How to Pick an Internet Plan – William Mah

Nowadays, our world seems to revolve around the internet. We seem to use it for almost everything, from finding great cooking recipes, watching cat videos to playing video games, streaming Netflix and communicating with your colleague sitting 2 feet away from you. Finding the right internet plan can be a challenge. In this guide, I will be giving you some tips and tricks that may assist you with picking your internet plan and provider.

First thing we’ll want to cover are the actual internet services. Please note that some of these services may not be available to you depending on your location or may not fit into your projected internet budget. There are currently 4 internet services that are available to the masses: DSL, Satellite, Cable, and Fiber Optic. Let’s have a quick look at each of these services!

DSL: This stands for Digital Subscriber Line, which uses telephone lines for internet. There are currently two types of DSL: Asymmetric DSL (ADSL) and Symmetric DSL (SDSL). The difference between the two is related to their upload (how much you can send to the internet) and download (how much you can get from the internet) speeds. ADSL will generally have a higher download speed than upload speed (e.g. 25MB per second download and 5MB per second upload), while SDSL will be closer to equal speeds for both upload and download. Most DSL lines can download up to 25MB per second, with a possibility of 100MB per second in the future.

  • Pros: DSL is usually cheaper than most other choices on this list. It is the most widely available internet service for most locations. The speeds and connectivity are usually consistent as you will have a dedicated line for your home or business.
  • Cons: While the speed and connectivity are consistent, DSL is dependent on distance from the provider’s central office. The farther you are from their hub, the slower the speeds will be. DSL also tends to have lower download/upload speeds than the more modern Internet services in this list.

Satellite: Satellite is much like you would expect it to be. Internet services are beamed to a satellite dish, and then down to the subscriber. The unfortunate part is that the max speed for satellite is 15MB per second download and 3MB per second upload.

  • Pros: Satellite is the best choice for remote locations where DSL, Cable and fiber are not available. This makes it ideal for cabins, small towns or businesses outside of city limits.
  • Cons: Satellite has the slowest overall speeds out of all the internet services. It is also more expensive when compared to other internet services of the same speeds. It can also be disrupted by weather or terrain effects.

Cable: Cable is an internet service usually provided by a television service provider. It uses coaxial cables for internet services and most cities have the infrastructure for this in both residential and commercial areas. Download speeds can range from 3MB per second to over 100MB per second

  • Pros: Unlike DSL, cable is not restricted by distance and usually offers faster speeds than DSL and Satellite. It’s also the most widely used internet service in large cities.
  • Cons: For the majority of neighbourhoods, you will be sharing your bandwidth with your neighbors This can cause your internet to slow down during peak internet usage times.

Fiber Optic: Fiber Optic is the newest form of internet service. It uses light as an internet delivery service. The cables that are used have ultrathin glass-like material inside that assists in transporting the information. Speeds for fiber optic can go up to 300MB per second for downloading and 65 MB per second on upload. These speeds will increase as further developments are made.

  • Pros: By far the fastest speeds compared to the other internet services.
  • Cons: Fiber is limited by location. The infrastructure in most cities has yet to be developed. It is also more costly than the other options.

 

Now that you have an understanding of what services are out there, let’s have a look at the following:

Download, Upload and Bandwidth: When you’re looking to compare ISPs (Internet Service Providers) against each other, remember to compare them apples-to-apples. What this means is you want to compare the download speed, upload speed, and data cap of each plan (or the plan that is closest to the one you want to compare it to). Always try to dig for more information as most sites will only list their packages and not the speeds/bandwidth.

Terms of Service: Remember to read this for every service provider. They might have a hard data cap, penalties for going over a data cap or restricted usage for high-bandwidth users.

Usage: Another thing to consider is what you will be using your internet for.

  • Web browsing: For basic web browsing you won’t need very fast speeds. You can get away with the slower speeds as you won’t need to stream data very often
  • Video streaming and games: For both of these you will need at least a decent internet speed. Going for the mid-priced plans will work for this. If you have multiple people streaming videos or playing video games at the same time, I would suggest going for the next plan up.
  • Web Hosting, File Hosting, Data Sharing: If you are going to be doing any of these things, you will need to have a fast upload speed as you will need to upload files to clients/users more frequently
  • Number of devices: The more devices you have operating at the same time, the more available download and upload capacity will be needed
  • Businesses: It is recommended for businesses to go for Internet Plans that are 50MB or higher on download. The main reason is that your staff will be sharing the bandwidth which can cause slowness on lower speeds.

Hopefully with this information you will be able to pick an internet plan that fits your needs. If you’re curious about your current internet plan, I recommend checking out a website like http://www.speedtest.net/. This will give you a basic idea of the level of service you’re getting so that you can more accurately compare Internet Service Provider options.

William Mah
System Specialist

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