If you’ve tried to shop for an internet provider lately, you’ve likely gone dizzy from all the information out there. In fact, many people start out with every intention of doing their research, but after seeing just how much information there is and attempting to make sense of it, they eventually stick with what they’ve got simply because it seems too difficult to discover if there’s something better. We’ve compiled three strategies that can help you battle through all the information to get to what really matters.

1 – Know What You’re Looking For

It’s true that there’s a ton of information out there, but it’s also true that most of it probably doesn’t apply to you. For example, if you’re a person who uses the internet for social networking, online banking, and checking the internet, then your needs will be a lot different than those who play graphic-heavy online games, who stream high definition movies, or who download extremely large files.

The key to getting started is to simplify the information you’re looking for. Start by thinking about what’s actually important to you. Do you want to find the lowest rate? Or do you work from home and want to find the most reliable provider? Perhaps you’re looking for a superfast connection that allows you to download music quickly. Once you’ve established your own unique profile, you’ll find it much easier to browse through the available information and instantly make an assessment as to whether or not it applies to you.

 

2 – Beware of the Fine Print

With all the information that’s out there, it seems strange that you’d ignore some of the more obvious information in favor of the fine print, but the truth is that often what you really need to know isn’t exactly advertised. One example is usage-based caps. These caps allow for each subscriber to use a certain amount of data, with certain consequences if they go over that amount, such as overage fees or throttling (slowing down) the connection for the remainder of the billing cycle.

The majority of people aren’t typically affected by these caps, as they’re designed to ensure that those who use a ton of bandwidth pay their fair share. However, you should be aware of the caps each company imposes so you can make a decision about whether or not they affect you. Similarly, check the fine print for contract lengths, fees for ending a contract early, and any equipment, installation, or activation fees.

3 – Look at it as a Long Term Investment

It’s easy to get wowed by introductory offers that give you great rates to begin with, or offer hundreds of dollars in cash back if you sign up. In many cases these are actually great deals that can lead to significant savings, but they can also mean paying more in the long run. It makes sense that if you pay little for the first few months but get locked into a much higher rate for another year and a half, you won’t end up ahead, but sometimes we lose sight of the forest through the trees.

The easiest way to make sense of these deals is to consider how much it will cost over the course of your contract. For example, if you’re comparing two plans and each has a two year contract, and one offers a starting rate for 6 months with a higher rate for the next 18 months, and another offers a single rate for the duration of your contract, simply crunch the numbers to see how much you’ll spend in total for each plan. You might just be surprised by what you discover.

No matter how overwhelming it may seem at first, once you know what you’re looking for you can make sense of all the information. If you’re lucky enough to have several providers to choose from, the above tools can help you get the best service for your needs.

Jesse Schwarz enjoys all things technology and writes about related topics at the ISP Watchdog.