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How to Pick the Best Internet Service Provider for a Home Office

Recent research shows that 52% of workers globally now telecommute at least one day a week.

It's not surprising then that today's home office can be pretty sophisticated--with a nice desk, a high-end chair, and of course powerful Internet access.

Internet access is what makes nearly all telecommuting work possible at all.

But how do you choose the best internet service plan for all you do? How can you be sure of speed and reliability? And how can you get it at an affordable price?

Below we'll explain how to select the best internet service provider where you live.

Getting Really Good Internet Service

First, we'll go over some key terms related to Internet service so that you have a good understanding of what you're shopping for. Then we'll discuss the main types of technology used to provide Internet service.

Key Terms

These are some of the "need to know" terms. We'll discuss others throughout the article as well.

  • 3G, 4G, 5G: terms describing "generations" of wireless technology and the innovations they have introduced
  • Bandwidth: the amount of data that can be transferred at one time (essentially what Internet "speed: refers to). Think of it as analogous to the size of a pipe and how much water can flow through it at once.
  • Broadband: a synonym for high-speed Internet service
  • Dial-up: Internet delivery that uses old-fashioned phone lines; it's the least expensive type of internet service--for those willing to wait, and wait...
  • ISP: stands for Internet service provider, a company that provides access to the Internet
  • Mbps, Gbps: megabits per second, gigabits per second
  • MBps, Gbps: megabytes per second, gigabytes per second
  • Modem: a device that changes analog waves to digital so that information can display on your computer. That is to say, a modem connects you to the Internet
  • Router: an optional device that sits between modem and computer that allows the signal to be sent wirelessly to other computers or devices (such as printers or mobile phones) within a specific range

Major Internet Delivery Technologies

Delivery technologies are the literal equipment used to get digital information from its place of origin to your home. There is quite a bit of variation among these technologies.

A cable modem is a device used to connect one or more computers to a cable company's Internet service. The same coaxial cable coming into the house or office also provides services like TV and voice over IP (VoIP).

High-speed DSL uses special phone lines for its Internet connection; however, it is not dial-up service, the way people connected to the Internet from home in the 90s. With DSL, you can use your phone while online.

A fiber optic ISP has the fastest service, with the least loss of signal. Its cables are made from very thin strands of glass and use pulses of light to transmit data. It's currently available to only about 25% of the population.

What about Wifi?

Wifi is not an ISP itself, but rather a means of delivering the ISP signal to various Internet-based technologies in a given location. The range of a wifi network depends on the technology used to build it and the number of access points it has.

A typical home wifi network will use a single router and therefore have a limited range. For this reason, it's wise to use a computer that is connected to the modem by ethernet cable rather than wifi for the fastest and most reliable service.

What is the Best Internet Service Provider?

It's difficult to say specifically what is the best provider since there are so many variables to consider based on things such as personal needs, geographic location, and available services. But we'll help you begin to identify your needs.

The "Big Players"

First, a qualifier: There really are two separate lists of top ISP providers, those offering service anywhere in the country and those serving the area where you live. It's the latter of these you should be interested in.

However, since we can't list all the providers (of which there are many, some serving only a few homes), we'll list the top ten fastest ISPs for all of Canada in 2018. According to PC Magazine, these were:

  • Bell Canada
  • Bell Alliant
  • Rogers
  • Telus
  • Shaw
  • Eastlink
  • Vidéotron
  • CIK Telecom
  • Cogeco
  • Bell MTS

What's more important than who are the fastest providers, though, is which ones best serve your specific needs at the local level. Look online for a comprehensive ISP list of those serving your area--if they haven't already contacted you.

What to Look for in Internet Service Packages & Plans

  • Ask providers not only about the cost of Internet service by itself but also about "bundled services"-- such as television, landline or mobile phone, and even home security that are delivered through the same line.
  • Ask about "add-ons" such as a modem or a digital video recorder, that you might otherwise have to pay for separately.
  • Ask about the best wifi options for a home.
  • And ask about contract terms. Are the contracts yearly or monthly? Are there fees for early cancellation?

Here is a detailed list of the top 6 qualities to look for in a high-speed Internet provider.

Knowing How Much Speed You Will Need

The amount of bandwidth will depend on what or you use the Internet for. Is it simple e-mail, social media, and looking up information? Or is it for video conferencing or streaming high-definition video content?

Here is a handy bandwidth calculator that also offers a great explanation of the relationship between bandwidth and speed.

And here's another site to help you determine your bandwidth needs.

Alternative Ways to Get Good Internet Service

There are always less costly alternatives to the service you get from, say, the local cable company. But be aware that they might take extra work on your part or simply not offer the level of service you really need.

If you're making your living at home, how much risk do you want to incur by getting your Internet service in the cheapest way possible? What if your service goes down in the middle of an important conference call?

Relying on Internet service is always somewhat risky; even well-wired office buildings or college campuses can experience service outages. But you don't want to invite problems just to save a little money, either.

Switching to a Business Plan

In fact, if you're running an actual business from your home, you might consider an Internet service option that actually costs more: a business plan. This site offers more information about this option.

The Best Internet Service for Your Future

So we've offered some information on how to choose internet provider service for your home. We hope what we've said here makes it easier to find what you need to work at home successfully. But this is really just a beginning.

There are volumes of information about Internet service on the Internet--from more neutral technology information sites to the ISPs themselves--who, of course, want your business first and foremost.

Choose what you need, but don't wind up spending more than is necessary to do your work with as few headaches as possible. And since it is for your home, don't forget to accommodate the needs and desires of the rest of the family as well.

Remember that ISPs are contractors like any others and thus should be "interviewed" thoroughly before you make a commitment to any one of them. Give them a call and find out what they all offer. Then make your decision.