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 connection at home. If you work from home, select an internet service provider (ISP) that is appropriate for your home and home office.

Get High-Speed Data

A high-speed internet connection, the faster, the better—whether through your cable, DSL, or another provider—is essential for anyone who works a significant amount of time from home. To illustrate the importance of fast internet access, imagine you work at an office, and your co-workers' connections to the company's servers and online resources are 35 times faster than yours. Who do you think would get more done? When you work from home, you need to perform as well as—or better than—if you are physically at the office, and fast internet service is necessary to do so.

Compare ISP Download and Upload Speeds

Technology has come a long way from the dial-up services of AOL, Prodigy, and CompuServe. These days, cable, telephone, satellite, and DSL providers are all vying for your broadband business. These companies offer similar data speeds and services at competitive pricing. When selecting an ISP, be sure you compare prices on an apples-to-apples basis. For example, if your 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 your cable company.

Check Contract Terms, Bundle Pricing, and Business Use

  • Contract terms: Many companies require at least a 1-year contract, but others are month-to-month. Be aware of any service cancellation fees before deciding to switch providers.
  • Bundled service prices: You'll likely get a good, but limited-time, deal if you use telephone, internet, and TV service from the same provider. Contact your existing provider of TV service, for example, for a price to add on internet service. You may be at a reduced rate, at least for the first year.
  • Business plans and usability: Some ISPs offer special data speeds, email features, and pricing for small businesses. You may qualify if you tell the sales rep you work from home. You should let your service provider know your plans in case the ISP has any limitations regarding business use. For example, make sure your ISP permits VPN pass-through if you use a virtual private network for your remote work.

Compare Special Add-Ons and Other Features

  • Hardware: Some services offer free wireless routers, while others require you to buy your equipment. Include the cost of any additional hardware needed in your comparison.
  • Extra add-ons: To sweeten the pot, some service providers offer free online backup services, personal webpage hosting, anti-virus program subscriptions, and other add-ons with their internet plans.
  • One particularly useful free add-on for mobile workers is free Wi-Fi hotspot access, available from several major ISPs such as Verizon, Cablevision, and Time Warner, in certain service areas. This alone may sway you toward one ISP versus another because you get both home internet service and complimentary mobile connectivity.

Research ISP Customer Service and Reliability

Reliability may be the most important measure. Unfortunately, the same ISP in one part of the country may 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.