Service providers are companies that link consumers to the Internet. They operate like a telephone or cable company, charging consumers a fee for the use of the provider's connection to the Internet. There are thousands of providers across the country, and it can be very difficult to compare their services and costs. This report contains tips on how to choose an Internet Service Provider.
There are generally two billing methods used for home Internet accounts: flat rates and metered rates. Flat rate accounts charge a certain amount for unlimited monthly usage of the provider's services. Metered rate accounts usually charge a smaller monthly fee which includes a certain number of hours of Internet usage, and then a per hour rate for each hour of usage after that. Consider which is best for you, and be sure to find out if you can switch between the two types of accounts, if you change your mind about the type of account that meets your needs.
Find out if free trial periods are available. They can be a good way to examine the provider's service first hand, especially for services that ask for long-term commitments. However, these trial periods can be a mixed blessing. Most service providers insist that consumers provide a credit card number when they sign up, and when the trial period is over, automatically bill the consumer's account. It is up to the consumer to remember when a trial period is over and to notify the service provider, not visa versa.
Also, investigate the "hidden" charges that may pop up - for example, charges for the use during peak hours (usually weekday evenings), separate fees to set up an account, extra storage space, additional accounts for others in the household, or assistance in putting up a page on the World Wide Web.
Types of Accounts
There are two types of accounts. Most home users subscribe to dial up service from their service provider, meaning that they call the provider's computer system every time they want to connect to the Internet. Dedicated line service is a more expensive option for heavy users. A dedicated line provides 24 hour a day service on its own telephone line. If you choose dial up service, find out if there is a local access number to dial up the service provider and check with your White Pages to make sure the number is a local call, not just in your area code. If you need your computer when traveling, find out if your provider has local access to numbers in other locations. Some providers offer 800/888 access numbers, but there is a higher monthly fee for the service. If you live in an area where there is no local access numbers, this service may be more cost effective than paying for long distance charges. Many service providers offer users the ability to set up their own home pages on the World Wide Web. Find out whether or not the service provider offers storage space for personal home pages, and whether there is any extra cost for the storage space for the site.
Service and Reliability
Check with the local Better Business Bureau. Complaints to BBB are generally related to access and billing problems.
Try to find out if there is any kind of backup system in place to guarantee service. Ask how fast the connection is to the service provider, and how often the service is unavailable due to maintenance.
Security issues are important. Ask your provider if they have any software to provide secure shopping and credit card transactions over the Internet. Such software can be downloaded from the Internet for free, or be purchased. (100% security can not be guaranteed)
Be sure to ask when technical support is available. If it is a 24 hour phone line, try calling it to see how long it takes to get through.
Software is a crucial element for connecting to the Internet. It is important to know whether the provider uses its’ own software, or uses general connectors. Find out if you can use your own software if you do not choose theirs. Some providers are offering software free as a part of the consumer's enrolment package; others charge for it.
As with other services, shopping around will get you the best value for your money. If you are dissatisfied with the services of your current provider, there are many to choose from. Switching may be more cost effective than continuing a service provider with poor service. For more information on a particular provider, or to file a complaint, contact BBB in the area where the firm is located.