WASHINGTON – It can be tough for Maryland and D.C. consumers – faced with a dizzying array of choices, ads and deals -- to pick the best providers for their Internet and other communications services.
To save time, here are six tips that help uncover the facts about the best Internet and other communications services in your area:
- See what the rating agencies and third parties have to say. Major technology magazines, like PC Magazine, and other consumer rating agencies, like the American Customer Satisfaction Index, do very detailed analyses of these services, comparing providers’ offerings, prices, capabilities and more. Their regular reports are regarded as accurate and independent measurements of the industry’s services.
- Know your network. It’s no secret that fiber optics provides the best and most reliable service experience. Fiber that goes all the way to a home provides far more bandwidth capacity and reliability than traditional cable technology, which typically uses a mix of cables and wires to provide services. Unlike coaxial cable, fiber is not easily affected by water, and it is practically weather-proof. Laser-generated pulses of light delivered over hair-thin strands of fiber-optics deliver unparalleled broadband capacity.
- Know your Internet speeds. Various providers try to claim they provide the fastest Internet speeds. But the true test of the best Internet is the network it travels over; the reliability even at peak times like 8 to 11 p.m.; and whether it is symmetrical -- meaning can you upload or share files like photos and videos as fast as you can download them. Other factors to consider: Does it support the growing number of Internet-connected devices in your home or business, and are you getting the Internet speed you’re paying for? Networks with 100 percent fiber optics provide the fastest download and upload speeds. Verizon FiOS Internet remains the fastest Internet service in each and every market where it competes. And, compared with cable, FiOS has unmatched bandwidth capacity.
- Ask questions. Claims by providers should come with some proof. Just saying “most powerful” doesn’t cut it. Ask for the validation, and an explanation. For instance, does the DVR record 12 shows, or 12 shows simultaneously? And, how much storage does it have? Here’s a good place to learn about storage capacity. What are the backup power capabilities for the telephone service, if needed? Can the in-home Wi-Fi handle all my family’s devices?
- Investing in their networks. Is your provider continually investing in its network to bring consumers and businesses the best, most robust and most valuable services? Look for announcements they make about what they spend on their network and services each year. This shows providers’ commitment to customers and the communities they serve. And, ask how your provider has responded in adverse conditions, such as in the aftermath of a natural disaster. A provider’s track record is a good indicator of future performance.
- Customer service. This may be the most important aspect of your service package and which provider to choose. You want service representatives who are helpful and guide you through your many choices; help desk personnel who can solve your individual issues; and technicians who provide a professional, simple, hassle-free, straightforward and comprehensive installation.