How to avoid paying too much for Internet service

There are many Internet service plans available from many different providers. While some people will have more options than others depending on where they live, most service providers will have a collection of tiered speed service plans. Do you know what level of service will work best for your needs?

When selecting a service plan, find out what speed you’re likely to need and match your service plan with your needs. That’s all well and good, but if you don’t know how much you’re going to need, how do you pick the right plan? Good question. Let’s explore that.

Tasks such as reading emails, online shopping, and renewing a driver’s license online aren’t likely to take much in the way of bandwidth. If basic Internet use is all you’re going to need, the lowest service option might be best for you.

If you watch online videos, video chat with others online, or play games online, you’re going to need more than what basic Internet service is likely to provide. Netflix recommends a minimum of 5 Megabits per second (Mbps) for its high-definition service. Skype recommends 1.5 Mbps for its high-definition video calling. Microsoft recommends 5 Mbps for its Xbox gaming network. If you use these or similar services, choose an Internet service plan with at least 5 Mbps.

Of course, if others in your household are also using the Internet, you may need a speed faster than 5 Mbps to keep up with the demand. If there are five people in your household who all enjoy Internet activities simultaneously, then multiply 5 (people) by the speed of the service they’re likely to use. If everyone uses services that recommend a 5 Mbps connection, then multiplying 5 by 5 equals 25. If your household Internet demands match this scenario, you’re likely to need at least a 25 Mbps service plan.

Not all speeds are created equal, however, and what you sign up for might not be what you get. Inside most Internet service plans, you’ll see the important words “Up to” placed before the speed of the service. “Up to 25 Mbps” might not be the same as 25 actual Mbps. That’s because the maximum speed can depend on the load on the system.

If everyone in your neighborhood is using high-speed Internet at the same time, your maximum speed will likely be lower than your 25 Mbps service. If many people attempt to access a particular website at the same time, the page might load more slowly than during normal traffic volumes. The same applies to freeway driving. The speed limit might be 55 miles per hour, but reaching that speed during rush hour might be problematic. The more people that use the Internet or access a particular site, the slower that traffic is likely to be.

Some Internet service providers may attempt to convince you to sign up for faster speeds than you’re likely to use and even offer you a reduced rate for doing so. If you don’t need the service, why sign up for it?

If you’re offered a trial period for a higher speed, don’t take it. Trial periods expire, and when they do, you’ll be charged a rate that’s higher than what you would pay for the slower service. It’s like paying for a buffet when all you’re looking for is a light snack. Don’t pay for more than you’re going to use.

Choose an Internet service that matches your needs. You’ll be more satisfied with the service you receive and have more of your hard-earned income to use for other purposes.