Five Things to Avoid in an Internet Service Provider (ISP)
Does the ISP Throttle Connections During Peak Periods?
Another common reason given by ISPs for throttling is a lack of network resources to handle high amounts of traffic during peak times. Clearwire will throttle everyone’s connection back to below dial-up speeds during these periods, resulting in an almost unusable connection during peak times.
Do some research. Before you sign a contract or purchase a modem to use with a particular ISP, search for the ISP and terms like throttling or peak periods. Does it have a reputation for doing this? Has it made any official statements on the matter?
Does the ISP Participate in Packet Shaping?
There was a huge controversy a few years ago over whether or not Comcast throttles users’ connections using a method known as packet shaping to keep its users from clogging up the tubes with torrents and other high-bandwidth applications. Packet shaping is one of the core matters behind the Net Neutrality debates as it enables ISPs that also provide cable services to put a damper on their users’ ability to stream television content to their homes. While using piracy as a reason for its actions, it is effectively pushing its paid services by making alternative entertainment mediums difficult.
What Deals Does the ISP Offer? Are There Any Bundled Services Available?
Many ISPs today offer a lot more than just an Internet connection. They may offer telephone and cable television as well. Give your prospective ISP a call and ask what its current deals are should you decide to bundle multiple services together. In some cases, you may walk away with a much better deal on two services than you would have had on a single one.
It’s also common for an introductory price to be offered to draw in new customers. The first three to six months may be offered at a significantly lower cost than than the ISP’s normal rates. It may not be a great deal, but you’ll never know until you ask.
How Reliable is the Service?
Having a wireless service delivered to your home with the promise of high speeds and great connectivity sounds pretty good, right? After all, you don’t need to pay a technician to install anything, and you don’t have to worry about frequent local outages taking away your connection. Unfortunately, these services rely strongly on other variables such as the weather, interference from other devices both inside and outside your home, and whether or not the provider is experiencing heavy traffic. Portable WiMax devices sound great on paper, but they rarely work outside of a very specific service area.
Do a few searches and research different ISPs for their reliability. Do they have a reputation for constantly dropping service or losing connectivity? Are their repair crews booked a week out? These are all very important points to look into before making the decision to use a specific carrier.
Does the ISP Impose Limits on Usage?
Having a 100 Mbps connection sounds really good, and in many cases it can make a big difference on how you experience the power of the Internet. Unfortunately, these connection speeds are often coupled with a cap on the amount of data you can send and receive in a given period of time. Exceeding this limit could result in disconnection of your service or fees that turn an otherwise reasonable bill into a severe strain on your budget.
Comcast, AT&T, and others have joined the growing list of major service providers that are setting limits on the amount of data that can be sent and received by their customers. These caps can range from as little at 40 GB to 250 GB and above. While that might seem like a lot, it’s easy to exceed these limits if you use online backup or entertainment services like Carbonite, Dropbox, Netflix, and Hulu. In areas where one of these carriers has a monopoly on service, being cut off for exceeding the cap can be devastating, especially for users who rely on their connection to the Web.
ISPs are constantly coming up with new ways to get money from their customers. This is the nature of business, but it doesn’t have to be. By doing some due diligence and researching connectivity options before finding yourself locked into a contract, you can avoid some of the disappointments many customers have found themselves stuck with. Reward good business practices by spreading the word about companies that do well, and don’t be afraid to speak out when one leaves you out to dry.