How to choose a broadband provider?

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This article compares different types of broadband internet providers based on speed, price, and convenience. DSL is affordable and offers tiered plans, but speed can be compromised based on location. Cable internet is convenient and offers high speeds, but can slow down with high local load. Fiber optic broadband is the fastest but comes at a premium price. Cellular internet is flexible but expensive. Satellite internet is a last resort for rural areas. Consider smaller local businesses for better customer service.

For many people the most compelling factor when choosing between broadband Internet providers is speed. For others, price is everything, and for others, convenience. Let’s look at the different choices and the pros and cons of each.

Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) is broadband Internet delivered over copper telephone lines. Even though these are the same lines that provide telephone service, you can use DSL and talk on the phone at the same time because voice and DSL traffic occupy different frequency bands.

DSL is a big step up from dial-up service because it offers affordable tier plans with speed-based pricing. You could pay as little as $14 US dollars (USD) a month for a plan with incoming speeds many times faster than dial-up, making DSL a good way to introduce yourself to broadband Internet without breaking the bank. You can also upgrade to a faster plan at any time, up to 6 Megabits per second (Mbps).

DSL is distributed in neighborhoods using special routers or digital subscriber line access multiplexers (DSLAMs), pronounced dee-slams. The further the signal travels from the DSLAM, the more it degrades, compromising speed. The closer you get to your local DSLAM, the faster and better your service will be within the parameters of your plan. If you happen to live on the edge of your local DSLAM, you may not be happy with your DSL service. You can always ask how close you are to a DSLAM before committing.

While DSL comes over phone lines, it’s not necessarily your telecommunications company that provides the service. If you get DSL from your telco, they bundle it with your phone bill to save you an extra bill. Otherwise it’s common to sign a one-year contract with a third-party vendor and have your credit card automatically charged every month.
People who have ditched landline service in favor of cellular service can still get DSL, referred to as bare DSL. However, it is usually more expensive.
Cable Internet is provided by your cable TV company, which offers broadband Internet through the same cabling that carries the television signal at speeds of 3-20 Mbps. Cable broadband tends to be a package deal: a plan offered for one price. The speed is usually high enough that the price is equally high compared to introductory DSL plans. It’s not unusual to pay $40 USD a month for wired internet.
Cable broadband internet is theoretically faster than DSL with possible speeds of up to 30 Mbps, although this is typically capped at 3-20 Mbps. High-end DSL plans can compete with cable plans capped at 6 Mbps or less, with DSL usually cheaper. Location does not affect the quality of cable internet, unlike DSL, where being further away from a DSLAM is a disadvantage. However, cable Internet has its drawback: if the local load gets too high, the service can slow down due to less available bandwidth.
Cable broadband internet can be convenient if you already have cable TV service, as you can simply add high-speed internet to your package and pay a single bill. Digital phone service may also be included. Cable Internet is also a good choice if DSL service isn’t available.
Fiber Optic Broadband Internet: If you live in a newer community you may not have phone lines or copper wires, but fiber optic lines. Fiber-optic cable can handle much more bandwidth than standard or copper cable lines. The local telecommunications company typically offers digital telephone, television and broadband Internet in one package, much like cable but with higher capacity. Fiber optic broadband internet offers the fastest speeds of up to 50 Mbps, but it also comes at a premium price.
To suit different budgets, fiber optic broadband is offered in tiered plans such as DSL, however the least expensive plan will run close to $45 USD per month for 10 Mbps. In areas where phone lines and cables in ​​copper have been replaced by fiber optics, there may not be a cheaper broadband internet alternative. The good news is that your connection will be fast and uncompromised based on your location or load.
Cellular Internet Business travelers might want to consider using broadband Internet through a cell phone company. Connectivity is provided over cell towers, making this the most flexible and affordable type of broadband internet. You can connect anywhere there is cellular service by inserting a cellular broadband card into a laptop computer’s PC Card or Express Card slot. The downside is cost, with contract plans going up to $80 USD per month or more.
Satellite broadband: In rural areas where choice is limited or non-existent, you may find that satellite internet can get you online, although it won’t be cheap. There is also a delay when navigating due to the signal having to travel back and forth to the satellite, making this option a last resort.
When shopping for a broadband internet provider, consider smaller local businesses. They often provide better customer service than large national competitors.

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