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Navigating Internet Packages: What’s Best for You?

Internet Packages


With the internet becoming an integral part of our personal and professional lives, having a reliable, high-speed internet connection at home is more important than ever. However, with countless internet service providers touting tempting deals and confusing jargon, choosing the right internet package for your household can be quite challenging. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the key factors to consider when comparing internet plans and providers so you can determine what internet service best suits your needs and budget.

Understanding Internet Speeds

The most important factor to evaluate with any internet package is the download and upload speeds offered. Internet speeds are measured in Megabits per second (Mbps). Download speed determines how fast you can access and view web pages, stream movies, transfer files from the internet to your devices and more. Upload speed determines how quickly you can transfer data from your devices to the internet, like uploading photos or videos. For perspective, a typical HD video stream requires 5-10 Mbps download speed.

While most providers advertise “up to” speeds, the actual speed you experience depends on their infrastructure capacity and network technology in your area. The fastest speeds are delivered over 100% fiber optic connections, followed by coaxial cable networks, with DSL over telephone lines being the slowest. Be sure to verify precisely what technology is available to your home and the guaranteed minimum speeds.

When comparing provider speed claims, higher is better. For high quality video streaming and normal household use, target plans with minimum download speeds of 100 Mbps or more. Gigabit speeds (1,000 Mbps) provide ultra high speed future-proof capacity for tech forward households.

Understanding Data Caps

Many internet service providers limit the amount of data you can use each month before incurring overage fees. This is known as your “data cap”. 1 terabyte (TB) of data allows for considerable TV and movie streaming, web browsing, social media and music streaming. Average households consume well under 1 TB monthly. Heavy use households with multiple people streaming 4K video and gaming can exceed this.

Pay attention to data caps when comparing packages – they can add annoying overage charges to your monthly bill. Some providers charge up to $10-15 for each additional 50 GB block once the cap is exceeded. Unlimited data options are best, albeit sometimes at a higher monthly cost.

Comparing Monthly Pricing

The advertised price for internet packages is rarely the price you end up paying long-term. Introductory rates are temptingly low, but expire within 6-12 months. Make sure to note the actual regular price the service will renew at. Also account for equipment rental fees, taxes, activation and installation fees which can add $10-20 extra per month.

Focus your comparison on the out-the-door price once promotional pricing expires. Also consider long term costs over a 2-3 year period. Finally, find out what loyalty discounts may be available for existing customers when contracts renew.

Weighing Contract Requirements

Many internet providers entice new subscribers with significantly reduced pricing for agreeing to a 1 or 2 year service contract. This allows you to lock in better rates long-term, but reduces flexibility if you were to move or switch providers. Month-to-month plans without contracts preserve flexibility but often carry higher regular pricing.

When comparing packages, pay close attention to all early termination fees and equipment non-return fees applicable if breaking a service contract. You must continue service for the full initial term or fees usually apply to cancel early. Consider budgeting an extra 10-20% on top of the monthly price for miscellaneous fees and charges that often appear.

Additional Bundling Considerations

To further incentivize new customers, many internet providers offer tempting bundle discounts when you sign up for multiple services like TV and home phone along with internet. While bundling can sometimes yield a negligibly cheaper overall price, you end up paying for extra services you may not truly need or use.

When considering bundled plans, carefully tally the costs of internet service only vs. the bundle to see if reasonable savings exist. Be completely honest about which services your household will actually utilize. Avoid overpaying for TV channels and home phone lines that collect dust. Internet-only pricing is often best for light TV viewers and cord cutters.

Understanding the Fine Print

All internet providers bury conditions, exceptions and practices deep into terms of service and policies that can significantly impact your customer experience. This important fine print details things like:

  • Actual speeds vs “up to” claims
  • Network management and throttling practices
  • Acceptable use policies
  • Privacy policies
  • Required equipment rentals

Search provider sites for these policies and read carefully, asking chat reps to clarify any concerning details that could hamper your internet experience and value. Getting answers before you signup prevents frustration later on.

Paying Attention to Reliability

All the speed in the world means little if connectivity is unreliable. Unfortunately internet service tends to be highly location dependent, with stability varying block by block. Outages are rare for most, but still occur. Things to check:

  • Provider outage histories in your area
  • Actual customer reviews from neighbours
  • Guaranteed up-time commitment
  • Credits for lost service

Also consider equipment factors like renting provider gear vs using your own modem and router. Some provider equipment is more reliable than consumer brands.

Prioritizing Good Customer Service

Even with good planning, questions and technical issues inevitably come up requiring customer support. Pay attention to provider reputation for seamless or painful customer experiences. How easy is it to get knowledgeable assistance quickly via chat, phone or in person? Are company policies flexible and forgiving when issues arise?

Solid customer service and technical support is a priority consideration most underestimate initially but appreciate long term. Getting quick competent assistance when you need it should weigh prominently in any provider decision.

Local and Regional Providers

Thus far we have focused primarily on evaluating major national internet providers like Comcast Xfinity, Spectrum, AT&T and Verizon Fios which serve most areas. However, don’t overlook smaller regional and local providers available in many markets. Brands like RCN, WideOpenWest, Grande and more offer top speeds and better value in the neighborhoods and cities they cover.

These lesser known ISPs deliver faster speeds, lower prices, excellent reliability and outstanding local customer service that gives the big guys a run. They offer true competition and consumer choice where available. Be sure to compare options from these local network providers which are expanding availability due to recent network technology improvements.

The Bottom Line

Navigating the wide range of internet packages and providers to find a plan tailored to your household can be challenging. By carefully evaluating key criteria like actual internet speeds, monthly pricing, contract stipulations, bundled offerings, fine print policies and customer service reputations, you can determine which provider delivers the best overall value and experience. Don’t simply assume major brands like Xfinity or Spectrum are the superior options. Comparison shop locally available providers of all sizes to unlock the best internet service at the right price to suit your unique needs.

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