Consider, if only for a moment, how critical an internet connection is when you want to be successful and in touch with the wide world. It’s become one of the most depended-upon utilities in the world, but how much you’ll pay for reliable WiFi is going to change drastically depending on where you live. That’s likely why you’re wondering how much is WiFi near you.
Your location is everything, and we’ve cooked up a guide that will show you how to determine the best local internet service provider for your needs, as well as help you to decide how much you should be paying for your respective connection. If you feel lost and out of touch in the midst of your search for great internet service, read on for all of the details that you’ll need!
Even though we depend on it like never before, the internet remains an amorphous thing that many people don’t fully understand. Our technology certainly hasn’t encouraged any deeper levels of understanding, but in a way, that’s all right. Our smartphones keep us connected wherever we are, never letting you know just how they’re getting online unless you bother to look. Once you’ve set up a persistent internet connection at home, you’ll find yourself behaving in much the same way, most of the time. As long as it works, we don’t ask. As long as it’s fast enough for whatever activities we’re up to, there’s no reason to question.
However, when it comes time to set up a brand new internet connection, those questions become of much greater importance. Suddenly, cost, speed, accessibility, and reliability factor into an equation that never even existed until you had to look at it all from the ground up. Understandably, searching for a new internet service provider can be remarkably intimidating.
The pricing climb doesn’t help much either. It’s obfuscated so much by region that you could find yourself paying $20 per month for the same speed of internet access that might cost $60 per month elsewhere in the US. Is that fair? Hell no, but that’s a topic for another discussion. What matters more than each ever-changing price point are the facts that determine those price points. It’s those facts that we’ll be examining in this guide, all with the interest of helping you to become a more informed consumer.
After all, a fast shopper looks at varying price tags, but a smart shopper knows what they’re getting for those prices. It should be stated outright that you can host a WiFi network on any high-speed internet connection. Though there may be additional costs associated with doing so, and the speed of your WiFi will be dependent on the overall speed of your service, any of the following solutions can get you started with home WiFi. To illustrate the wide-ranging cost of various types of internet service, we can easily approximate that your internet connection will cost between $20 and $100 per month, and can reach higher than that if you opt for the fastest, most expensive types of service.
Types of Internet Service
If you’re living in a rural area, you might find that your options are fairly limited with regard to the type of internet access that’s available and, more importantly, who you’re buying that service from. Due to megamergers and huge corporate movements of U.S. telecom companies, even urban residents might find their choices rather limited, but it’s still important to know what you’re getting for your money. We’ll briefly examine each of the different types of service you can buy, and which types of companies are most likely to provide them.
In many rural areas, DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) internet access will be the only option available. In urban areas, DSL is often less costly than any other ISP alternatives, but it will also be the slowest and most prone to service interruption. Rather than relying upon high-speed cables, DSL connections take advantage of the telephone network that’s already part of the local infrastructure.
Lately, many people have shied away from DSL service, since they’re able to achieve faster speeds with other options. When multiple service providers are available, other options can cost comparatively less than DSL, while still providing faster speeds. Your own internet speeds may vary since DSL speed will always be affected by how far you are from the hosting service.
Cable and Fiber Optic
To begin, it’s important to establish that “cable” internet service and fiber optic line are quite different, but both are usually a step up in speed and reliability from DSL. Cable internet connections take advantage of the coaxial cable infrastructure that typically plugs into your TV–the same kind that you’d associate with cable television service. The price that you’ll pay for this service will vary more than DSL per region, but you’re almost guaranteed to reach several times the speed that you’d see, otherwise. If you enjoy online gaming and streaming video, cable internet will more than likely be your go-to option.
Fiber optic line, on the other hand, is akin to comparing lightning to a candle. It’s faster, less prone to interference, and much more digitally secure than either of the previous two options. It’s also currently more expensive than DSL or cable, but the speeds you’ll be able to achieve with a fiber optic connection are far beyond what you can reach with internet service that relies on telephone copper wire or coaxial cable.
MiFi and WiFi Hotspots
Another option exists for people who are within range of cellular service providers’ fastest networks. “MiFi” enabled hot spots act like small, wireless routers, but instead of using a local internet connection, they run off of cellular data provided by networks like Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T. Because of this, they’re subject to the same data costs that you’d encounter on your smartphone, as well as the same overage rules and charges. For this reason, it’s difficult to recommend MiFi devices as anything other than a backup, for serious internet users.
They’re certainly good at what they do, and they’re able to host many devices at the same time. They are not, however, within the same price range or service ability to be called a “WiFi alternative.”
Internet Service Speeds
The other side of the coin that’s going to determine the cost of your internet service is the speed. In areas with limited access, you may not have a choice between various speeds of internet. Where you do, they’ll be “tiered,” starting with the slower, less expensive connections and rising towards the faster, more expensive options.
network cables RJ45 connected to a switch
Before letting your judgment rest solely on the listed internet speeds with specific service providers, instead, consider what you want to use your internet connection for.
For most casual users who just want an internet connection in their home for simple things, an inexpensive DSL connection will be a perfectly suitable choice. Ranging on average between 1.5 Mbps and 3 Mbps download speeds, you’ll be able to browse the web, check Facebook, blog, or stream a single video from Netflix with relative ease. If there are several people in your household, however (children or roommates, beware!) then you may need to consider either a faster DSL package or a faster type of internet service altogether.
If your household has multiple people that want to stream video content simultaneously, you’re going to need an internet connection that’s fast enough to sustain it. In these circumstances, most turn to cable connections or–where it’s available–fiber optic.
Gamers will almost certainly fit into this category, especially now that more of them are relying on downloaded games rather than physical copies purchased at retail. If you’ve ever tried to download 20 gigabytes of a video game over a 1.8 Mbps connection, I would sooner recommend giving up the hobby altogether.
A basic cable connection is, on average, about three to four times faster than a basic DSL connection, but will almost always be more costly.
Finding an ISP
When it comes time to actually finding an ISP near you, you’ve got it easy. If you’re feeling particularly old-fashioned, crack open a phone book and check your local listings! Otherwise, if you have a local business with an open WiFi connection, swing through and head to the National Broadband Map to see not only which service providers are active in your area, but also the speeds that they’re regularly providing to their customers. From there, you can measure your own needs against the services that are currently offered, and make the best decision!
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that your ISP may charge you additional fees for the “rental” of a wireless router, which is the cornerstone of a home WiFi network. Most of the routers that service providers rent out to their customers are not worth the fees that people are paying to use them. As a viable alternative, you can purchase your own wireless router. Here is a list of some of the best-reviewed routers, and as you’ll see from the visible prices, they range from economic $20 models to far-reaching beasts that cost upwards of $200. Even the least expensive router on that list is likely to be better than what your ISP provides, so use this information to save yourself a few bucks!
How much your WiFi will cost is going to be dependent on your internet service, and that is adjusted by your respective location. Therefore, WiFi costs can end up being all over the map, but our above guide will show you how to shop for an ISP that best serves your needs so that you can save money and get the speed that you need.