How to Find a Good Internet Service Provider (ISP)

by Contributor

With so many ISPs to choose from, it's important to know how to find the service that best suits your needs.

Find out your computer's operating system, processor speed, modem speed, RAM and hard disk space. Keep these parameters in mind when considering potential ISPs. (Non-Windows users will especially need to ask if ISPs can accommodate them.)

Ask your friends and colleagues which ISPs they use.

Look in the yellow pages under "Internet" for ISPs in your area.

Check newspapers, magazines, television and other media resources for offers from large, national ISPs. Many large ISPs offer their services for free on a brief trial basis. Keep an eye out for free ISP installation CDs in the mail.

If you have online access already, browse the Web for different local and commercial ISPs. Many sites offer software for free download.

Once you have some possibilities, contact various providers and ask about features, billing rates and system requirements. Common features include e-mail, access to the World Wide Web, newsreading capabilities, chat and instant messaging, but think about other capabilities you might need. Do you want to post your own Web site? Do you need a Unix shell? And so on.

Consider technical support services - does the ISP offer technical support by phone, and if so, what are the hours? Realize that if your service isn't working, you can't get support via e-mail.

Ask whether the ISP requires a setup or installation fee.

Determine if you need to purchase service for a certain length of time, of if you can get the service month to month.

Ask the ISP what the "user to modem" ratio is - in other words, how many ISP users are there per ISP modem? A higher ratio means that the ISP is less likely to slow down due to heavy traffic.


  • check Many ISPs offer flat service rates, often around $20 per month. This is the best option if you'll be spending large amounts of time online. Some free ISPs are also available, but these usually have some sort of catch, like advertising appearing on your screen. (See "How to Evaluate a Free Internet Service Provider" in Related eHows.)
  • check Large ISPs are a good alternative to local providers if you travel frequently and want to avoid paying long distance charges to dial in. Large ISPs will also enable you to contact a larger group of users.


  • close Be sure to carefully review the Terms of Service and other fine print of any ISP before signing on.

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