Internet service guides and resources
You’ll probably run into abbreviations like Mbps, Gbps, MB, and GB when researching internet plans. Since these terms are used to measure internet speed and amounts of data, understanding them is important for picking an internet plan that meets your needs.
DSL internet (or digital subscriber line) is a staple in rural parts of the country and offers reasonable speeds of up to 100 Mbps—not the fastest by a long shot, but enough for most day-to-day activities. Dial-up, on the other hand, is a dinosaur in the networking world that offers pretty much nothing that you can’t get more of elsewhere. That said, we’ll explore each technology in detail so you can make an informed decision. Let’s dive in!
There are pros and cons to every internet service provider (ISP), so you should thoroughly research your options before making the switch to someone new.
Internet providers are always offering deals to entice new customers. Whether you’re moving to a new home or considering switching to a new provider, you can save money by taking advantage of these ever-changing promotions. We explain the most common types of internet deals and terms to look out for and share which providers typically have the highest discounts and best perks.
As more and more internet providers start offering multi-gig or hyper-gig speeds (anything faster than 1 Gbps), the Switchful team got curious about whether these speeds are helpful for residential users.
This step-by-step guide will walk you through how to switch your home internet service painlessly. It covers how to research providers, what fees and discounts to look out for, and when to schedule your cancellation and installation. By following our guide, you can feel empowered to make the switch with confidence.
If your current Wi-Fi router doesn’t cover your whole home, you’ll experience problems like dead zones and dropped signals. Mesh Wi-Fi improves the range of your wireless network by using multiple devices, so you can get a signal even in the farthest corners of your home. We explain how it works, who needs it, and which mesh Wi-Fi system you should get.
Fiber is an internet connection type that uses light to transmit data over fiber-optic cables. It’s the fastest type of internet connection and often costs about the same as cable. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering fiber internet for your family.
DSL internet (or digital subscriber line) is an internet connection type that uses phone lines to transmit data. Though it isn’t known for high speeds or especially good value, it’s widely available, even in rural areas. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering DSL internet for your home.
Internet that won’t connect can be very frustrating. The problem could be as big as a widespread internet outage or as small as a loose cable connection.
Since the birth of the internet in 1983, we have seen several methods of connecting to the internet. These internet technology types include dial-up, integrated services digital network (ISDN), digital subscriber line (DSL), cable network, fiber, satellite, and cellular network technologies. Each of these technologies features a unique speed and mode of operation.
Our team of speed hounds analyzed max internet speeds from providers in the US, and we found the fastest (and most reliably fast) options out there. These internet plans can handle dozens of simultaneous streams, VR chat, live gaming, and even massive video conference calls.
Relying on your internet connection to work from home is on a whole different level than just relying on your internet to watch your nightly Netflix episode. You need a connection that you can trust completely. The spinning wheel of doom becomes a much more serious issue when it’s preventing you from participating in an important meeting or downloading the file that you need to meet that deadline.
The cost of living keeps going up, and your internet bill is full of opportunities to save money. Here are our top tips for lowering your monthly costs, including buying your own router, negotiating with your provider, and getting discounts.
Fiber is synonymous with speed, but how fast is it really? Fiber internet can go up to 10 Gbps, but 1–2 Gbps plans are much more common. We'll share what speeds you can get with fiber home internet, what you can do with the speed, and which providers offer the fastest fiber plans.
Net neutrality is a principle that ensures internet service providers (ISPs) like AT&T and Verizon treat all connections and data equally or, in other words, act as neutrals. It prevents them from blocking any content and slowing down your experience on, say, Netflix, in favor of another video-streaming app.
Your Wi-Fi router alone may not be able to provide coverage for your whole home. If you can’t get a Wi-Fi signal or the signal strength drops in certain rooms or corners of your house, you should consider installing a Wi-Fi booster or extender to increase the range of your network. We walk you through the basics of choosing a Wi-Fi extender and setting it up, and we provide our recommendations for the best ones.
Getting older can be tough, but there’s no denying that it comes with perks, too. Wisdom, life experience, and—of course—discounts. Many companies offer senior discounts on products as a way to honor the older generations, ranging from a few dollars off a latte to large discounts on expensive services.
An optical network terminal (ONT) is a device that converts fiber signals into a format your devices can understand. It then turns the signals from your devices back to light to send them out along the fiber cables to the internet. Essentially, it's a modem for fiber optic internet.
RV internet can unlock some pretty cool things for you: working from a national park, streaming Netflix out in the boondocks, or even just posting your latest adventures on social media are all possible when you have solid RV Wi-Fi that works where you need it to. But how hard is it to actually get RV internet?
