How to Choose the Best Internet Service Provider

High-speed internet is a must-have for any home office

Internet service provider

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Remote workers and home-based entrepreneurs depend on the quality and reliability of their internet connections at home. If you work from home, here's how to select an internet service provider (ISP) that is most appropriate for your home and home office.

Get High-Speed Data

The faster your internet connection, the better, and this is especially true if you're one of the growing numbers of remote workers — employees, freelancers, and business owners — who work out of their homes.

When you work from home, you need to perform as well as — or better than — your office-based and remote counterparts. A fast internet service helps you get your job done quicker. A slow internet connection results in lower productivity because of the time spent waiting for information to download and upload.

Compare Download and Upload Speeds

Technology has come a long way from the days of dial-up services from companies such as AOL, Prodigy, and CompuServe. Cable, fiber optic, and satellite services now compete with (and generally provide much faster service than) phone- and DSL-based services. These companies offer similar data speeds and services at competitive pricing.

When selecting an ISP, compare competitor prices for plans with similar speeds. For example, if a telephone company offers a plan with 15 Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload speeds, compare it to the closest available plan with the same speeds from a cable company.

Check Contract Terms, Bundle Pricing, and Business Use

Consider factors beyond speed, too.

  • Contract terms: Many companies require at least a one-year contract, but others are month-to-month. Some charge a service cancellation fee when you switch providers.
  • Bundled service prices: Some companies offer a good, but limited-time, deal if you use the telephone, internet, and TV services from the same provider. Your cable TV service provider, for example, may offer a special price to if you add internet service to your account.
  • Business plans and usability: Some ISPs offer special data speeds, email features, security, and pricing for small businesses. Let your service provider know your plans in case the service has any limitations regarding business or work from home use, for example, VPN pass-throughs when using a virtual private network for remote work.

Compare Special Add-Ons and Other Features

Some services offer free wireless routers; others require you to buy your equipment. Some service providers also offer free online backup services, personal website hosting, antivirus program subscriptions, and other add-ons with their internet plans. Include the cost of additional hardware, software, and services needed in your comparison.

A useful, free add-on for mobile workers is free Wi-Fi hotspot access, available from major ISPs in certain service areas. This provides internet access when you're at home and in other locations.

Research Customer Service and Reliability

Reliability is an important measure. The same ISP in one part of the country might have better or worse service reliability and customer satisfaction ratings in another area. A good place to find reviews and listings of ISPs near you is DSLReports.com.