Internet Service Providers – Who should I use?

What Internet Services Provider should I use is a frequently asked question by our customers and on Social Media.  So we have decided to provide input from our experience both for home and business customers.  We will provide details on internet providers available in the South Atlanta area, technical details and recommendations to improve your internet experience within your home or business. Note: It is important to keep in mind that your internet quality will only be as good as your equipment (modem, router, wired or wireless and computer.) Note: It is also important to consider the type of usage you require.  If you have a single computer on your home network, there is most likely no reason to get the highest speed internet connection.  At the same time, if you are running a home office, business office or have many users/devices on your network, you should be looking at the higher speed options.  There is a limit to the speeds you need, there is a point where you will no longer see the benefits of the higher speed connections and may be paying extra for no benefits.

Equipment

Most Internet providers will supply a Modem,  Router, Wireless Access Point combo.  For home users with a handful of devices this normally works just fine.  For home users with large networks or business customers, you really need dedicated equipment designed for speed, security and configuration.  As a general rule of thumb for most homes under 1,500 sq feet the supplied modem will probably cover fine, 2,000+ sq feet will require multiple access points. Modem – Most providers charge a lease fee for these devices, especially as they get more complex.  This is usually the easiest way to save money, since you can purchase your own modem.  A modem will cost between $50 and $150 depending on the features and where you purchase.  The average modem lease fee is $15 per month. Router – If you purchase a modem only option, you will need a router.  Routers use technology that allows multiple devices to connect to the internet and employ features that help protect your network from basic hacking attempts (routers employ basic features for protection and most do not protect against advanced attacks or virus infections.) Firewall – For business and home office situations you need a Firewall usually instead of a Router.  Firewalls protect against advanced hacking attempts and some provide basic virus and malware protection.  You still need PC based virus protection but these add an additional layer.  Some Routers come with firewall features on a basic level, both require configuration on an advanced level. Wireless Access Point – Again most providers supply this function through the modem.  However, due to this being a multi function device, the features are basic and may not reach your entire home/office.  Additional Wireless Access Points or repeaters may be needed.  If you are looking for additional coverage, we highly recommend dedicated wireless equipment and disabling wireless on your modem.  If you use the built in modem wireless and add an additional wireless access point or use multiple different wireless access points, you will have a more complex and sub-par experience.  Where as the same type equipment built to work together will give you one wireless name and password across the entire home or office, making management easier and assuring your connected to the best Access Point.  There are many other features to consider, a few examples: public and private access to protect your network, technologies (A, B, G, N and AC) these letters are used to describe the type of wireless technology used and require the computer/phone/tablet to support the technology.  Most wireless access points will support a majority of these formats, allowing for backwards compatibility.  Finally Mesh (wireless uplink) and wired access points.  Mesh devices are great to easily expand your wireless coverage, but may not be as fast due to the added complexity required to bounce the signal through. Power Line Ethernet – This is a great way to expand your wired network without having new network cables installed in your walls.  These are boxes that plugin to the power outlet, one at the Modem and the other where you need a network connection.  The quality of these devices varies, but most work reasonably well.  Unfortunately you will find that these may not work on some outlets.  A bit of trial and error to get them working.  They also must be plugged directly into the wall, avoid any type of surge protector, battery backup, etc between the Power Line Ethernet device and wall.  Surge protectors and Battery backups cleanup the noise on the electrical line, which means it will block the communications.  Most of these do come with surge protection, make sure when shopping for these they do have this feature.  They will NOT protect as well as a good quality surge protector or battery backup.  Some of these devices also have a built in Wireless Access Point making wireless expansion easier, but most are very basic. Surge Protection and Batter Backups – These are the best way to protect your investment and should be installed between the wall and your equipment, Modem, Router, Access Point, Computers, etc.  It is important to know the difference between a Surge Protector and Power Strip.  A Power Strip expands the number of plugs available but does NOT provide any level of protection.  A Surge protector is designed to either blow a fuse or take the brunt of the surge.  Surge protectors do a great job of protecting your equipment, however, these protectors are no good after the first hit.  Good quality units include a protected light, if this light is no longer lit, the unit needs replaced.  Also surge protectors should be replaced after a major surge and every few years (usually 3-5 years.)  Battery Backups are much more sophisticated and will protect both surge and brown outs.  These also do a better job of protection against surges making it to your equipment.  However, quality is a very important factor.  We will have a post dedicated to this topic, but make sure you get a good quality unit or help from a trusted source to make sure you purchase a unit sized properly and with the protection you need.
Provider Name Our Rating Reason Average Price Options
AT&T DSL * Low availability, low speed, high downtime. $30.00 Internet and Phone
T1 Lines ** High Cost, High Uptime, Slow Speeds $500 Internet, Phone
AT&T uVerse *** Low Cost, Low Speeds, Low quality. $40 – $60 Internet, TV and Phone
Comcast/Xfinity **** High Uptime, High Speeds, High Cost $100 Internet, Phone, TV, Coax and Fiber
Charter/Spectrum **** High Speed, Low Cost, few outages $30 Internet, Phone, TV, Coax and Fiber
Nulink/WOW Inc ***** High Speed, Low Cost, Fiber, few outages $30 Internet, Phone, TV, Coax, Fiber
Cellular Internet *** High Speed, High Cost, High Coverage $10 – $300 Internet, Phone

