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How to Choose the Best Internet Plan for You

Date Published:  March 2nd, 2021Date Updated:  June 13, 2024

Table of Contents

How Do Most People Use the Internet?

Between choosing an internet service provider, the type of internet, and the speed, you’ve got plenty of choices to make when it comes to finding the best internet plan for you. On top of that, some ISPs try to sell you outsized internet packages or unnecessary bundles that just don’t fit what you need. Simplify your search and dive into how our experts help users like you every day make the best decision for your internet needs.

How Do You Use the Internet?

The most important factor you need to consider is what you use the internet for. Are you a casual surfer, mostly using it to check email and scroll social media? Do you like to stream movies and play video games? Are you a remote worker spending hours answering emails, completing video calls and uploading large files?

Understanding the way, you use the internet is the first step to determine what internet service is best for you. This is because the internet speed needed for 4k streaming and online video games require far higher speeds than simple tasks like scrolling social media. This is also true for the internet speed for working from home.

Work From Home

Remote workers have unique internet situations. If you’re a remote worker you may be wondering, how many Mbps do I need to work from home? Internet speeds for working from home may vary depending on your job. If you aren’t streaming heavily or uploading a lot of data, 100 Mbps should be plenty to work from home. But, if you’re a video editor or have another job that requires high bandwidth, you may want to consider gigabit internet or any speeds higher than 1 Gig.

Number of Devices

Another important factor is the number of devices in your household. Generally, the more people and devices in your household, the higher the speed you’ll need.

Higher speeds prevent a bottleneck when multiple people are logged on to your internet connection. But any devices you have connected impact your connection’s performance. Smart home devices like doorbell cameras, smart speakers, and smart thermostats are a few examples.

If you are experiencing ongoing problems, check your internet speed by comparing it to what you are paying for. You can do this by looking at your bill and using an internet speed test.

Need help reading your results? Here’s how internet speed tests work. If your current plan isn’t working for you, it may be time to consider changing internet providers.

How to Find Internet Providers in Your Area

Where you live will impact what internet service providers and internet speeds are available to you. Most urban and suburban areas will have higher speeds available.

They also may have more choices when it comes to internet service providers. Rural areas often have only one or two providers and are slow to get high-speed options like fiber. These customers may need to rely on other services to get reliable high-speed internet.

Finding a provider is as simple as searching internet near me. Once you’ve found your perfect internet provider, you can start comparing plans, speeds, and pricing.

Understanding Internet Speed

Now that you’ve listed out what you use the internet for, it should be easier to decide on the speed you need. To find out the ideal speed for you, first, count how many devices you have at home. Then, consider the speed required for your regular activities.

When counting connected devices in your home, don’t forget about smart home devices. Even if you’re not using it every day, it’s still connecting to your network.

Number of Devices Activity Recommended download speed
2-4 Surfing the web, email, social media, occasionally streaming or gaming 100 Mbps or more
5-8 Online multiplayer gaming, HD streaming, photo sharing 500 Mbps or more
More than 9 Working remotely, attending online classes, playing multiplayer games, 4K streaming, multiple smart home devices 800 Mbps or more

Looking for the top tier of internet speed? You may want to consider gigabit internet.

Many providers max out at anywhere from 1 to 5 Gigs (or 1,000 to 5,000 Mbps). These speeds can handle many data-intensive activities all at once and many devices. With gigabit internet, it’s unlikely you will have any problems with your speeds.

Upload Speed Vs. Download Speed

If you’re choosing a wired internet plan, the most prominent number will probably be the download speed. Download speeds indicate how fast you can retrieve a file from the internet. This could be when you are downloading a movie or viewing a file that someone has sent you. Historically, download speeds were the most important part of your internet package.

However, with changing internet habits, upload speeds are becoming more important than ever. Upload speeds indicate how long it takes you to send information. This includes activities like posting the latest photo or being on a video call. Understanding the difference between upload speed versus download speed can be extremely helpful when you make your internet choice.

The good news? Fiber internet has symmetrical upload and download speeds. In other words, whatever your download speed is, your upload speed will match. As videoconferencing, telehealth, online gaming, become more interactive, upload speed is going to become more important to consider.

Choosing a Type of Internet Service

The type of internet you have influences the speed you can achieve. Some of the most common services are fiber internet, 5G wireless home internet, cable, and satellite. While we’ll cover the most common options, it’s important to note that where you live impacts the type of connection you can get.

Fiber Internet

Fiber internet is currently the best high-speed service thanks to glass fiber optic cables that transmit signals at the speed of light. It uses a dedicated line, meaning you won’t experience things like interference or slower speeds when your neighbors are also online.

Fiber also has symmetrical upload and download speeds, meaning you can upload and download data quickly. Upload speeds are crucial when on video calls, sending large email attachments, or playing multiplayer online video games. If you’ve ever had coworkers tell you that you’ve frozen, you can probably blame slow upload speeds.

