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How to choose an internet provider

How to choose an internet provider

Choosing the right ISP (internet service provider) is essential and it impacts everything, from gaming online to working or learning from home. A good provider should ensure a fast and reliable connection regardless of their range of plans or speeds.

If you’re on the hunt for an ISP or high speed internet, make sure to research the provider before signing up. You’ll want to consider factors such as speed and bandwidth, cost, availability, reliability, customer service, contract terms and extra features.

By keeping these points top of mind, you’ll find an internet provider that meets your needs. Now, let’s review in greater detail to make sure you find the right ISP.

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Maybe you just need the essentials—or maybe you need to unleash the ultimate internet speed. Explore your options to get the best experience for every device in your home.

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Assessing your internet needs

Before getting into the types of connections available, let’s review what a household might need when learning how to pick an ISP.

You, and members of your household, might fit into a few different categories of internet users, such as casual users, gaming users or remote work users. Measuring your dependence on a great internet connection can help you understand what type of ISP you will need.

    • Casual users: Casual users may use the internet for light activities such as checking emails, browsing social media and watching standard-definition videos. They may not need high-speed internet or large amounts of data.
    • Gaming users: Gamers need faster speeds and lower latency to ensure a smooth gaming experience. Online gaming, downloading large game files and streaming gameplay can be data-intensive.
    • Home or distance-learning users: Students or other individuals who use the internet for real-time learning activities like multi-party video conferencing, virtual lectures and test materials need high-speed internet with a good upload speed in order to participate in virtual classes or trainings.
    • Remote work users: Remote workers may rely on video conferencing, uploading and downloading large files and using cloud-based applications. Consistent and reliable high-speed internet is crucial.

Additionally, you will want to determine your internet usage habits. Do your internet habits fall under light, moderate, or heavy internet usage? Knowing this information will help you communicate your needs to your ISP.

    • Light: Emailing, browsing and occasional video streaming.
    • Moderate: Regular streaming in HD, online gaming and frequent video calls.
    • Heavy: 4K streaming, large file downloads, frequent online gaming and remote work.

Finally, take into consideration the number of users you are providing an internet connection for. The number of devices and users sharing the internet connection significantly impacts speed and data capacity. More devices and users mean higher demand on the network, requiring faster speeds and larger data allowances to maintain performance. For example:

    • One user and device: Light activities may need up to 100 Mbps.
    • Two to three users or devices: Moderate activities may need at least 300 Mbps.
    • More than four users or devices: Heavy activities require at least 600 Mbps.

Additional users and devices may put stress on the network, requiring additional bandwidth or the removal of the additional devices from the network to restore full functionality.

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Types of internet connections

With so many types of internet connections, it can be difficult to figure out which one is right for your specific situation. Each type offers their own benefits and drawbacks, depending on where you live and what you need. Let’s break down the most common types of internet connections—DSL, cable and fiber internet, satellite and 5G—so you can make an informed choice that best fits your lifestyle.


Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) is an internet technology that uses copper telephone lines to transmit data and traffic. While DSL provides speeds comparable to cable internet, it lacks the symmetrical or Gigabit speeds offered by fiber internet. DSL download speeds range from 1 Mbps to 7 Mbps, while the average upload speed is 1.5 Mbps.

DSL is widely accessible in urban and rural regions as it leverages the existing telephone infrastructure. Nonetheless, its speeds vary based on the distance between the user’s location and the central office, with users farther away from the central office experiencing slower speeds.


Cable internet transmits data via coaxial cables. This technology, which has proven to be effective for television companies, allows for broad coverage of cable internet services due to pre-existing and country-wide cable infrastructure.

However, it is susceptible to interference from other electronic devices, attenuation, (the loss of signal strength in networking cables or connections) and damage from unfavorable weather events.

Finally, cable internet is asymmetric, providing faster download speeds than upload speeds. It offers faster download speeds to prioritize the needs of typical internet users. Users tend to download more data than upload data (sending emails, uploading photos or making video calls).