AT&T DSL

AT&T DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) is still used in some areas.  However, this technology is limited both in distance and number of ports available within the CO (Central Office) or local hub in your area.  These CO or hubs are installed to meet the distance requirements.  DSL is extremely expensive for the provider to maintain.  Due to this expense, DSL is not being expanded and efforts are being made to replace it completely. DSL is the only option in most of Brooks, parts of Senioa and other rule areas. This is due to the amount of money it costs to build out networks and the limited number of potential subscribers. Speeds Download: 128kbps – 6mbps per second Upload: 128kbps – 768kbps per second Legend kbps = Kilobits per second (1,000k is 1m) mbps = megabits per second (1,000m is 1g) gbps = Gigabits per second Data Cap: 150GB per month or unlimited depending on plan Legend GB = Gigabits (1,000 Megabits) TB = Terabits (1,000 Gigabits) DSL is the slowest option available as it is an older technology, DSL also has very slow upload speeds and is mostly unavailable to new customers. Quality DSL service tends to be stable.  Limited maintenance is performed so an outage may last much longer, possibly days to repair.  Outages are less frequent due to the limited maintenance.  DSL speeds are very low compared to all other options.  Click here to read AT&T’s network congestion management policy. Our Recommendations If DSL is your only option, you may want to consider Cellular Internet Service.  This option will be more expensive and have Data Limits either capping or slower speeds over an amount of monthly data usage.  It may be worth considering both DSL and Cellular to help work around these limitations.  For business customers, T1 lines may need to be considered, T1 lines are expensive and slow, most businesses will require multiple T1 lines for higher speeds. DSL should not be considered if you plan to send large files to other people/servers. However, in some areas this is your only none cellular option. DSL also is not recommending for video streaming or VoIP service. It works okay for a single telephone call over VoIP and low quality streams, however you can quickly go over your data limit if on the 150GB Data Cap. Pricing   Expect about $35 per month, speeds and price depend on area. DSL service is also resold by other providers including Verizon and Windstream (Kinetic.)

AT&T uVerse

AT&T uVerse is a replacement to DSL.  This is a Fiber internet service, either Fiber to a central point then copper to your home or Fiber all the way.  You cannot choose which is used, this depends on the network design already installed in your area.  uVerse is available in most areas.  Despite being a Fiber Internet service, uVerse is not as fast as Cable or other fiber options. Speeds Download: 5mbps – 75mbps Upload: 512kbps – 8mbps Data Cap: 1TB (about 333 hours of HD video per month, 11 hours per day or 600 hours of standard quality videos, 20 hours per day.)   Quality uVerse quality is very hit and miss.  Some areas/customers never have issues and are very happy with the service they are receiving.  Others have constant issues.  Click here to read AT&T’s network congestion management policy. Our Recommendation   Unfortunately uVerse is a bit of trial and error. We would highly recommend signing up on a month to month deal if at all possible to see your experience, if your satisfied then sign up for a contract to save money. uVerse is much better then DSL or T1 lines, but may not be as fast or reliable as other option. For home users, uVerse may be a good option price wise when bundling other services like TV, phone and cellular service. Pricing Can vary depending on bundles or deals, but expect around $40 – $60 per month.

