1. Verify the speed
Your local ISPs will promise you all sorts of speeds and the good ones will let you check whether these speeds apply to your address. But you don’t have to take their word for it. This free search tool from the Federal Communications Commission shows you which providers have the ability to provide internet to your address and the maximum speeds they are capable of delivering.
2. Check the infrastructure
There are not one but five main types of broadband internet: fiber-optic, cable, DSL, satellite, and wireless. Larger internet providers may offer a choice of a few different types of infrastructure, with each one priced according to the speeds and reliability. Smaller providers may only offer one. Fiber and cable offer the highest maximum speeds and most reliability, DSL and satellite are also reliable but can suffer from poor latency (i.e., delays), while fixed wireless is the cheapest and least-reliable of the options.
3. Spend time on each provider’s website
The first place to logically go to compare plans from different internet service providers is the providers themselves. Spending time on each ISP’s website is also a good way to assess their trustworthiness. Is the information on their website up to date? Are they transparent about pricing or are there details missing? What does the sign-up process involve? Although they say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, a user-friendly and transparent website is always a better sign of trustworthiness than a website where the provider appears to be hiding something.
4. Read third-party reviews
One of the great things about the internet is that it’s really easy to compare providers of various services – including internet service providers! That’s thanks in no small part to comparison sites, whose job is to empower consumers (that’s you) to make informed decisions. Click here to read Top10.com’s reviews of top internet services providers.
5. Read customer reviews
To get a full picture of the reliability of ISPs in your area, another useful source of information is customer reviews. Trustpilot is a good place to start. When checking up on larger providers, make sure to filter for ‘internet’ to exclude reviews about cable services, phone services, or other unrelated services offered by the same company. If a company has a bad score (which tends to be the case with the larger providers, who are best for speed but tend to neglect customer service), then it helps to read a few reviews to find out what the problem is. That way, if you do end up choosing that provider, at least you know how to avoid common problems.
6. Check with the Better Business Bureau
The Better Business Bureau, or BBB, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing objective information about the trustworthiness of private businesses. On the BBB website, you’ll find listings for around 400,000 accredited businesses, including internet service providers. Each business has its own page where you can find a score from A+ through F along with details of recent customer complaints. Note that the default is A+, so the best way to get to the important details is by looking at the consumer complaints section.
7. Talk to your neighbors
Sadly, more time spent on the internet is one of the reasons for less time spent meeting face-to-face with friends, family, and neighbors. When it comes to finding out about the reliability of ISPs area, your neighbors might actually be the best source of information. After all, they live right next to where you live and therefore have first-hand experience with the performance of providers in your area.
8. Call customer service
Once you’ve narrowed your search down to one or two ISPs, call customer service. How long does it take for them to pick up? Do you get through to the right customer support agent on the first attempt or do they pass you from agent to agent without anyone taking responsibility? Are they able to provide clear answers to your questions or do they seem unsure of themselves? If you have a good first-up experience, then that’s a good sign. But a poor experience – especially when the purpose of the call is to sign up as a new customer – may be a sign that the ISP isn’t reliable.
9. Ask for guarantees
One of the ways service providers in any industry show they can be trusted is with guarantees, e.g., money-back guarantee, price match guarantee, commitment to a certain level of service. During your initial call with customer support, ask what sorts of guarantees they can make about their service.
10. Trust your intuition
There’s one source of information we still haven’t mentioned: you. After completing steps 1-9, you should have a good idea of which ISPs seem like they can be trusted and which ones can’t. Now it’s up to you to trust your gut and go with the ISP you feel most comfortable with.
Price, speed, and reliable internet connection are the three features most commonly used to differentiate between internet service providers. These are all very important, but that doesn’t mean you should compromise on trust. As the consumer, you have the power to decide which ISPs you can trust and which you can’t.