Has it been a while since you signed up with your Internet provider? Think it might be time to look around for a new plan, but don't know if it'd be worth the hassle?
Good news: We recently spoke with David Salway, the broadband guide for About.com, who offers some insight on factors that may drive you to switch Internet service providers.
"Price is one major consideration," Salway says. "But there are other more important factors such as actual speeds (as compared to advertised speeds), quality of service, and the general customer service experience."
Keep reading to learn more…
Sign #1 - You Know People in Your Area with Better Rates
It can be frustrating to discover you've been paying a whole lot more than your neighbor for the same quality of Internet service.
"Sometimes there is little choice when it comes to comparing broadband service options," Salway says. "Rates vary in different areas because of the level of competition, types of service available, and the type of broadband technology providing the service."
If your area doesn't have a lot of broadband service providers competing for customers, you might pay more. But if someone in your area is getting a better rate, that means you could be getting a better rate as well.
So don't be afraid to ask your friends and neighbors about what their Internet service provider is charging them. Who knows? You might discover a company you hadn't considered before - and get a better deal on your Internet service.
Sign #2 - Your Bandwidth or Connection Speed isn't Meeting Your Needs
Has your Internet usage changed over the years? Maybe you were mostly doing web searches or checking email when you initially signed up for your Internet service, but now you're streaming TV shows or making video calls to your family. If this is the case, it's likely that your Internet speed just isn't up to par anymore.
"Receiving adequate broadband speeds is a critical factor for deciding to stay with a provider or evaluating other options," Salway says. "Newer applications are constantly demanding higher speeds and more bandwidth, and providers should keep their networks upgraded to handle increasing demands."
You could test your Internet speed by using the Federal Communications Commission's free Consumer Broadband Test. The free test will help you determine the actual speed being delivered by your service provider.
"If the speeds being received are consistently lower than those advertised for the selected service offering, you should call the provider for an explanation." If they don't have a good explanation, then you should plan to take your business elsewhere.
Sign #3 - You're Not Satisfied with Customer Service
You've got a technical issue with your Internet and call customer service - only to be put on hold for half an hour or more. Does this sound familiar? Bad customer service is enough to make you want to pull your hair out - but you don't have to live with it.
"Good customer service is a critical factor when considering new broadband service, or evaluating options with a current provider," Salway says.
So what is good customer service? According to Salway it's all about "being proactive when technical issues arise, being responsive to customer requests and questions, and resolving billing issues quickly."
Sounds pretty straightforward, but how can you evaluate customer service when you're not yet a customer?
There are quite a few ways, actually. To start, talk to friends and ask them what their customer service experience has been with their provider. You can also check customer complaints with the Better Business Bureau, an organization that monitors a company's accreditation and customer complaints.
Sign #4 - A New Provider is Offering Service in Your area
Do you live in an area that isn't covered by fiber or cable modem service? If so, the only choice you might have is satellite or mobile broadband (4G/LTE), which provides Internet access over the cellular phone network instead of through land lines.
Mobile broadband (4G/LTE) and satellite service could limit how much data you can upload or download every month - and if you wanted to increase that amount - to stream movies, for example - it could get very expensive.
If that describes your situation, take Salway's advice: "Always be looking out for new service offerings from fiber and cable providers." Service providers that can reach you with physical lines can often charge less than those that provide Internet access wirelessly.
Sign #5 - You Haven't Updated Your Contract in a While
Salway recommends making a note of when your contract will end or when that "introductory offer" expires. The end of your contract could be a great time to shop around for better prices, higher speeds, or better package deals from other providers, he says.
"Even if you want to stay with your current provider, you can use competitor's offers and special packages to negotiate better terms from an existing provider," Salway says.
So, if you've been with your provider for some time now, shop around and compare rates from other providers to ensure that you're still getting a great price. If you're not, then that's a clear sign you should switch providers.