T1 Service

T1 Lines and run by AT&T, but resold by many different providers.  T1 Lines are a very old copper based technology.  They are very slow when compared to every other option.  T1 Lines are often times confused as a high speed service.  There are a few benefits to T1 lines: 1) they almost never go down, 2) they can be combined by the provider to increase speeds, 3) they can be used for phone service and internet service, 4) available most everywhere.  There are also a number of downfalls, 1) T1 service is very expensive, 2) requires expensive equipment, 3) slow speeds. Speeds One T1 dedicated for internet is 1.5meg upload and download speeds. One T1 dedicated for phone service provides 24 telephone lines. A T1 can also be split into phone lines and internet service, usually 5 phone lines and 1meg internet Additional T1 lines can be added to increase number of phone lines or internet speeds, each additional T1 gives 24 phone lines or 1.5meg internet speed, the upload and download speeds are always equal. Two T1 lines would be 48 phone lines or 3meg internet. There are no data caps on T1 service. Quality T1 lines are highly available, but slow.  T1 service is also slowly being phased out.  Speeds are slow at 1.5meg per line or 24 phone lines.  Most providers include a 100% up-time guarantee and discounts if they do not meet this. Our Recommendation When your options are limited and you need highly available backup internet or a large business that needs highly available phone lines, this is an option to consider.  Due to high cost and low bandwidth, we do not recommend this service for most customers. Pricing Varies drastically.  Depends on reseller, location, speeds or lines required.  As a rough estimate, expect $500 per T1 line.  (The pricing can range between $180 and $1500 per month)  

Comcast

Comcast Internet Service is sold in two different versions.  Residential and Business.  Business service can be installed at home or office and comes in three different offerings, Cable, HFC and Fiber.  Technically Residential service is not to be used for business, but sometimes they will let you.  We do not recommend this, due to the benefits of business service. All Comcast services offer static IPs, customer provided equipment and additional software including Antivirus and Office365 services. Residential Cable Service – No Service Level Agreement or up-time guarantees, contract and no contract options available.  Speeds from 15mbps – 2,000mbps.  Most areas will see a max of 250mbps.  Most customers will not see any improvement over 100mbps.  Price varies depending on speed but average cost of $100 per month (range $30 – $300).  Data Cap: 1TB per month, additional usage allowed with additional charges.  Click here to read Comcast’s Congestion Management Process. Business Cable Service – 4 hour response time, credit for downtime.  3 year contract required.  Dedicated business support group.  Speeds from 15mbps – 250mbps.  Most areas will see a max of 150mbps.  Depending on business size, 50 or 100mbps should be all you need.  Price varies depending on speed but average cost $150 per month (range $70 – $350).  No Data Cap. Business HFC (Hybrid Fiber Coax) Service – Similar to uVerse this service uses Fiber lines to the street, then coax cable to your building.  This limits the cost to install service.  This service comes in 5mbps and 10mbps speeds with Upload and Download speeds being the same. Cost is 1/3 – 1/2 the cost of true fiber internet.  Pricing depends on area, but averages about $250.00 per month.  3 year contract required, up-time guarantees and highly reliable. No Data Cap. Business Fiber Service – True fiber internet service, fiber cabling from Comcast to your equipment.  Speeds from 10mbps to 1gbps.  Upload and Download speeds are the same.  Highly reliable, up-time guarantees with Service Level Agreements.  3+ year contract required.  The most reliable but also the most expensive service.  Pricing starting at $500 and easily over $1,000 per month depending on speeds, cost for build out, etc.  No Data Cap. Speeds Residential: 15mbps – 2gbps (1TB data cap) Business Cable: 15mbps – 250mbps (no data cap) HFc: 5mbps – 10mbps (same upload and download speeds) Fiber Service: 10mbps – 1gbps (same upload and download speeds) Quality Residential service – Quality differs from location to location. Business service – Tends to be higher quality, much faster response time and off hours maintenance whenever possible. HFC – Slower speeds, but should have similar up-time to Fiber. Fiber – Extremely high up time, up-time and SLA agreements. Guaranteed speeds. Our Recommendations Comcast is great for business.  Usually good for residential, but due to pricing and speeds both Charter and Nulink are better value.

