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If you are deciding to get Internet service or moving to a new location with robust competition between Internet service providers, sometimes the multitude of options can be daunting. Cable, DSL, Fiber, Wireless, or Satellite — no matter the type of service, most have their own set of strengths and weaknesses. Trying to find the most bandwidth for the buck is your ultimate destination.
Here are some quick explanations of each Internet service type — useful information to have before making a decision on an ISP. Before getting started, be sure to check out what providers serve your location using this convenient page.
Cable Internet Service
Cable Internet service remains a popular option for getting online across the country. You can expect Internet speeds of this type to range from around 1.5 Mbps up to nearly 100 Mbps. As its name implies, cable Internet leverages the existing lines used for cable TV. Also chances are good you can save money by bundling both services together if available.
DSL Internet Service
DSL — which stands for “digital subscriber line” — is another widely available form of Internet service. Its speeds are comparable to Cable, with a slightly smaller download speed, but fewer fluctuations, because, unlike Cable, a DSL line isn’t shared between users. DSL is a solid service option, especially if there are no other choices at your residence.
Fiber Internet Service
Transmitted over fiber-optic lines, Fiber Internet service is the current bandwidth champion, capable of download speeds in the 1 Gbps range. Most major cities are hoping Google decides to pick their locale as the next site for its wildly popular Google Fiber service offering one gig of bandwidth at the same price as most Cable or DSL plans. However, the high cost of installing fiber-optic cables continues to slow the wider availability of Fiber internet service.
Wireless Internet Service
4G LTE Wireless Internet service rivals the speed of Cable or DSL sometimes reaching 10 to 20 Mbps. The main issue with most Wireless Internet service is the monthly data limits — usually from 1 to 10 GB per month. This keeps most popular Internet activities, like streaming video or online gaming, to a minimum, lest expensive overage charges come into play.
Satellite Internet Service
In the rural hinterlands sometimes Satellite Internet service is your only option. It provides a way to get online, but with significant limitations, like peak hour data limits and relatively slow speeds. Satellite service works best as a last resort for keeping in touch with friends and family over email.
Once you decide on an ISP and the service is in operation, be sure to run regular Internet speed tests to make sure your provider is following through on their promises. Finally, always keep an eye out for when Fiber service becomes available in your area.
Paul Williams brings a wide range of experiences to his writing. He worked extensively in technology, as a software engineer, technical writer, and now a technology writer. Known as the leader of one of the top American Spacerock bands, his forward-looking music continues to be heard all over the world.