A fiber internet connection uses fiber optic cables that transmit data faster as light pulses instead of electrical signals. The technology uses ultra-thin glass strands, which are more efficient for transmitting data as they are less susceptible to signal interference due to temperature changes, contact with water, unfavorable weather events or long distances.

Fiber internet offers significantly faster upload and download speeds than other internet technologies, as well as symmetrical speeds in some areas. The high-speed performance enables users to seamlessly stream high-quality video and audio, download/upload large data files and engage in bandwidth-intensive activities like online gaming and video conferencing.


Satellite internet is a good alternative for users in remote or rural areas to access the internet where other high-speed internet options like fiber, cable, 5G internet and DSL are unavailable.

Satellite internet is slower than fiber and cable, with speeds ranging from 25 Mbps to 150 Mbps. While satellite internet speeds have increased over time, they can be affected by factors like adverse weather conditions, higher latency and data caps imposed by the service providers.

Fixed wireless internet

Fixed wireless internet, or 5G home internet, promises fast speeds, with providers offering up to 300 Mbps. However, 5G does not offer uniform speeds since various factors can influence its actual performance, including network congestion, proximity to 5G towers, physical obstacles and signal quality.

These variables can cause delays and interference that limit data transmission, making your internet slower. Most service providers offer self-installation kits for 5G home internet, so you will need to set it up on your own. 5G home internet coverage is limited to select urban and suburban regions as its infrastructure is still in its early stages. It’s largely unavailable in rural areas.

Find your speed

What speed do you need?

Maybe you just need the essentials—or maybe you need to unleash the ultimate internet speed. Explore your options to get the best experience for every device in your home.

Find your speed icon

Evaluating internet speed

The speed of your internet connection can significantly impact your online activities. If you want to check your existing internet speed, try running a speed test to find your internet speed. By doing so, you’ll know if you’re using a good WiFi provider.

Let’s review how much bandwidth you may need in order to access some of the most popular activities online.

    • Browsing and emailing: Basic activities like browsing websites and checking emails require minimal speed, generally around 10 Mbps.
    • Streaming: To watch videos, especially in HD or 4K, you need higher speeds to avoid buffering and ensure good quality. 4K streaming needs at least 25 Mbps.
    • Online gaming: Gaming demands high speeds and low latency for a smooth experience. At least 150 Mbps per person, per device is recommended.
    • Remote work: Activities like video conferencing and using cloud-based applications require consistent and reliable speeds, generally 200+ Mbps, with good upload speeds and low latency.
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If multiple people or devices are using the internet simultaneously, higher speeds (100-200 Mbps or more) are needed to maintain performance for all users.

Pricing and packages

Choosing the right internet plan involves understanding the pricing models, comparing different packages and being aware of potential hidden fees. Here’s a guide to help you navigate the packages you might see while searching for an internet services provider.

Tips for common pricing models

    • Monthly plans: Most internet providers offer monthly plans that provide flexibility without long-term commitments. These plans typically come in various speed tiers to match different usage needs. For example, basic speeds suitable for light browsing to high-speed plans for heavy streaming and gaming.
    • Contract vs. no contract: Some plans usually offer lower monthly rates or additional perks in exchange for committing to a longer-term contract, typically ranging from one to two years. On the flipside, no contract plans offer greater flexibility, allowing you to cancel anytime without facing early termination fees. However, they may come at a higher monthly cost compared to contract plans.

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Tips for comparing different packages and promotions

    • Evaluate your usage needs: Assess your internet usage. For example, casual browsing and emailing require less speed compared to streaming 4K videos or online gaming. Find a provider that offers a range of speeds to accommodate different needs and choose a plan that matches your usage.
    • Consider promotional offers: Many providers offer introductory rates for new customers, which can significantly reduce costs for the initial months. Always check the duration of these promotions and the regular rates post-promotion.
    • Check for bundles: Bundling internet with TV and phone services can offer additional savings. Astound, for instance, provides bundle deals that include internet, mobile, and TV services, often at a lower combined cost than purchasing each service separately.