Satellite internet uses satellites to deliver internet access wirelessly. It’s available in most locations, even rural areas, but its performance and value aren’t as good as cable or fiber. Here’s what you should know about satellite internet service before signing up.
A low-Earth orbit satellite (sometimes abbreviated to LEO satellite) is a satellite that travels in orbit 1,200 miles above the Earth or less. Although low-Earth orbit satellites have been in use since 1957—beginning with the launch of low-Earth orbit Sputnik and progressing to the International Space Station—they have only recently been employed for satellite internet service, thanks to advanced technology from SpaceX. (1) Previously only geostationary satellites (larger satellites that orbit 22,000 miles above Earth) were used to provide satellite internet service, which is created by satellites beaming an internet signal from space. Geostationary satellites provide nationwide coverage but offer slow speeds and expensive data. Using low-Earth orbit satellites for internet services not only reduces latency, but also opens the floodgates for faster satellite internet speeds and unlimited data. In this article, we’ll cover what the use of low-Earth orbit satellites means for satellite internet service and how they bring faster speeds and lower latency. We’ll also cover the risk of relying on low-Earth orbit satellites and why geostationary satellites are still here to stay.
Although most of the world uses the internet every day, not many people take the time to understand how it all works. But getting your bearings when it comes to internet basics is a good first step toward making smarter decisions online.
Setting up your internet equipment for your home network is simple enough—especially with how straightforward most internet service providers (ISPs) make the process these days. With
Reliable internet for travel is a must-have that you don’t want to leave home without. The last thing you want when you’re traveling abroad is to be lost wandering the streets of Rome at nightfall without access to Google Maps—will you really remember how to ask for directions in Italian? Probably not.
Cable internet is an internet connection type that uses the same coaxial cables as cable television to bring internet service to your home. Cable internet can reach gigabit speeds, and though it can’t quite match the performance of fiber, it’s good enough for most households. Here's what you can expect from cable internet service.
Out of the dozens of internet security software brands on the market, we've found Norton 360 Deluxe to be the best all-around internet security software, followed closely by Bitdefender Total Security, McAfee Total Protection, and Trend Micro Maximum Security. Each of these suites brings a slew of useful features, excellent protection, reasonable pricing, and cross-platform support.
Few buzzwords have taken the tech world by storm quite like “5G.” However, mobile network carriers have done a terrible job of explaining what’s so great about 5G technology and why it’s worth all the hype. Let’s take a deeper look at exactly what 5G is and why you should care to demystify the topic once and for all.
DSL internet is cheaper than satellite internet and gives you a lot more data for the money. Satellite internet also has higher latency, which means you’ll be waiting milliseconds longer for pages to load. That will put you at a disadvantage for things like online gaming and Black Friday shopping.
Even though it’s been around for several years now, there’s a good chance that many people are just now upgrading to a 5G-capable device. Naturally, that means it’s time to talk about the next generation—6G. Although it doesn’t exist yet, there are some details about 6G we can discuss now, so let’s dive in and look at the future of mobile internet.
Online safety and security is one of the most important topics in today’s connected world. However, discussions around it can often veer into technical territory beyond the average person’s experience. It’s hard to get excited about security when you feel like you need a Ph.D. in information technology to understand it.
You may be able to get a better deal on your internet service by negotiating with your internet service provider (ISP). We show you what information you’ll need to gather beforehand, how to find deals with other providers, how to speak with your ISP about lowering your monthly bill, and additional ways to save.
What is data throttling and how do I get around it? A guide to how providers limit your internet speed
Data throttling is the process through which internet service providers (ISPs) massively lower your internet speed, either because you’ve exceeded your data cap or because too many people are using up the network’s bandwidth at once. Some ISPs will also throttle your internet if they detect you’re using a lot of peer-to-peer (P2P) connections, or if they’re trying to cut costs.
When it comes to internet connections, fiber internet is the best you can get. The downside to fiber is that it isn’t as widely available as other connection types. We explain where you can find fiber internet, where the best fiber providers offer service, and what the best alternative is if you can’t get fiber.
You work hard for your money, so it’s important to ensure you’re getting a good value. Fiber is, in general, one of the best values in internet—you tend to get more speed for your dollar with fiber than with even the best cable providers (and certainly more than with DSL or satellite).
Rebecca Palmer, Cara Haynes2/10/23
Fiber is faster and more reliable than cable, but cable is much more available and usually cheaper than fiber. Fiber is the clear winner when it comes to speed and performance, but its limited availability makes it off limits for most folks. That said, fiber and cable are the two best internet types out there, so really you’ll be happy with either—as long as you get
Frontier is our top choice for the best cheap internet provider. You get the incredible performance of fiber, plus no-nonsense terms. No contract is required, data is unlimited, and a router is included at no extra cost. At $50 per month for 500 Mbps speeds, the value is undeniable.
