Educational Consumer Tips

Internet Service Provider

Author: Better Business Bureau

The following is general information regarding choosing an Internet provider.

This report contains a step-by-step guide to follow when considering using the services of an Internet provider. The Internet is a rapidly growing industry, in which many new companies are offering services that are unfamiliar to the vast majority of consumers. In order to join the world of the Internet, the first thing consumers must do is choose an Internet Service Provider (ISP). Service providers are companies that link consumers to the Internet. There are thousands of providers across the country, and it can be very difficult to compare their services and costs. 


Cost is one of the major considerations in evaluating an Internet Service Provider. There are generally two billing methods used for home Internet accounts: flat rates and metered rates. 

  1) Flat rate accounts charge a certain amount for unlimited monthly usage of the provider's services. 

  2) 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. 

  3) Consider what is best for you, and be sure to find out if you can switch between the two types of accounts that meet your needs. 

  4) Find out whether or not 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. 

  5) Also investigate the "hidden" charges that may pop up: for example, charges for 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. 


There are two types of accounts that home users can choose from: 

  1) 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. 

   2) Dedicated line service is a more expensive option for heavy Internet users. A dedicated line provides 24 hour a day service on its own                telephone line. 

   3) 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 necessary for the site.


Internet Service Providers are locked in major competition, and even the largest services are angling to increase the number of subscribers, and thus judging their reliability may be difficult. 

  1) Check with the Better Business Bureau in the area where the firm is headquartered. Complaints to the Better Business Bureaus about service     providers are generally related to access and billing problems. 

  2) Don't be afraid to switch if you are dissatisfied with your provider's service-there are many others out there looking for your business. 

  3) Try to find out if there is any kind of backup system in place to guarantee service. 

  4) Ask how fast the connection is to the service provider, and how often the service is unavailable due to maintenance. 

  5) Ask your service provider if they have any software to provide secure shopping and credit card transactions over the Internet. Such software     may also be downloaded from the Internet for free, or be purchased. 
  6) Ask if content is censored in any way, and if you are interested, if there is any software that permits the consumer to censor content for minors using the household account. 

  7) Ask when technical support is available; some service providers have a 24 hour phone line (which may help you avoid heavy peak hours), others may have advice by fax or e-mail only. 

  8) Also ask if there is any type of charge for the service, how large the support staff is, and how busy they get, especially during peak hours.


Software is a crucial element for connecting to the Internet. It is important to know whether the provider uses its own unique software, or uses general commercial connectors. 

  1) Ask if you can use your own software if you do not choose to use theirs. 

  2) Make sure that the provider offers software for your operating system, and that you will be able to get copies in an acceptable format, either       through the mail or downloaded from the Internet itself. 

As with many services, shopping around will get you the best value. If you are dissatisfied with the services of your current Internet service provider, there are many more to choose from. Switching may be more cost effective than continuing to use a service provider who provides poor service. 

For more information, contact: 

Better Business Bureau
100 Bryant Woods South, Amherst, NY 14228
(800) 828-5000

This report is general in nature and is not intended as a Business Review on any company, service or product.