Before you subscribe to an internet plan with your local service provider, search through the packages they offer and read any reviews you can find. There are specific features you should look into before you sign up for internet access. For example, you don’t want to get stuck with a provider that offers subpar customer service or tacks on excessive hidden fees to each bill.

The top internet service providers in the United States include AT&T Internet Services, Charter Communications, Sparklight, CenturyLink, Consolidated Communications (including FairPoint Communications and SureWest Communications), Cox Communications, Frontier Communications, Verizon High Speed Internet, Mediacom, Windstream (including Earthlink), Evan, TDS Telecom and Stealth Communications. Click here for information about how Spectrum Internet is coping with the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Download and Upload Speeds

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Whether you’re planning only to check emails and surf the web, or you know you’ll wind-up binge-watching shows on a streaming platform, subscribing to ISP with a fast download speed is a necessity. These days, most people with an internet subscription do more than reading and sending emails — they stream, game and surf a wide variety of digital content.

If your household plans to use the internet for online gaming, streaming Netflix or Hulu or downloading large attachments, you should choose the package that offers the fastest download speeds you can afford. This is especially vital if you will have multiple people online at the same time.

Most internet service providers (ISPs) offer high-speed service at various price points to meet your needs. For example, Spectrum provides download speeds of 100 Mbps, 400 Mbps or 940 Mbps. All of these packages give you the lightning-fast internet you need, but if your household plans to be logged on all day or at the same time, you should go for one of the faster plans.

Before you commit to a subscription, determine how much your household will get online and what they want to use the internet for. You want fast enough speeds so that nothing buffers or gets interrupted, but you also don’t want to pay for more than you need.

Upload speeds are typically slower than download and are used when you send information online rather than downloading content to your device. You don’t usually need lightning-fast upload speeds, but you shouldn’t shortchange yourself either.

Data Caps

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Data caps are those nasty limits some ISPs put on your internet usage. Not every ISP adds a data cap to their plans, but enough of them do, so it’s worth looking into before you sign up. Most internet subscribers are online multiple times throughout the day if not all day and data caps can get in the way of their online activities.

Call the internet service provider and ask about data caps before you subscribe and make sure you understand what you’re getting yourself into if you decide to move forward with a data cap plan. That said, data caps don’t have to be a bad thing. If your household doesn’t consume an excessive amount of internet throughout a given month, you’re probably safe having a data cap plan.

Spectrum is one ISP that does not have data caps, which makes it an excellent choice for your internet needs.

Customer Service

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Quality customer service is a must these days. Not every ISP has a local office where you can interact with a service rep face-to-face, which means you might only get limited phone conversations. If you wind up choosing an ISP whose customer service reps have poor phone and people skills, you’ll have a challenging time getting your issues addressed.

Aside from the customer service reps, you also want a company that has excellent customer service hours. 24/7 is best, especially if you’re up late working on a paper and the internet crashes. If you can’t get 24/7, try to choose a company that is at least open seven days a week.

Added Costs and Fees

Every ISP has added costs and fees on your bill — that’s just a fact of life. You might have a charge for renting a modem, an activation fee, an early termination fee, maintenance charges or anything else the company wants to charge you for. Some ISPs have more added costs than others, so if you’re switching providers or moving to a new home, ask your friends and neighbors about the charges they get on their bills.

There is also such a thing as hidden costs. These are charges you don’t know about until you get your bill. ISPs aren’t always forthcoming about their added fees, so you might get a surprise on your first bill if you don’t do your due diligence before signing up. You can always call the provider and ask for the specific charges you’ll get on each bill.

At the end of your first year with the internet service provider, you might get saddled with an increase in your base price. ISPs are notorious for increasing your bill at the end of every term, usually once a year.

Bundling

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Don’t let the added costs and fees scare you away from getting the internet, though. You can always decrease your internet bill by bundling. Bundling is when you combine two or more services that your ISP offers. You might bundle cable internet with cable TV or add in a phone line for even lower costs per service.

If you already plan to subscribe to a TV package, it only makes sense to bundle TV with the internet to get the best prices. For less per month per service, you can get faster internet and premium television.

At the End of the Day

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Make sure you choose an internet package and ISP that meets your individual needs at the end of the day. Don’t focus on what other people have or want — focus on what works for your household. Pay attention to features like download and upload speeds, data caps, customer service quality, additional charges and whether you can bundle your internet with a TV subscription. If you do your homework before you subscribe, you can get the best bang for your buck.