Avoiding hidden fees

    • Installation fees: Some providers charge for the initial installation of the service.
    • Equipment rental fees: Monthly charges for renting modems and routers can add up. Astound offers options to either rent or bring your own equipment.
    • Data overage fees: Some plans have data caps and exceeding these limits can result in additional charges. Astound offers unlimited data plans.
    • Early termination fees: If you opt for a contract plan, be aware of the early termination fees that apply if you cancel before the contract period ends.
    • Service fees and surcharges: Additional charges such as service fees, regulatory surcharges and taxes can increase your monthly bill. Make sure you understand all the extra costs that will appear on your bill.

When selecting your ISP, be sure to thoroughly read through the terms of any promotional offers, consider the long-term costs and be aware of any potential hidden fees like installation charges, data overage fees and early termination fees.

Taking these steps will help you avoid unexpected costs and ensure you get the best value from your internet service provider.

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Customer service and support

For internet service providers, excellent customer service ensures that customers feel valued, supported and satisfied with their service. Here are some key reasons why good customer service is important for anyone purchasing internet through an ISP:

    1. Customer satisfaction: Prompt and effective support helps resolve issues quickly. You’ll be more likely to stay with a provider that addresses your concerns.
    2. Trust and reliability: Consistent and reliable customer service builds trust. Knowing you can count on your provider for help, you’re more likely to remain loyal.
    3. Problem resolution: Internet issues can disrupt daily life, especially for remote workers and learners. Good customer service ensures you’re free of downtime.
    4. Customer retention: If you’re satisfied with your internet, you’re more likely to renew your contract and recommend the service to others.

Astound places a strong emphasis on customer service, offering multiple support channels to assist customers effectively. When auditing the customer support features for your new ISP, make sure that they have the following features:

    • Award-winning support: Ensure the provider’s customer service has been recognized for its excellence, which indicates a commitment to high standards of support​​.
    • Multiple contact options: You should be able to reach your ISP’s support team via phone, email or online chat.
    • Local expertise: Find an ISP that provides local teams that offer personalized support, ensuring that customers get relevant information based on their location and setup.
    • 24/7 availability: Internet issues can occur at any time. Find an ISP that offers 24/7 support to address problems as they arise.
    • Online resources: Search for an ISP with a comprehensive help section, complete with FAQs, troubleshooting guides and user manuals.

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Reliability and performance

To evaluate the reliability of your network, consider the following steps:

    1. Monitor uptime: Uptime is the percentage of time your network is operational. Aim for an uptime of at least 99.9%, the industry standard for reliability.
    2. Check latency: Latency measures the delay between sending a request and receiving a response. Lower latency means a more responsive network, which is crucial for activities like gaming and video conferencing.
    3. Measure speeds: Use internet speed testing tools to check your upload and download speeds and compare them with your ISP’s promised speeds.
    4. Track packet loss: Packet loss occurs when data packets fail to reach their destination. High packet loss can cause interruptions. Monitor this metric using network monitoring tools.
    5. Evaluate jitter: Jitter refers to the variability in packet arrival times, which can affect real-time applications like VoIP and streaming.
    6. Read reviews and ask for feedback: Customer reviews and feedback from local users can provide insights into your ISP’s reliability.
    7. Optimizing your internet: Invest time into learning how to maximize your internet speed using your WiFi router and modem.

Additional features and benefits

If you want even more out of your ISP and internet connection, look into internet service providers which offer additional security features like antivirus software and virtual private networks (VPNs) which can play a vital role in protecting your personal information and ensure safe browsing.

1. Antivirus software:

    • Protection against malware: Antivirus software protects your devices from various types of malware, including viruses, ransomware and spyware. These threats can compromise your data, steal personal information and disrupt your system’s performance.
    • Real-time scanning: Modern antivirus programs offer real-time scanning, which continuously monitors your device for potential threats, ensuring immediate action can be taken to prevent infections.
    • Phishing protection: Antivirus software often includes features to detect and block phishing attempts, protecting you from malicious websites that aim to steal sensitive information like login credentials and financial details.

2. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs):

    • Enhanced privacy: VPNs encrypt your internet connection, making it difficult for hackers and third-parties to intercept and view your online activities.
    • Anonymity: By masking your IP address, VPNs provide a layer of anonymity, preventing websites and advertisers from tracking your browsing habits and targeting you with personalized ads.

Additionally, many types of ISP providers offer other services that can enhance your digital lifestyle. These extra services not only add value to your internet plan but also provide convenience and improved connectivity.

1. TV & streaming services:

    • Bundled offers: Some ISPs include subscriptions to popular streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, or Prime Video as part of their internet packages. This can save you money and streamline your billing by combining services.
    • Exclusive content: Providers may offer access to exclusive content or additional features on streaming services, enhancing your entertainment options.

2. Smart Home integration:

    • Smart home devices: Some ISPs integrate with smart home devices, allowing you to manage your home security, lighting and other connected devices through a unified platform.
    • Voice Control: Many providers offer compatibility with voice assistants like TiVo, enabling hands-free control of your smart home ecosystem.

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To make an informed decision on choosing an internet provider, consider factors like speed and bandwidth, cost, availability, reliability, customer service, contract terms or any additional features.

Start by assessing your internet needs, which can vary from casual browsing to intense online gaming or remote work. It’s essential to understand your household’s usage patterns and the number of devices that will be connected to ensure you select a plan that meets your requirements.

By taking these steps and considering all these factors, you can find an internet service provider that meets your needs, provides reliable performance and offers excellent customer support.

Frequently asked questions

When choosing between ISP providers, consider factors such as speed and bandwidth to match your usage needs, cost including hidden fees and potential price hikes and the availability of providers in your area. Additionally, when buying internet, evaluate the reliability of the service and the quality of customer support, as well as any extra features like security packages or equipment rentals that might add value to your plan.

Determining whether to use wireless or cable internet depends on your needs. Cable or fiber powered internet usually offers faster and more stable speeds, ideal for streaming, gaming and large downloads, with less interference and greater reliability. Wireless internet, like 5G home internet, provides flexibility and mobility, allowing multiple devices to connect without cables. However, wireless can be more prone to interference.

To enjoy wireless internet access on your devices, you need an internet connection and a WiFi router to broadcast the signal. This will provide you with the best WiFi options. The internet brings the data to your home and WiFi distributes that data wirelessly to your devices. Your ISP will deliver internet, allowing you to access online content and services. WiFi, on the other hand, is the technology that allows your devices to connect to the internet wirelessly within your home.

To find a good ISP in your area, compare the speeds, data limits and prices of the plans they offer. Read customer reviews for insights into internet provider ratings. Consider any special promotions and the quality of customer service when making your decision.

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*Internet speeds may vary & are not guaranteed. Certain equipment may be required to reach advertised speeds. DOCSIS 3.1 modem with 2.5GE physical LAN port is required for 1 Gigabit speeds and higher. See for why speeds may vary. To view Astound’s FCC Network Management Disclosure see Modem required for Internet service. No contract required. Subject to availability. We substantiate that the cable modem equipment provided, and the configuration of such cable modem, meets the broadband speeds advertised when attached to a wired connection based on SamKnows testing procedures.

Not all services, speeds, packages, equipment, channels, tiers, pricing, streaming services, product offerings and product features are available in all areas. Offers valid only for new residential customers or previous customers with account in good standing who have not had our service within the last 60 days. All names, logos, images and service marks are property of their respective owners. Other restrictions may apply.

While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this site has been obtained from reliable sources, Astound Broadband is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. All information in this site is provided “as is”, with no guarantee of completeness, accuracy, timeliness and without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including, but not limited to warranties of performance, merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. Certain links in this site connect to other websites maintained by third parties over whom Astound Broadband has no control. Astound Broadband makes no representations as to the accuracy or any other aspect of information contained in other websites.

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