Charter / Spectrum

Charter Internet Service is a great option where available.  Not available in Fayette county area but is in most surrounding areas.  Charter’s lowest speed option is 100mbps with prices as low as $29.95.  They also offer TV and Phone services. Charter supports customer supplied equipment and Static IP services where needed. Charter Spectrum does not have a data cap limit per month, but may reduce available bandwidth/speeds under high load.  Click here to view Charter’s Policy. Charter Spectrum offers residential, commercial and Enterprise (Fiber) services.  Business service speeds up to 1gbps and Fiber services where available up to 1gbps.

Nulink / WOW Inc

Nulink, used to be Newnan Utilities and was the first City run all Fiber network.  Newnan Utilities moved there internet service on to it’s own entity which they called Nulink.  In late 2017 Nulink was purchased by WOW, Inc.  Nulink has always been a great internet provider but mostly specific to Newnan, due to a contract to provide internet service to all Peachtree City Government buildings, they have since installed Fiber cabling through most of Peachtree City and are continuing to grow this, with the goal to cover all of Peachtree City.  Since this is a local provider, there coverage is primarily Newnan, Tyrone and Peachtree City. Nulink supports customer supplied equipment and static IPs where needed. Nulink’s network is Fiber to the street and coax to the building, with Fiber to the building as an option in most areas.  Nulink provides both residential and business services.  There are no data usage caps per month, there is some network usage prioritization and de-prioritization for specific services.  Click here to review Nulink’s Policy. Nulink provides Internet, TV and Telephone service with no contract required. Pricing varies depending on service and is as low as $29.95 for 100mbps service.

Cellular Internet

There are a couple of options here.  You can get a hotspot on your cellular account.  For home users, Verizon has a cellular home service for internet and phone service.  With speeds from 5-12mbps and unlimited usage.  Finally for home or business users there are a number of resellers that provide Unlimited data plans, these plans do not have any overage charges but will be slowed by the provider if you go over a data rate or when the tower is over utilized. Cellular internet is a great backup solution as speeds can be anywhere from 5mbps – 100mbps, depending on area and provider.  Used as a backup connection your less likely to go over your data rate, but still have service when your primary goes down.

Satellite Internet

Satellite internet has come a long way, however they still have extremely long response times, making them a very slow option, even with high speed data plans.  Satellite is also expensive in comparison to DSL, uVerse or Cable options. This should be your last possible option, even after cellular.  The reason we recommend this as the final option is specifically due to the response times of 600-1,000ms (1,000ms is 1 second.)  Compare this to Fiber internet with response times averaging 3ms, DSL 20ms, Cable 30ms, and 4G Cellular 60ms. The reason for this huge delay is the vast distance to travel between your dish the satellite and the dish on the other end. Average pricing: 12mbps service about $70.00 per month and speeds up to 100mbps around $200.00 per month, there are also a number of additional fees and startup costs.  Also expect to have a data cap of 40-150MB and once you go over this cap, your speeds will be drastically reduced or you will be charged overages.

Need more help?

We at IT in the Bubble can help you get signed up, find the best deal in your area, assist with installation or troubleshooting of your equipment and more.  If you need more help, feel free to contact us today at 470-481-0400 or sales@itinthebubble.com.