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Home / Tips and Tricks / Best internet providers in 2019: how do you choose cable versus DSL versus satellite and more

Best internet providers in 2019: how do you choose cable versus DSL versus satellite and more



In 2019, super fast internet service became as important as other utilities such as water and electricity. It is the gateway for everything from news to education, from to eating out and all forms of entertainment, from music to gaming – and even what we & # 39; TV & # 39; called. For most Americans, a reliable and fast internet connection is now a fundamental part of both work and family life.

According to the latest available data, the US is in 1

0th place (see PDF report 2017) at the highest average internet speeds (with 18.7 megabits per second, or Mpbs). To the great annoyance of both citizens and politicians, fast internet is not yet universally available. We cannot even agree on the extent of the problem. According to the FCC, about 7% of the US population – that's 19 million Americans – still don't have access to a broadband connection. A more recent study by research firm NPD Group puts the estimate much higher: it says that 100 million Americans have no access to 25 Mbps or higher internet speeds.

Read more: Living in the slow job: Welcome to the internet in rural America

That said, most Americans have access to at least some kind of high speed service from their internet provider. Usually it is a cable, internet or digital subscriber line connection (commonly known as DSL). If you're lucky, it's fiber. If you are less lucky, it is a satellite or fixed LTE connection. As a last resort for people in remote rural and remote areas, there is dial-up Internet access. And now internet providers offering 5G options are starting to pop up. Here is how the different types of internet services rank in order from fastest internet to slowest:

Types of internet services compared

There are many variables involved in choosing an internet provider and internet packages. And, to make matters even more complicated, those variables – internet speeds, costs, reliability and customer service – can vary from place to place. Even if the service provider is identical, the experience may not be: The Comcast experience in Oakland can be very different from that of Comcast Atlanta, just as the McDonald's in your hometown can offer a different experience than mine. although they both serve the same menu.

As such, instead of recommending the best internet provider for you based on national download speeds or prices, we take a different approach. We have WhistleOut, a comparison store provider, arrange the heavy work up to the speeds and prices for suppliers in your region (see below). And we have spent our time mapping out the pros and cons of the technologies in question, along with some general buying advice.

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CNET / Sarah Tew

Fiber optic

  • Typical bandwidth: download 50-1,000 Mpbs
  • Average service price range: $ 50 – $ 100 per month

Fiber optic cables are the backbone of the global telecommunications system and serve as the most important connection routes for most internet , TV and telephone services in the world. Until recently, fiberglass was used exclusively to connect cities and countries. But in the last decade, some providers in some cities have begun expanding fiber optics to individual homes and businesses.

Fiber-optic internet service provides the fastest and most reliable internet connection, with speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second for downloading and uploading . These are orders of magnitude faster than the typical cable or DSL connection. Unfortunately, unless you live in a large metropolitan area in the US, a fiber optic network is probably not a viable option for you in the short term. About 25% of the US population currently has access to it.

If you live in a place with fiber optic internet support, you are lucky. Fiber optic broadband offers everything you want in an internet connection: symmetrical speed – which means equivalent performance, whether you download or upload; reliability; robust signal strength; and super low latency. And although the main fiber-optic line can be divided between homes or businesses, customers are unlikely to experience the type of speed load common to other types of shared connections during peak hours of use. Whether you stream video, upload large files to the cloud or play the latest online games, a fiber optic connection delivers fast, consistent performance with almost imperceptible delay.

Fiber optic:

  • Extremely fast download speeds, low latency, reliable service
  • No data caps
  • The best option for data-intensive applications such as streaming video and gaming

Fiber optic disadvantages:

  • Requires professional installation
  • Fewer providers
  • Very limited availability

The major telecom companies such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon continue to expand their fiber optic infrastructure in the US. And other companies also participate; Google Fiber is available to residents of Atlanta, Charlotte, Kansas City and a handful of other cities. But the great fiber rollout, which is saddled with a variety of technical problems, is expected to last for years.


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Taylor Martin / CNET

Cable

  • Typical bandwidth: download 25-200Mpbs
  • Average service price range: $ 50 – $ 150 per month

Cable generally delivers higher speeds than other types of internet services, except for fiber optics, making it a solid option for activities with a high bandwidth, such as streaming video and music, gaming and downloading (or uploading) large files. It comes on the same physical line as cable TV – and some providers offer discounts when you sign up for both. Although it is available throughout the US, the cable internet market is generally an oligopoly (in the best case), with two large companies dominating most states or regions, or (in the worst case) a monopoly, with only one licensed service provider. This can lead to high prices, worthless service and the existential fear of supporting a company that you despise.

Cable professionals:

  • Low connection speeds , especially for uploading data
  • Speed ​​and performance depend on the proximity of your internet provider
  • However, like telephone services, the likelihood of weather disruption

DSL is generally available as it runs on telephone infrastructure. And although it works on landlines, the internet signal is sent at a higher frequency, so that you can connect to the internet and make calls at the same time.

Note that there are two types of DSL connections: symmetrical, which offers comparable speeds for downloading and uploading data; and asymmetric, which gives you higher download speeds – which represents the lion's share of the internet activity of most people – than uploading.


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CNET / Marguerite Reardon

Fixed Wireless LTE

  • Typical bandwidth: 5-10 Mbps
  • Average service price range: $ 50- $ 85 per month

Fixed LTE internet service is sent from the same wireless towers that allow LTE mobile phone communication. More often in rural areas that do not have a reliable cable internet service, but that are well populated by radio towers, a fixed wireless LTE service requires that you have a special antenna installed on or around your home.

Fixed wireless LTE professionals:

  • Offers decent broadband internet service in rural and remote areas
  • Requires no wires or cable infrastructure connected to the house

Fixed wireless LTE disadvantages:

  • antenna installation and configuration
  • Physical and geographical obstacles can reduce speed
  • Can be expensive and / or require a multi-year service contract
  • Often subjected to data caps and / or high exceedances
  • Higher latency times than faster wired service such as cable and fiber optics

Eventually, the next generation of wireless internet, 5G, will come on a number of fixed wireless networks. (More on that below.) But 5G and fixed wireless are not synonymous. Not all fixed wireless networks support 5G. And not every 5G network is necessarily a fixed wireless network.

Fixed LTE can currently be one of the most expensive types of internet services, as it usually contains limits on the amount of data you can download each month; additional costs will follow if you exceed your reimbursement. For example, one of AT & T & # 39; s fixed LTE service plans costs $ 50 per month for 215 GB of data – plus an additional $ 10 for each additional 50 GB increase. Similarly, the monthly price for the Verizon internet entry model is $ 80 per month (including a monthly access fee of $ 10) for 8 GB of data plus $ 15 for each additional 1 GB of data.


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Eric Mack / CNET

Satellite

  • Typical bandwidth: download 10-30 Mbps
  • Average service price range: $ 50 – $ 150 per month

What about an internet connection from space? Satellite internet service is exactly what it sounds like: a dish on or around your house sends and receives signals from a service provider's hub via a satellite that orbits the earth. Most satellite internet providers, such as Viasat or HughesNet, rely on a handful of large satellites in a geostationary orbit about 22,000 miles above Earth.

Satellite Profiles:

  • Widely available, even in rural areas and remote locations
  • Multiple providers usually result in competitive prices

Satellite Disadvantages:

  • Requires the installation of a satellite dish on or around your home
  • May be expensive and / or requires a multi-year service contract
  • Data caps can result in expensive exceedances or lower speeds
  • Laggy and prone to disruption

Although a satellite internet connection is usually faster than a dial-up connection, it is not always robust enough for modern applications. Latency can be a serious problem, and streaming video and games can be impossible when data is sent to space and sent over and over again.

It is worth noting that the Elon Musk company, SpaceX, is currently building and launching a new network of 12,000 satellites to provide commercial satellite internet access. But it's probably too early to hold on until it's done; Musk does not expect the service to be operational until around the middle of the next decade.