Fiber’s dedicated line also gives you the strongest available signal and most reliable service. But, because it requires new infrastructure, it’s not available to everyone yet.

Some providers also give customers the option of hybrid fiber-coaxial internet service. This service is usually more affordable than dedicated fiber internet and can offer reliable speeds for casual internet users.

5G Wireless Home Internet

Wireless home internet is a new high-speed internet option. It delivers speeds that are faster than DSL or satellite, and it’s more reliable than satellite, too. This makes it a great service for customers in rural areas.

Instead of choosing a speed, you’ll choose a data plan that fits your needs. This is like cell phone plans but for your household internet.

With wireless home internet, you’ll automatically connect to the fastest speeds available from surrounding cell phone towers. Plus, it can support more devices than a cell phone hot spot and get speeds up to three times faster. In other words, you could see speeds up to 25 Mbps.

5G Wireless home internet is easy to set up and offers high-speed internet to areas that were stuck with slow internet in the past. If fiber isn’t available near you yet, this could be your best internet option.

Cable Internet

While cable internet is more widely available, because it’s delivered through the same copper line as TV service, this may cause significant speed problems for customers. Plus, cable providers often push customers towards unnecessary bundles. This means many people wind up with more than they need to get a short-term, discounted price that quickly increases.

Unlike fiber internet, cable’s speeds are asymmetrical, where upload speeds are often slower than download speeds. Most people download higher amounts of data than they upload, but as videoconferencing and online gaming become more and more common, upload speeds are essential for most popular online activities. What does that mean for you? When it comes to fiber vs. cable internet, fiber wins every time.

Satellite Internet

Satellite internet is a popular option for rural areas that don’t have access to cable or fiber internet. It functions like satellite TV does. The internet provider sets up a dish on or near your home that sends and receives signals from via a satellite orbiting the Earth. You can get speeds up to 100 Mbps with satellite internet.

While satellite may be a good option for rural residents who want higher speeds than dial-up or DSL internet provides, there can be disruptions and lag times. Because this service requires installation of the dish, the equipment costs are typically higher than fiber or cable. That’s why wireless home internet is a better option than satellite for many households. The lower lag times, more consistent signals, and no contracts make it a no-brainer.

What Type of Internet Do I Need?

Wondering how to find the best internet plan for you? While there’s a wide variety of internet types available, different people need different connections. If your household does a lot of data-intensive activities, fiber will work best and connections like satellite won’t work. But if your household mostly uses the internet to check email and browse social media, wireless home internet could be the right fit.

Take your habits into account when choosing your connection type and provider.

Be wary of other deciding factors like credit checks, data caps for fiber internet, and lengthy contracts. But if you need a little more help, you can check out the best internet provider for streamers, gamers, and students.

Of course, you can always call our internet experts with any questions at 866-618-0264.

What to Look for in an Internet Provider?

Like the type of internet connection you can have, your ISP will also depend on where you’re located. Regardless, there are two important questions you should always ask.

Do you have to bundle like my cable provider?

As we mentioned earlier, a lot of ISPs promote unnecessary bundling (especially with cable internet), which gives you services you don’t need in return for a short-lived discount. When choosing an internet provider, opt for one that has transparent pricing and no unnecessary bundling.

Do you have data caps?

Internet data caps are essentially a limit on how much data can be used by your home internet. It’s not how much time you’re spending, but how much information you’re sending. If you go over your limit, you can be hit with a huge fee or be throttled down to lower speeds until the next billing cycle.

Maybe you’ve never had a problem with your data cap, but you’re reaching your limit now that you’re working from home or gaming and streaming more.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the recommended internet speed for video conferencing?

For video conferencing, it’s best to have internet speeds of at least 500 Mbps, depending on how many devices you’re using.

What’s better, fiber internet or cable internet?

When fiber internet is available, it’s the clear winner over cable internet. With fiber internet, you get higher speeds and more reliability for similar costs to cable. Some customers don’t have access to fiber and for them, wireless home internet can be a reliable alternative.

How much does it cost to have internet installed?

The short answer is it depends. Many providers have installation fees or router rental fees that can range from $100 to $300 depending on the type of internet service you purchase.

Conclusion

Now that you understand your own internet usage and learned how to choose an internet provider, you’re ready to take the next step and find your best internet service. If you’ve decided you want high-speed, reliable internet with no credit checks and no unnecessary bundling, EarthLink home internet is the right connection for you. Call our team at 866-618-0264 today!

Marie Flanagan

Marie Flanagan

Marie Flanagan is a contributing writer for EarthLink. She’s a life-long Atlantan with a passion for SaaS, IoT, AI, fintech, and everything technology. Her ideal offline situation is volunteering in STEM education for girls or on her front porch with a book.

See all posts from Marie Flanagan.