Congrats, grad! You’ve studied hard and earned that diploma. Now it’s time for another big adventure, whether that’s more education, a big trip, a new job or something entirely unique. Regardless, if mom and dad have already transformed your old bedroom into storage space or a personal office, you’ll probably be moving into your own place soon. Between shopping for a new mattress and dissecting your renters insurance, you’ll also need to select an internet plan.
Choosing your first internet plan can seem daunting, and you may have lots of questions: Which provider should I choose? What is a good download speed? What is a good upload speed? What is “fast” internet? Don’t worry — we have all the information you need! By taking the following details into consideration, you can narrow down your choices and discover the right internet plan for you.
Consider your budget
The first thing on your mind when shopping for internet is probably budget. You don’t want to go overboard with your bills, but you don’t want a cheap internet plan with a bad signal, either. Before you start comparing prices, find out which internet providers offer service in your area.
Next, determine what plans are offered at your specific address, as plan availability can vary from place to place. Once you have a clearer image of what’s available, you can start comparing prices, speeds and features.
Between taxes and provider fees, internet plans can sometimes end up costing you more than the advertised prices. Luckily, there are a few details you can search for on a provider’s website to ensure that you’re getting the best deal.
- Check your local providers’ equipment options — whether it’s included with your plan, available for renting/leasing or requires purchase.
- Dig into any fine print surrounding the price of your selected plan. Although it may feel like a drag, reading the legal disclaimers can save you from bill confusion later on.
- Browse providers’ websites for rewards programs, special offers or even deals on internet for college students. Even though you’re a recent college grad, your student ID may still score you college student internet discounts. If you’re heading into the armed forces, see if your provider offers military discounts.
You might see some unfamiliar terms when shopping for internet, which can make the decision process difficult and confusing. How can you choose an internet speed when you don’t know how it works? Here are some words you should know when picking your plan, so you can stay informed and choose exactly what you need.
|Mbps (Megabits of data per second)||The rate at which your internet connection can transfer data.
|Download speed||How quickly your internet connection can bring you data from another server (e.g. streaming music and videos, saving images).
|Upload speed||How quickly your internet connection can send data to another server (e.g. posting a picture on social media, playing real-time video games).
|Bandwidth||The volume of data that your internet connection can process at a time. A higher Mbps = a higher bandwidth.
Internet providers will typically offer higher download speeds than upload speeds, as this is what most internet activities require more of to function well. Generally, speeds above 25 Mbps could be considered “good” because they can support popular online activities, like streaming, online gaming, and web browsing. However, fast internet speeds — around 100 Mbps or above — are better for supporting multiple devices and users at the same time.
Talk to your roommates
If you’re living with roommates, ask them about their browsing habits before choosing an internet plan. Here are the most important questions you should ask.
- How many devices will need Wi-Fi? Estimate how many devices will be connected to your network at a time — your phone, your laptop, your roommate’s laptop, your other roommate’s gaming console, your roommate’s tablet, etc. There may be more electronics connected than you realize!
- What kinds of activities will your roommates use their devices for? If everyone under your roof is just checking the news and posting on social media, a lighter plan will function fine. However, if you and your roommates are regularly gaming, streaming, uploading/sharing large files or doing any other heavy-duty internet activities, you may need a stronger connection.
- Does anyone plan to work from home occasionally or manage his/her own business? If so, a fast, reliable connection will be especially important to maintaining a steady workflow.
- How will you split internet bills? With everyone pitching in, you may be able to subscribe to a faster, stronger plan and save yourselves the pain of dealing with a poor connection.
Look for features
Many internet plans offer a variety of additional features to improve your browsing experience. Look for information on what’s included with your plan, whether it’s a free data management app or malware protection — a big bonus! Some plans even come with free access to Wi-Fi hotspots, which give you a high-speed wireless internet connection at thousands of locations across the nation.
Many providers also offer extra features at an additional price. If you (and your roommates) decide you want a television package, check your provider’s bundling options. You can also look for equipment protection plans if anyone in your home is particularly accident-prone.
Check tech support & installation options
Before you buy, be sure to examine your company’s technical support options and reviews. If the brand has low customer service ratings, you may want to consider another provider. Look for things like 24/7 phone support, same-day assistance/repairs, FAQs, customer resource portals and other support features.
One helpful feature that several internet providers offer is free equipment installation. Unless you studied it in college, installation is best left to the pros! This will ensure that your equipment is installed correctly and functioning as it should be. Then you can start posting updates on all your new adventures!
Whether you’re ready to shop or want more information on how to buy internet, our Resource Center has all the information you need to find the perfect plan.