A hotspot is a Wi-Fi network that lets you connect your devices to the internet when you’re on the go. There are a few different types of hotspots. The term hotspot can refer to a public Wi-Fi network, a portable hotspot device, or your smartphone’s hotspot feature. Connecting your devices to a hotspot is as easy as connecting to any other Wi-Fi network.
Xfinity is our choice for the best cable internet provider. It offers impressive speeds up to 1 Gbps and great value. Plus, it has the highest customer satisfaction rating of any cable internet provider, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). If you're looking to bundle services, check out our lineup of
Fixed wireless internet is an internet connection type that uses radio waves instead of underground cables to connect your home to the internet. It’s great for remote households that need reasonably priced broadband speeds but don’t have access to wired connections like
Bandwidth and throughput are metrics that determine how much data can travel through a network. Though they are often used interchangeably, they’re far from identical. While one tells us a network’s theoretical capabilities, the other reveals its actual real-world performance.
Online security is a big deal. While many of us know the basics, a little help can go a long way—and what better place to get that help than your internet service provider (ISP) itself? After surveying the options, we’ve found AT&T to offer the best all-around security features, with advanced content controls, useful apps, and even a
Internet providers throughout the US are selling plans with speeds faster than 1 Gbps—also known as multi-gig or hyper-gig internet. Multi-gig internet is theoretically fast enough for dozens of simultaneous video streams or hundreds of video conference calls.
Wi-Fi and Ethernet are both options for connecting your devices to the internet. The main difference between the two is how they transmit data: Ethernet uses cables, while Wi-Fi networks are wireless. To help you decide which is right for the different types of devices in your home, we explain what Ethernet and Wi-Fi are and compare the two in terms of convenience, speed, and reliability.
How much you pay for internet depends on a lot of factors, including provider, internet type, location, and plan specifics—like speed and data caps. With so many factors to consider, how do you know your plan is a good deal? Luckily, the US government has a way for you to check: a benchmark for internet pricing based on its 2022 Urban Rate Survey of broadband providers.
There’s nothing more annoying than when your TV service and internet connection aren’t working as they should. We show you how to fix the most common TV and internet service issues yourself and share tips for getting the fastest solutions when you have to contact your provider for help. We also give advice on switching providers if your problems don’t get resolved.
Satellite and fixed wireless are both internet types that use radio waves to transmit data. However, the different technology used results in different speeds, latency, cost, and plans available.
Our choice for the best satellite internet provider is Viasat. It’s one of only two satellite internet providers that offers service nearly everywhere in the US. And it’s the better choice because it offers plans with higher speeds and more high-speed data. If you're looking for more providers that serve remote areas, check out our
A subnet and a subnet mask play a key role in getting you online. They’re two of the several building blocks of your internet connection and keep the network traffic from getting congested. Without them, the modern internet wouldn’t be as ubiquitous as it is now.
Regardless of where you fall in the military hierarchy or if you’re a retired Veteran, there are many discounts available to you to help you save on internet costs. Some of these discounts will lower your monthly payments, while others will help with installation and equipment costs.
The most important factor in how much internet speed you need at home is how many devices are connecting at once. Most apps don’t use very much
Fiber internet, otherwise known as fiber optic internet, is a type of high-speed internet connection. It works by sending light signals through cables made of long, thin strands of glass. This helps give fiber the tremendous speed and bandwidth that it’s known for—fiber tends to be the fastest and most reliable of all internet connection types.
The decision to self-install your internet or pay for a professional to do it is tough. Your internet service provider promises self-installation will be a quick and painless experience if you just use their app—but is that too good to be true?
In this article, we explain what 3G, 4G, and 5G technologies are and the differences between them. We also cover how 4G LTE and 5G are used to deliver mobile and fixed wireless home internet connections so you can decide what kind of connection is best for your situation.
You can get satellite internet in even the most rural areas, but there are plenty of good reasons to avoid it. Satellite internet is expensive and, because of its high latency, you’ll experience lag with even the highest speed plans. Plus, the major providers have long contracts, data caps, and speed throttling, which make satellite an impractical choice for many.
Having internet access is more important than ever, and there are many ways to get online for free or cheap. Between a new federal initiative, programs from internet providers themselves, and widespread mobile connectivity, you have a lot of options.
We’ve picked CenturyLink as the best rural internet provider. CenturyLink has good DSL availability in remote areas, so you can still get a reliable, wired internet connection even where cable and fiber don’t reach. It offers low prices, no contracts, and unlimited data. All of this makes it an attractive option compared to satellite internet or fixed wireless.