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New, but not yet available everywhere: 5G

  • Typical bandwidth: 250-4,000 Mpbs
  • Average service price range: To be determined

The next generation of mobile technology – the fifth generation, hence 5G – promises to herald a new era of internet access, first on mobile phones and then at home, with dramatic improvements in network speed, coverage and responsiveness. CNET has already tested early 5G speeds in multiple cities around the world, from Los Angeles to Seoul. And although it is currently far from perfect its potential is clear and it is worth the wait.

For example: Verizon's network has shown speeds in excess of 1 gigabit per second in some areas – that is 10 to 100 times faster than your normal mobile connection. That is even faster than the speed that is provided by a physical fiber optic connection to your home. And it's not just the speed: 5G networks have extremely low latency – so there's virtually no pause between when you click on the link and when the website or video loads. Sounds good right?

5G plus points:

  • High speeds, low latency
  • Dedicated bandwidth (don't share with neighbors), no data caps
  • Great for data-intensive applications such as streaming video and gaming

5G disadvantages:

  • Nationwide roll-out running
  • Untested technology
  • Questionable signal strength

However, as with earlier generations of broadband, it will take years for 5G to replace 4G. The new network is the first to come with the next generation of high-end telephones. In the future, carriers will expand the broadband offer to private and business internet users. But first, installers must use special high-speed broadband equipment that can pick up the 5G signals and turn them into a Wi-Fi connection at home or in the office, so that your other multiple devices can access the high speed. (Note that 5G and wired wireless are not synonymous. Not all wired wireless networks support 5G. And not every 5G network is necessarily a wired wireless network.)

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Verizon's 5G broadband service costs $ 50 for wireless subscribers and $ 70 for everyone else – more or less in line with other broadband services. (You can see here whether you are eligible for broadband.) AT & T & # 39; s mobile 5G service is free for "selected" customers for the first 90 days. The company then charges $ 499 for special 5G Wi-Fi hotspots – plus $ 70 per month for a broadband subscription with a 15 GB data cap.

For now, the implementation continues .


Tips for selecting an internet provider

  • Consult your neighbors: Ask which service and providers other people in your area use (and avoid).
  • If possible, buy your own modem / router: Many providers charge extra costs to rent a combination modem / router and you may save a few dollars (and possibly improve your speed and performance) ) with a newer, better router that you own .
  • Beware of price increases after "special offers" expire: Many providers offer monthly introductory prices for the first 12 months; the price you pay afterwards is the real price of your service.
  • Beware of data caps: Exceeding the monthly data download threshold of your plan can lead to expensive exceedances.
  • Negotiate to a lower account: If there are multiple providers in your area, you may be able to use an alternative provider's offer to lower the price of your current monthly service.
  • Consider cutting the cord for additional savings: View CNET & # 39; s list of best live TV streaming services .

Read more: 5 ways to lower your cable bill

Other things to consider when it comes to internet service

The slowest part of your home network system – including the modem , the router, the device you use (eg TV, laptop), telephone) and your service provider – ultimately determine the speed and strength of your connection. A super fast router does not help a laptop with old network hardware, and a slow internet service hinders all your online activities – from streaming services such as Netflix and Spotify to surfing the internet to sending e-mails.

In addition to the type of service you choose, there are a number of other factors that determine the quality and speed of your internet connection. If a company advertises "speeds from X Mbps", this does not necessarily mean that you get that speed consistently.

Your neighbors' WiFi, older devices, walls, floors, and even your microwave may affect your WiFi signal. Most internet providers offer a modem / router combination that you can rent, but you can also buy your own router, add an extender if you need extra coverage, or try a Wi-Fi system for the entire house. Even if you don't know anything about networks, you can adjust some settings to improve performance when you encounter problems.

Originally published on July 28.
Correction, July 30: Corrects the use of megabits per second (Mbps), clarifies the nature of shared fiber optic cables.



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