August 9, 2023
With internet access now being so essential, picking the right Internet Service Provider is an important decision. Whether you are watching Netflix, shopping on Etsy, chatting with friends on Zoom, gaming online, scrolling through social media, or browsing the Mid-Continent Public Library catalog, internet access is a must.
With all this reliance on internet, having your own connection in your home can be very convenient. In order to get internet access, you will need to sign up through an Internet Service Provider (ISP). You may recognize popular ISPs like Spectrum, Google Fiber, CenturyLink, and Xfinity. Picking the right Internet Service Provider and plan can be a daunting task, but there are some simple steps you can take to help you make your decision.
The first thing you may want to do is determine how fast you will need your internet connection to be. Taking a look at the Federal Communications Commission’s Broadband Speed Guide can show you required internet speeds for different online activities. For instance, shopping online and checking email takes significantly less speed than streaming video or playing video games. The number of individuals who use internet in your household at one time is another important factor, and so consulting the Household Broadband Guide can also be useful.
Many ISPs have different plans that vary in cost and speed. The faster the speeds, the more the monthly cost. Internet Service Providers often advertise internet speeds as “up to”, meaning that your speeds will not always be as fast as advertised. To find out how fast an internet connection really is, an internet speed test can be run. To find out how these work, watch How to Perform Internet Speed Tests on our YouTube channel. Once you have determined required internet speeds, you will need to find out who provides service in your area.
Using websites like InMyArea and BroadbandNow can help you figure out which Internet Service Providers are available where you live and allow you to compare them side-by-side. Doing some research beyond advertisements can help you determine which internet plan will work best for you. Consumer Reports regularly tests and rates different Internet Service Providers using the following criteria: value, reliability, speed, technical support, and customer service. Your Mid-Continent Public Library card gives you free access to all of Consumer Reports’ ratings and buying guides.
If you want some additional help researching internet services, check out our Researching Internet Service Providers video.
Consumer Technology Specialist