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Home | Online Resources: Link to a Topic | Internet Service Providers

How to select an Internet Service Provider (ISP): from finding, to selecting, to signing up, to deciding whether to stay with that ISP.

This guide is written for people who live in Ocean County, New Jersey. If you live elsewhere, you may have to change these instructions to fit conditions in your area.

The Library does not recommend particular ISP’s. As a library we do not promote particular companies.

You may have free trial software for several ISP’s already installed on your computer. If you want to sign up with one of those, click on the icon and follow the instructions. If you would like to look for other ISP’s, you may use an ISP directory.

Once you locate potential ISP’s, check their Web sites. Much of the information you need to make a choice may be on the potential ISP’s Web site. You should ask:

  1. What is the cost, and over what time period? How long a time commitment does the ISP require? Purchase of some computers includes Internet service for a period of time. 
  2. Does the ISP have a local access number? Check their Web site for the telephone numbers they show as local. Then check the numbers in the Verizon white pages to make sure they really are local. The ISP does not decide whether a number is local. Verizon makes that decision. If you select a number which is not local for your phone number, every time you log in you are making a toll call. If the ISP has no local number, select another ISP.
  3. What are their system requirements? Check what features that ISP requires your computer to have.
  4. What sorts of connections does the ISP offer? There are several types of connections now available. Many people start out with a dial-up connection, which runs over standard telephone lines.
  5. What features does the ISP provide as part of your service? This may include multiple e-mail accounts, Web site hosting, and others.
  6. Has anyone you know dealt with that ISP? Does he or she recommend them?
  7. What time commitment are you willing to make with an ISP? Are you willing to commit for longer than one month to a company, without knowing how good their service is?

Once you have answered your questions, you can select an ISP, and sign up. Follow the ISP’s signup procedures. If you have access to an Internet connection, you may be able to download the ISP’s software. The Ocean County Library does not permit downloading on our Internet computers, however. If you cannot download the software, many ISP’s will send you a program disk on request. Often ISP’s will offer you a free trial. If you get a free trial, use it to consider several questions:

  1. When you try to dial in, do you often get busy signals before you are actually able to get through?
  2. Once you successfully log in, does the ISP disconnect you before you are ready to sign off?
  3. When you log in, do you have to move through several ISP screens before you can actually access the Web? Many ISP’s configure your Web browser to start with the ISP’s Web page. Can you change the Web browser to start with another Web page, if you want to?
  4. How fast is the connection? Connection speed may be affected by your computer, particularly if you have an older computer or a slower modem. You can do a speed test at CNET Web Services.
  5. If you need technical support, is it available when you need it? Do you have to wait a long time? Once you are able to contact someone, is he or she able to help you to solve the problem?

Even if you do not get a free trial, keep track of your experience. If you do not like your current ISP’s service, look for another ISP, sign up with the new ISP, and cancel the first. There are hundreds of choices. Keep trying until you find one that gives you the service you want. It is very easy to find ISP’s. And it is very easy to change ISP’s, as long as you have not made a long-term commitment to the old one.

ISP Directories:

CNET Reviews: Internet Services
As well as ISP directories, CNET provides product reviews and descriptions of the types of service available.

The List
Over 9,700 ISP’s appear on The List. The List shows the type of connection each ISP offers. You may search by
area code, including area codes 609 and 732. Costs are not shown until you access each ISP’s own Web site.


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Researched and Compiled by C. Paulson

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