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Buyers Tips

Choosing an Internet Provider

If the thought of choosing an Internet service provider (ISP) or of switching to a new one fills you with dread, you're not alone. As more and more ISPs crop up and the options get increasingly complicated, the supposedly simple task of getting on the Internet takes on a new dimension.
Your BBB suggests you do some homework before deciding on a particular provider.

The first thing to look for when choosing an ISP is whether they have an access number that is a local phone call for you. Otherwise, you may end up paying the phone company more than you pay the ISP. If you reside in or near a large or medium-sized city you should have no problem finding an ISP with a local access number. However, if you live in a rural area you may not have much luck in finding one at all. If you can't find an ISP with a local access number, be sure you get the best long distance rate possible.

Price is a large factor when choosing an ISP. Most providers offer a monthly fixed, flat-rate with unlimited online time. If you're only interested in surfing for brief periods at a time or you just need e-mail access, look for pricing that reflects the actual time spent online. Ask about discounts if you opt to have your payments made automatically by credit card, or for signing up for a longer period. Keep in mind, that the lowest price is not always the best deal. Find out what features are included in the price, such as e-mail, Web page hosting, filters for downloading, etc.

If you're new to the Internet, you should look for an ISP that will help you get things up and running. Ideally, look for a service that offers a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week support and preferably an 800 or local phone number. Call the number at a time representative of the hours you'll be keeping and see how often you get a busy signal or get placed in a queue, and for how long. If you already have Internet access, check out the company's web site and see how informative it is and how easy it is to navigate. Look for the frequently asked questions area, which can save you time in the long run by answering those more obvious questions. Also, check the company out with your BBB.

Find out if the ISP has enough modems. Also, know if it has sufficient bandwidth to the Internet to properly support all of the users who log on.

Finally, ask for recommendations from friends and co-workers.

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