Wondering which Internet Service Provider to use? What is the Top Internet Service Provider? The answers to these questions can be determined once you understand what an Internet Service Provider is.
Because if you are like me, you may not even know what an Internet Service Provider is. Or what types there are. Or why you even need one.
What is an Internet Service Provider?
Referred to as an ISP, it is an organization or business that provides access to the internet. This access is provided to individuals as well as businesses. Access to the internet means you can search the world wide web.
For this article I am going to concentrate on services to individuals and specifically ones that provide discounts to seniors (who qualify for such discounts).
How is This Provided?
These services act as sending and delivering systems. As you search for a certain topic, website or business, the ISP carries the request through a system of cables to the place you requested. Each of us and all websites have a unique address which the web recognizes to receive and deliver the information.
Through the ISP, the information goes back and forth at the blink of an eye! Or hopefully a blink of an eye. The better your internet service, the faster the information is sent and received.
What Types of Internet Service Providers Are There?
In the US there are currently 2,667 Internet Service Providers. Different providers will have different types of services. You really need to shop around to find the one that gives you what you want for your needs. (I will discuss some criteria to consider in a bit.)
First off though, let me define the types available. These terms are thrown around by the tech people like we are supposed to know what they mean. I took some time to research the types, because I didn’t know what they were either!
Cable – Like the name implies, the service is delivered through a cable line. This has to be installed in your home and connects to a server. This is the same line that cable tv is delivered by. Some companies will give a package deal if you have both tv and internet from them. A modem is plugged into the cable and delivers a wifi signal to the customer.
Dial Up – Dialed through your existing phone line, this was one of the first options in the country. Unless you have multiple phone lines you can’t talk on the line when you are dialed into the internet. Comparatively slower than other types, it is widely available and relatively inexpensive.
- DSL – Which stands for Digital Subscriber Line (or originally Loop), this also uses a telephone landline. But because it uses a different frequency than the phone itself, you can talk while also using the internet. Faster than dial up but slower than cable.
- Fiber – Or Fiber Optics, is now the fastest option out there. However, it is only available in about 25% of areas in the US. Best option for streaming videos and gaming.
- Fixed wireless LTE (Long Term Evolution) – This option is most common in rural areas where other services are not available. It uses the same towers as cell phones, but requires a special antenna in the home for use.
- Satellite – This service requires a dish be installed at your home so that you can get a satellite signal beamed to your dish. Available even in rural areas, and since used by various providers, can result in competitive pricing. Prone to disruptions due to satellite dependence.
- Wireless – Differing from fixed wireless, this service is based on mobile or portable devices. The signal is picked up by the cell tower and data is exchanged.
- 5G – The next generation of service, hence 5 generation, this type is not widely available yet. It promises high speeds but is largely untested.
I found most of the above information from a CNET website, about the best internet providers. Click here if you want to read the whole article.
How to Evaluate, i.e. What Are Your Needs?
Since not all services are the same and not all companies provide what you might need, you must shop around. I realize you probably need the internet to shop around! I would recommend going to your local library if you need to do this from a computer. Or search on your smartphone.
Or check out what companies are in your area. How to do that? I would ask my neighbors! When you do, find out how satisfied they are with the service and what they use the service for. Your local senior center might be able to help you too.
Specifically check that the company does provide service to your specific address. A friend tells me that he would like to get fiber optics service but it is only available to the south of his area, even though it is the same city!
Here’s a link to a website that searches for you. Just add your zip code. HighSpeedInternet.com.
What to Ask the Provider
Following is a list of some criteria I would recommend you ask when searching for a company. Not all the topics may apply to you, and you might have different needs, but this is a start.
- What type of service do you provide?
- What is the speed of the service?
- What are the fees; i.e. monthly fee, installation fee, equipment fee, other fees?
- Do you have a discount for seniors, and if so, what is it?
- Is there a limit on how many hours I can use it? (Usually only applies to dial up and satellite.)
- Why is this service good for my needs?
Speaking of needs, you must determine what you are using the internet for. We all want dependable service, but if you are using it for merely surfing the web and sending email, then you can probably get by with a basic service. But if you need to send documents or host a website, a service that provides a solid connection like cable is probably what you need.
Take time to ask the representative what they provide. Ask them to explain things; half the time they throw around terms that I don’t understand. Ask them what the type of service they provide is used for, i.e. downloading files, gaming.
Discounts for Seniors Provided Through These Top Companies
From my research I understand that there are several companies that provide discounts to qualifying seniors. These companies are:
- Comcast – part of their Internet Essentials program. Check to see if you qualify here.
- AT & T – plans as low as $5 per month! Must have Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SSI. Check to see if you qualify here.
- EveryoneOn – works with various providers to get discounts for low income households. Check it out here.
- Spectrum – Spectrum Internet Assist has a program for those on SSI. (Personally, I have Spectrum. Although the service is very dependable on my cable, I think they are very greedy.) Check out their program here.
- FreedomPop – available in certain zip codes only. Click here to find out if you are one of them.
- FCC’s Lifeline Program – if you are on any state or federal program you probably qualify. Check it out here.
- Google Fiber – in a limited number of areas, this looks like a program I’d like to try, but I’m not in one of the areas. Click here to find out if you are one.
- Internet First from Wave – they state they provide service to low income households. Check it out here.
Was this article helpful? Do you have a question? I would love to try to answer it for you. Leave a comment so I can help you.
I do not have any links on this page where I earn a fee for the recommendations. I want to provide this information in hopes it will help you, as a senior, have a better experience on the world wide web.
Want to Take the Next Step?
If you are wondering how a senior like me can set up their own website, check out my article Are You a Senior That Wants to Build a Website?