Know Your High-Speed Internet Options

High speed Internet service has transformed the way we use the Internet in recent years. When dial-up service was the standard, simply getting a page full of photos to load could take several minutes or more. Now we're streaming high definition movies within seconds and information is delivered almost instantaneously. Most homes subscribe to either broadband or DSL high-speed Internet, as do most businesses and public places ranging from libraries to schools. Even restaurants and coffee shops offer high-speed WiFi that's good enough for streaming and online gaming. Whether or not high speed Internet is the right choice is no longer the question. Now the question is: which high speed Internet service and Internet service provider you should choose?

There are two main types of high speed Internet that are readily available in most cities in the United States - cable broadband and DSL, or digital subscriber line. Broadband is currently the most popular choice, though DSL is quickly catching up in terms of popularity. As far as functionality goes, both DSL and cable Internet services are similar. With either one, you maintain a constant connection to the Internet without the need to 'dial-up' for service. Security models between the two are slightly different, but both effective, and speeds are similar in practice, even if cable advertises faster speeds. Broadband Internet is delivered through your local cable company and uses existing or new cable lines in your home or office. DSL, on the other hand, is delivered through your local phone company and uses a telephone line to connect you to the Internet. Unlike dial up, however, DSL does not interfere with your ability to use the phone while you're online, and DSL speeds are much, much faster than dial up. If DSL and broadband connections are not available in your area, satellite Internet may be your best option for getting a high-speed Internet connection. Though more expensive than DSL and broadband, satellite Internet is a great alternative for those in rural areas, where no other types of connection are available.

If both broadband and DSL plans are similar, which should you choose? While it's easy to choose the fastest ISP, many people are actually fine with the cheapest ISP. Lower-speed ISPs typically offer the most bang for your buck, especially when looking at bundled prices with cable and broadband or DSL Internet discounts. Let's review pricing tiers with Comcast and CenturyLink for more perspective, as these are two of the most well-known ISPs.

Comcast Internet services are priced according to download speeds, meaning the faster you want your Internet to go, the more expensive your Internet becomes. Prices typically start as low as $19.99 (for the first six months) and jump all the way up to as much as $199.95 or more for the fastest speeds available. The cheapest package will get you running on about 20Mbps. That's plenty for most people's needs, and more expensive packages are available for people who plan on being online with more devices simultaneously.

Like Comcast, DSL from CenturyLink is priced by upload and downloading speeds. CenturyLink typically runs deals where they offer any speed of Internet service at a low price (usually around $29.99) for the first six months. These speeds are faster than Comcast for the same rates for the first half of the year. After that, prices will jump up to the normal rates for the speed you signed up for. Even so, CenturyLink's highest price is still a good $130 less than Comcast's highest-priced package (but keep in mind that Comcast is offering over twice as much speed for the cost). Before doing a six-month deal, make sure you'll be comfortable paying the full price once the six months is up. CenturyLink uses contract pricing, which means you'll be locked into that price for the remainder of your contract, and could be charged an early-termination fee if you choose to cancel service early.

Choosing to go with CenturyLink, Comcast or another Internet service provider will all come down to your computer habits, what you need out of your high speed Internet service and which company is offering the best deal at the time. If you're content just browsing casually, checking email, social networking and downloading the occasional song or two, you'll be fine using cheaper cable Internet or DSL service, and you should choose the package that offers you the best deal. If you're streaming HD movies or playing bandwidth-intensive games, you may want to spring for one of the pricier packages. Shop around and read reviews for both types of Internet in your area. This will give you a good idea about which type of high speed Internet service performs best in your location. Other things to consider are the level of customer service each ISP offers, as well as package discounts or promotions that may be offered when you bundle your services. For example, if you've already got cable television service through Comcast, you may save quite a bit of money by signing up for Internet service through Comcast, as well. Similarly, if you have phone service through CenturyLink, you may save money by bundling DSL service with your phone.

Contact your local ISPs and look for online deals. Once you find the right ISP and the best package, you'll be online and reaping the benefits of ultra-fast high-speed Internet.

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