Sunday, July 03, 2005

Perhaps one of the most important things to consider when determining how to
get on the internet is choosing your ISP (Internet Service Provider). This
is the company that connects you to the internet via the phone line, DSL,
modem, T1 or whatever else you want to use. Generally they provide the

- A way to get to the internet. This can be a simple dial-up modem, a DSL
line, a cable modem or even a satellite link.

- A software package (generally a customized browser such as Netscape or
Internet explorer)

- A logon (username and password)

- An access phone number for dialup or ISDN connections.

- Free web space (AOL, for example, gives you 2mb per screen name).

- Access to a newsgroup server.

- One or more email accounts.

Nothing else will enhance or undermine your surfing experience as quickly or
as totally as your choice of ISP. A good ISP is a joy to work with because
basically after installation you never even worry about them. The phone
lines are virtually never busy, the connection is robust, their technical
services are always available and cheerful. In other words, a good ISP is
like the proverbial Maytag repairman (remember those commercials) - you
never need to worry about them because they always work well.

A bad ISP, on the other hand, makes your surfing experience miserable. Very
little is as frustrating as when you need to access the web and you get
constant busy signals. Lines that hang up mysteriously or newsgroup servers
that don't work. Email that's lost or very late, and technical services
people that never seem to be available or return phone calls.
It's usually wise to take your time when choosing an ISP, because most of
them require a multi-month contract. I would offer the following advice:

- Try and get a month-to-month contact if you can so you can cancel (at
least at first, until you know how good they are).

- Do your research and don't be swayed by fancy ads and television

- If you can, check out their newsgroup (many ISPs have their own technical
support newsgroups), message boards and chat rooms.

- Ask your friends and associates if they have any experience with them

- Before you make the decision get their technical support number and make a
call. Pretend like you are a naive user and ask a few questions. See how
long you wait on hold and how helpful the people are.

- Check out a history of the value of their stocks. Companies that are
having trouble tend to have stock values which have declined in recent

- Make sure you get a flat rate for connection time. It's a good idea to
never, ever get a per-hour charge as these can add up fast.
Make sure the ISP has a local phone number. Long distance charges will also
add up very quickly.

- Even if you can still find a free ISP, I would highly recommend against
them. There is always a hidden cost to these places, and lately they have
tended to be very unstable.

- Personally, I try not to mix apples and oranges. A good ISP does not
necessarily make a good web host.

Once you've chosen an ISP and are set up, don't put up with anything. You
wouldn't wait very long if your phone stopped working to get it fixed, would
you? So don't wait to let someone know if your service is poor and be
prepared to escalate it all the way up the corporate ladder if you need to.
These guys are taking your money and providing a service, and you deserve
good service.

About the Author

Richard Lowe Jr. is the webmaster of Internet Tips And Secrets. This
website includes over 1,000 free articles to improve your internet
profits, enjoyment and knowledge.
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