If you’re hunting for a new apartment, it’s important to consider amenities like ease of access to public transit, security, and any other special features of the building — for example, a gym or swimming pool. Just as critical, however, is fast Internet service. How does the apartment measure up, and how much will you pay? Here are five tips for getting the best connection in your new apartment:

Location, Location, Locationfast-internet-service

When you start looking for an apartment, your first concern will likely be location. Is it close to school? Work? Popular restaurants or retail stores? But location can also impact the speed of your Internet connection. If the building is too far away from hubs of local Internet providers, your download speed can be compromised. While plans may promise 10 megabits per second (Mbps) downloads, that statistic is only valid under optimal conditions. If the distance between your prospective apartment and your Internet provider — also known as “the last mile” — is too great, you’ll always be hampered by slow speeds.

Being Neighborly

Even if an apartment building is located on the outskirts of town or doesn’t have a solid Internet pipeline, it’s still possible to find a decent Internet connection, so long as you don’t mind paying for a dedicated WiFi service or “borrowing” signals from your neighbors. Start by turning on your smartphone or tablet’s WiFi when you’re near the building — can you detect any signals? If so, look for ones that aren’t secure; you can piggyback on these for a limited amount of time. Of course, that doesn’t solve the problem in the long term, meaning you’ll need to contact your phone or cable television provider to see how much they charge for a wireless router. Once installed, it’s up to you; lock down the service or allow your neighbors (and potential hackers) free access.

Ask About Connections

While you can always seek out your own Internet provider, it’s worth asking if the apartment complex has a deal with any local companies. In some cases, you may be able to get basic broadband at a low price as long as you’re willing to sign an agreement and use the same provider as everyone else in the building. On the plus side, you won’t pay much, but don’t expect blazing fast download rates, since all other residents will be on the same connection. This is especially true with cable (coaxial) connections, since all users share the same “pipeline.” During peak use times, you may find your download speed is substantially reduced.

Go Your Own Way

It’s also worth asking if you’re able to supply your own Internet connection. Some apartment buildings have exclusive deals with providers, meaning you use what’s provided or nothing at all. Buildings that have no use restrictions allow you to shop around, meaning you can compare local ADSL, cable, or fiber-optic providers. The Google Fiber service, for example, will connect entire apartment buildings to its network for a one-time fee and then provide free high-speed access thereafter, which is comparable to traditional broadband transfer rates.

Who Pays the Bills?

Just like water, gas, and power, know who pays for the Internet connection. Some apartment buildings roll the cost into your rent at a discounted rate, while others charge a fee on top of monthly rent. Some offer “upgraded” Internet packages, but do your research and make sure you aren’t paying too much for something you could purchase directly from a provider at a lower price.

If you’re looking for a new apartment, don’t leave fast Internet service off the “must-have” list. Find out what’s already in place, what’s available, and how you can maximize speed while controlling costs.

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