There are many different broadband providers out there, which is both a blessing and a curse. The problem that most people face is sorting through the misinformation and marketing hyperbole in order to make the best possible purchasing decision. We here at High Speed Experts understand that you might be confused, so sit back and enjoy our guide to choosing the right broadband provider for you.
Upstream, Downstream, We-stream, You-stream
In order to choose the best possible broadband provider for your needs, you will need to know what your needs are. This might sound obvious, but so many people overlook their true needs when shopping for a broadband provider. So, what do you need to consider when evaluating broadband providers? Let’s start with the basics: upstream and downstream.
Simply put, upstream is the amount of data that can be sent from your computer/network out to the Internet in any given window of time, and downstream is how much data can come from the Internet to your broadband modem and into your home network. To summarize, upstream is outbound traffic and downstream is inbound traffic. In most cases, downstream performance is far more important than upstream speeds unless you plan on doing a lot of uploading. If you manage several websites, routinely upload movies and photo albums to sites such as YouTube and Flickr, then upstream speed might be worth paying attention to.
What About Ping?
Ping times are rarely advertised, but they can be measured in any number of ways. Ping times are how quick a data packet can be sent from a computer or device on the network out to a destination on the Internet and back again. This round-trip measures how responsive a connection is, and is vital for the performance of online games. Generally speaking, faster broadband connections have lower ping times, and lower ping times are actually faster than higher ping times. For most purposes, differences in ping time are essentially insignificant.
DSL has a reputation for slightly lower ping times than cable modem broadband services, but the fact is that the difference can be difficult to measure in many cases and irrelevant for most consumers. Furthermore, the ping times can be increased dramatically whenever uploads and other downloads are in effect. Fiber optic connections tend to be asynchronous, meaning that they have identical upstream and downstream performance, an arrangement that generally results in lower ping times and limited impact on ping times when other tasks are using a broadband connection.
Sharing, Everyone Does It
One common argument that is used by telecoms to sell DSL services is that cable modem connections degrade when everyone in the sub-division is using them. While this is true, it is also true that DSL connections suffer similarly. Why? Because the connection from any broadband provider branches multiple times, and that means that all broadband services have bottlenecks. Is one bottleneck worse than the next? It is very difficult to say with any degree of certainty on any level other than a theoretical one. With theory and reality clashing more often than Republicans and Democrats, it is impossible to say that DSL is inherently superior on a practical level.
A Tale of Security
One of the most recent, and somewhat alarming, claims regarding broadband is that it actually exposes computers to risk. The theory is that faster connections equate to more risk, but that theory really does not hold much water. We recently covered the risks of broadband and methods to minimize those risks, but the bottom line is that human reaction time renders differences of picoseconds to be meaningless.
The Future and Caps
The future of broadband belongs to fiber optics, though there are a few last-ditch attempts by DSL and cable modem services to catch up with fiber. If you are adverse to switching providers in a year or two, then try to find a fiber optic broadband provider. It would also be worth noting that broadband caps, or limits to the amount of data that can be uploaded and/or downloaded each month is becoming increasingly common. This can be a serious problem for those with serious upload and/or download needs.
What You Need
By now you should have a good idea about what you need. If you are looking to save and performance is unimportant, then you can shop for the cheapest broadband connection in town unless caps are a problem. If you want something future proof, go for fiber optic broadband services. If you need a fast service that can upload quickly, then look for fast upstream speeds. If you are worried about how fast you can stream HD content from iTunes, then look for a provider with high downstream speeds.
Regardless of which service you choose, try to determine if you can save money by bundling VoIP and/or IPTV-based digital cable services. In most cases, bundling will save a lot of money in the long run, though there may be some installation fees to contend with.
Look for a Promo
Most providers will entice consumers with promotional offers. They tend to change frequently, so look for a current promotion on a site like Promo Code Share or another similar site. Sometimes you’ll find an offer that’s only good if you’re switching from a specific competitor, and other times you’ll need a special promo code.