for downloads is nice, it’s a useless pleasure if all you’re going to do is use the bandwidth for email and normal web browsing-so take care and happy shopping!