How do you know you’re getting the best deal on your Internet service? We all know the value of the internet, but we don’t all have the technical background to understand the serivce that is delivered to us. If you want tips on how to compare and buy the best Internet service for your needs, please read on.
I’m reluctant to over complicate this post with technical, contractual & marketing details. So, I’ll suggest to you that there are three basic things that you need to understand when buying Internet service from anyone. Namely … 1) Speed, 2) Usage & 3) Price. These are not the only things to consider when shopping for Internet service, but if you can use this information to cut through the marketing and sales hype from the Internet service providers you’ll have a good head start.
By the way, understanding speed metrics, usage metrics and price will help get the best value whether you want low-speed, high-speed or mobile Internet service.
Speed is the rate of data being served to you. Internet technology does not always match speeds in each direction, so it’s important to consider speed rates in two directions. DSL for instance will always send data faster to you (download speed) than sending data from your computer to the Internet (upload speed). For most consumers, download speed is more important than upload speed. Internet speed is measured in bits per second (bps). For high speed access, you’ll typically find rates quoted in Megabits per second (Mbps). If you’re not afraid of technology, you can investigate which technologies the service providers use and how that effects speeds. However, if you don’t really care about technology, then just stick to understanding the speed of the Internet service product offering.
As a side note, take a look at the Internet Speedometer I found it with a quick google search. It might help you prove you’re actually getting the promised speed that you’re paying for today.
Usage is the total amount of data that is served to you over a period of time, typically one month. The metric used is typically Gigabytes, or GB. Some service providers don’t have usage limits. This is a good thing if you are a heavy Internet user (e.g. dropping TV service to get your news and entertainment over the Internet). The other case where this may be important to you is if you don’t want to be worried that you’ve gone over your usage limit and paying ridiculously high usage fees. Sometimes in the news you’ll hear when someone miscalulated their usage fees and they receive a $10,000+ monthly bill from their service provider.
All Internet Service providers should provide you a tool that let’s you monitor your Internet usage. I recently found out it was imporant for me to use the Telus usage app because I went over my monthly data usage by mistake. If your Internet service has a monthly usage cap and you don’t know how to measure your usage, then you may get an unpleasant surprise at the end of the month. Make sure you ask your Internet service provider how to do this.
Now you’d expect that price information would be straight forward, wouldn’t you? Hold on there. You’ll need to be cautious about a couple things.
First there’s the question of how Internet service providers communicate prices to you. You may have to cut through the “marketing speak” of some service providers (think of a used car salesman) to find out the real cost of your Internet service. For instance when I was looking into changing my serivce provider from Bell Sympatico to Tek Savvy recently, I noticed two very different ways telling me what the cost of their services were. The most meaningful price to you is the after tax monthly charges that will be coming out of your pocket. So, when I told the Tek Savvy person this is the way I wanted him to talk about prices he willingly adapated his communication style to what I needed. Unfortunately, the Bell people had to stay on script and could not talk this way. They clearly had a sales agenda that was not aligned to my shopping needs. I guess they thought that they could trick me into thinking there price was less. In reality it annoyed me that I had to do extra calculations in order to figure out the true cost after they gave me their “discounted” numbers.
The second thing that you need to worry about with price is what is included and what is not included in the quoted price. For instance, the monthly Internet charges for Tek Savvy did not include the initial cost of modem equipment. Luckily for them, they were very upfront about this cost when I told them I was comparing their prices to Bell Fibe. In fact, the sales person told me that Tek Savvy offered the equipment at a certain price, but that if I knew what to look for (specific technology standards), I could probably get the modem cheaper by picking up the equipment myself. The Bell Fibe equipment was cheaper during the first round of negotiation, but eventually I talked them into throwing in the modem for free.
When you have to add fixed costs into monthly charges to make a good comparision between company offers, I find it makes sense to combine the initial equipment cost with the ongoing monthly cost by dividing the equipment cost by 10 or 20 (i.e. amortize it over 10 months or 20 months) and then add it onto cost of the monthly internet service.
Putting It Altogether
Let’s put all this information together and compare quotes I recently received by Tek Savvy and Bell Fibe.
1) Bell 6Mbps, 60 GB, $64 after tax [Service as of Sept 2013 after recent price increase]
2) Bell Fibe 15Mbps, 60GB, $41 before tax [Faster service & lower price, hmmm, sounds interesting. Too bad I don’t trust Bell because of the poor customer experience they’ve given me.]
3) TekSavvy 7Mbps, 75GB, $34 after tax [$360 per year cheaper than the services I received in Sept 2013, but requires company change (risk) and the purchase of a new modem]
4) TekSavvy 7Mbps, 300GB, $39 after tax [higher usage rate which might make sense if I cancel my Shaw Satellite TV service]
Again there are more factors than just speed, usage and price, but you can see how I’ve used this information to organize my thinking. It certainly helped me focus on the important information for a first pass on my product/price comparison work.
Shopping for High Speed Internet Service – US Government
I hope you found this post useful. Please leave a comment and let me know how well I’ve done. You can also let me know if you want me to write on another “How To Buy” topic in the future.