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ShoppingSpot > Selecting an ISP

Selecting an ISP

Whether you are choosing an Internet Service Provider (ISP) for the first time or switching to a new one, it is not a decision to take lightly. The following resources can help you do your homework.

Where to Start

The List is the definitive buyer's guide for ISPs. The site allows you to search for providers in the United States or around the world. You can search by many criteria, including area code.

Once you find options in your area, how do you narrow them?

According to the Better Business Bureau, there are 3 important things to consider: local access, price and support.

  • Local Access
    Check to see if the ISP has a local access number. If not, you will end up paying more to your phone company. Residents of large and midsized cities should have no trouble accessing the Internet with a local call. If you can't find an ISP with a local number, try to find the best long distance rate possible.




    Will you need nationwide access to your account? Many ISPs offer numbers throughout the United States and worldwide.

  • Price
    Dial-up rates generally start at $19.95 per month for unlimited access. Cable modem access and DSL start around $39.95 per month. If you only access the Internet a few hours each month, consider bargain plans. CNET.com maintains a list of bargain options. Keep in mind that the lowest price is not always the best deal. Companies that advertise dirt-cheap access to the Internet may have few modems, which will lead to busy signals during peak periods.

  • Support
    If you are new to the internet, support is especially important. Look for a service that offers 24-hour support through an 800 or local phone number. Is the company's Web site helpful?

Other factors to consider include Web space, connection speeds and easy setup. PC Magazine posts a detailed list of questions to ask an Internet service provider.

CNET.com offers extensive information on choosing an ISP, reviews and prices. The site reviews four of the nations largest ISPs and highlights up-and-coming players.

Finally, ask for recommendations from friends and family. Can they connect with little trouble? How is customer service? Smaller companies often rely heavily on word of mouth. If friends and family members are happy with their service, chances are you might be too.




   --- M. Scarborough

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