Comparing the Different Types of Internet Service in Decatur, AL

in Blog

At Global Horizons Network in Decatur, AL, we want to make sure our customers are fully informed of what is available and how to understand the different types of internet technology that are out there.

First, we’ll go over all the types of internet service on the market and the key differences between them.

"Broadband" is an umbrella term that covers all of the always-on types of internet connections: cable, satellite, DSL, and fiber optic service. The other option is dial-up (yes, this still exists and people still pay for it). Unless dial-up is your only choice, you'll want to go with broadband. Here's a summary of the different types of broadband connections available to consumers:

  • DSL stands for Digital Subscriber Line. It operates over regular telephone lines (like dial-up does) to deliver download speeds as fast as 25 megabits per second (with 100 Mbps or more expected later this year). There are two types of DSL: Asymmetric DSL (ADSL) and Symmetric DSL (SDSL). ADSL is the cheaper of the two and offers significantly faster download speeds than upload speeds. SDSL, on the other hand, provides equally fast upload and download speeds, which might be important if you are a VPN user or regularly backup large files to the cloud.
    • Advantages: DSL is typically less expensive than other broadband options, and you'll likely have more than one DSL provider to choose from—as opposed to one single cable or fiber optic provider. The speeds you get from DSL are also usually very stable and consistent, because, in many cases, you get a dedicated line.
    • Disadvantages: The quality and speed of DSL service depends on distance: The farther away you are from the provider's central office (CO), the slower and less reliable your connection. Also, DSL speeds, while much faster than dial-up and probably enough for most users' needs, aren't as fast as other broadband types yet.
  • Cable broadband is offered by your cable television provider. It operates over coaxial cable TV wires and provides download speeds ranging from 3 Mbps to over 100 Mbps.
    • Advantages: The quality and speed of your service doesn't depend on your distance like it does with DSL. Cable is also typically much faster than DSL and satellite, and more widely available than fiber optic broadband.
    • Disadvantages: In most cases, your available bandwidth is shared with others in your neighborhood, so the more people using the cable broadband service at once, the slower the internet service will be for everyone. This can really put a damper on your Netflix streaming at peak internet use times.
  • Satellite, as you might expect, uses satellites to beam the internet feed to subscribers' installed satellite dishes. Satellite, no matter where you are, offers speeds of up to 15 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up, as long as your signal is uninterrupted.
    • Advantages: Satellite covers areas where DSL, cable, and fiber are unavailable. For many people in rural areas, it's the only broadband option.
    • Disadvantages: It's both slower and more expensive (for the rated speeds) than other broadband options. It is also the least reliable connection.
  • Fiber optic service (FiOS), the latest in internet connectivity types, operates over an optical network using light. (What? Yeah, fiber-optic lines are pure glass as thin as a human hair.) Right now, Verizon, AT&T U-verse, and Qwest are the major fiber optic providers and offer speeds as high as 300 Mbps down and 65 Mbps up.
  • Advantages: Offers the highest ("at the speed of light") speeds available, compared to traditional copper wire connections such as DSL or cable.
  • Disadvantages: Fiber is only available in limited areas.

Of course, beyond just internet connection types, a lot depends on where you are (in some areas DSL might be faster than cable or cable a better value if you factor in bundling incentives)—as well as the individual ISP. Here's how to compare ISPs to find the best one for you.

What You Should Consider Before Choosing an ISP

  • The most important features are availability and reliability. It's no use trying to get Charter Cable or Google Fiber if the company doesn't service your area.
  • Download and Upload Speeds: We all want the fastest internet at the price we're willing to pay. Make sure when you're comparing services, you do so on an apples-to-apples basis, comparing the most similar plans based on both download and upload speeds.
  • Cost and Contract: Most discount your internet service if you package it with television and/or phone service (but often only for a limited time, so be sure to compare costs including after the bundle expires). Some will force you into a multi-year contract while some won’t require a contract at all. These are the details you'll need to consider when comparing services by price.
  • Terms of Service: Similarly, make sure you know what the service's limitations are. There may be data caps, for example, limiting the amount of data you can use per month, or restrictions on the kinds of activities you're allowed to do, such as running a web or file server.
  • Add-ons and special features: Many ISPs throw in extras just to make it seem like you're getting a great value. Things like anti-virus program subscriptions, an ISP-branded email address, and personal web pages are just that—extras that you likely don't need. One pretty cool add-on you might find, though, is free Wi-Fi hotspot access.
  • Reliability:  Of course, none of these features matter if you can't use the service when you need it. Make sure the service you choose is reliable and that the company has a track record of getting their customers up and running again after natural disasters and other interruptions.
  • Customer support: If you experience outages or other problems with the internet (as will happen), how easy is it to get support? Does the provider offer phone, email, or chat with customer support? How painful or painless is the installation process? JD Power's Residential Internet Service Provider Ratings measures ISP customers' satisfaction across several factors, including performance and customer service.

With this being said, most customers in Decatur, AL have more than one option for internet service, and Global Horizons Network is happy to help you decide which will best suit your household. Please call us today at 256-318-1758.