People ask me – How can I choose an Internet Service Provider?

First off a very basic explanation:

The Internet

  • The Internet is what you are connected to when you look at a website e.g. reading this very blog post online, chatting to a friend, using your email and more. The Internet is made up of lots of computers connected to one another in a network, this can be via many different mediums.

Now you cannot just plug your computer into a phone socket and hope to be online. You need to be connected via an ISP (Internet Service Provider.) To be connected, you need to be in an area which is supported by the ISP.

  • The ISP is a company that you would pay a monthly fee to for Internet access.
  • An exchange is where the ISP will have your home phone connected to allow you ADSL access.
  • Wireless you need to be within a coverage zone, the same as with a Mobile phone, if you do not have a signal, you will not have access.
  • Cable you need to be in a supported area, where the ISP has the infrastructure available.

In most cases, you will sign up for a 12 to 24 month contract and either buy a Modem or receive one for free from the ISP.

  • The modem is a device which translates the signals from wireless or telephone lines into digital format which a computer can understand.

Today you will mostly see Broadband – Wireless Internet, ADSL, Cable and some times Satellite advertised for home users to connect to the Internet.
There are a lot of Internet Service Providers selling Internet plans to the public and businesses, e.g. TPG,, Optus, IINET, Telstra Bigpond etc.

A quick run down on the plans on offer by Internet Service Providers:

  • An ISP will usually list data amounts (also referred to as caps,) upload and download speeds.
  • Uploads and downloads consist of data, which is everything you send and receive on the Internet.

Uploads and downloads

First off, data is measured in bits and bytes.

I am referring you to click that link and it will take you to a very good explanation on Internet speeds otherwise keep reading.

When you visit a website, you will download data from the Internet and when you send an email, you will upload data.

Now lets put a download into perspective; first off, I use to convert different data storage types.

  • Data storage types can be Terabyte, Gigabyte, Megabyte, Kilobyte, etc.

The image below which I took on new years eve 2008, is a download for you and an upload for me because you are seeing the image from my website so you are downloading, and I put the image onto my website, which means I am uploading.

  • There are 1024 Kilobytes in 1 Megabyte, and 1024 Megabytes in 1 Gigabyte.

New Years Eve 2008
New Years Eve 2008

To bring these into size, the image you see only takes up approximately 7 Kilobytes of data when you download it.

If you click on the image that will download the bigger version of the file which takes up approximately 80 Kilobytes of data.

Internet connection speeds and data caps

  • The speed of your Internet connection determines how fast you will be able to download data.
  • The cap is the total amount of data the ISP will allow you to download every month.

Recent offerings from Internet service providers advertise that you will get ADSL2+ which is at its maximum download speed, measured at 24 Mbps (Megabits per second.) Now I have to stress that there are many different factors which could affect your download speed, and you will not actually download at the speed the ISP is advertising.

Now when we look at a plan from an ISP, for example,

Extreme ADSL2+ Speeds
5 Gbytes

This particular plan is $39.95 a month, you are capped at 5 Gigabytes of data every month and they are offering Extreme ADSL2+ speeds.

  • This means you could download the larger picture approximately 65536 times.
  • Now another quick note, your average email including pictures and text would be approximately 50 Kilobytes in size.
  • Many websites today like YouTube have a lot more than just pictures. They have video, this will use up more of your download than just email so keep in mind what you do on the Internet if you choose a lower cap plan.

The final note

This is only a basic explanation to help you choose a plan and Internet service provider. I cannot tell you what plan to choose, mainly because  there are so many factors which come into play. I would say when it comes to deciding, it is pretty much hit and miss with Internet Service Providers.

Depending on where you live, i.e. in the City you will have more options available:

  • ADSL
  • Wireless
  • Cable
  • Satelite

If you live in a rural area, you may not have that many options for Internet as the infrastructure is just not in place.

There is a website which I use a lot, Broadband choice; I recommend you have a good read at what other people rate their Internet Service Providers on customer service and quality of the connection. This is the only way to make a decision on an Internet Service Provider.

I like to say “If you are going to decide on anything, at the least make it an educated decision.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *