Choosing an Internet Service Provider

Home & Family, Technology
on May 28, 2009

When choosing an Internet service provider (ISP), your options depend on your location and generally fall into two categories: high-speed broadband and dial-up.

Broadband service is the best choice if you use the Internet often, download music or video to your computer, play games online, or want to share the connection with other home computers. It’s the most expensive option-expect to pay $20 to $60 a month for broadband-but you’ll need a high-speed connection to view video and other features becoming common on websites.

Broadband includes digital subscriber line (DSL) service, which piggybacks on your telephone line; Internet via a cable TV connection; and a newer option, fiber-optic service, which is not yet widely available. Broadband service is available mainly in densely populated areas, although DSL and cable connections are becoming more common in rural locations. If these popular broadband services aren’t available where you live, two-way satellite service is an option for about $50 a month; data transmission speed may at times seem to lag compared with cable or DSL, however.

The alternative to broadband is traditional dial-up service, using your existing phone line. Available just about everywhere, dial-up is a good choice if you’re only going to send and receive e-mail or occasionally connect to the Internet. The service is slow but costs only $10 to $20 per month. Choose a provider that offers a local dial-in number to avoid toll charges.

In urban areas, you can get cellular service for your laptop and take the Internet with you everywhere, but the $50 to $60 monthly fee may give you pause.

To find an ISP, contact cable and phone companies to see what they offer, then consult an online directory such as to check for other options.