The Internet in the United States, heck even North America in general…is garbage. It’s 2021 and some people still only have DSL-level internet as their sole provider option. If you happen to be fortunate enough to live in an area blessed with cable internet, at least you have enough bandwidth speed to use the modern web like the rest of the first world. Well, at least until you hit the arbitrary bandwidth caps set by various ISPs.
Look, this article isn’t going to get political about this issue for one simple reason – it doesn’t matter why ISPs do what they do. My dad used to have a saying: you can wish in one hand and poo in the other, then ask yourself which one is filling up quicker. The point he was making is to take action to remedy whatever has you down. Therefore if an ISP does poorly, we need to do what we can to avoid them at all costs. Obviously this isn’t possible for everyone, but it’s possible for more people now that it was merely five years ago.
On a budget – do your research before buying
Where I live and which ISP I use is dictated by whether or not my bandwidth is restricted. Just as I value my time, I also value my money. This means I will use a slower, more expensive ISP if they’re not capping my usage. Bandwidth caps aren’t compatible with my lifestyle. The ISP’s motivation can be debated all day but in the end, I don’t care – no money for them if they cap my data. Not from my wallet.
In the region I live in, there are a number of ISP options. Yet most people only really consider two of them – Comcast and Ziply (formally Frontier). Yet when you do a little research, there are actually more options than initially meet the eye.
- Wave Broadband – No caps, comparable to Comcast pricing. They do throttle data after certain usage, however.
- PogoZone – WISP (wireless internet service provider) that does offer Internet without data caps.
- Random 4G mobile providers. All data capped, hotspoting is throttled heavily if you’re subscribed to unlimited data. I have a “work-a-round” that I’ll share at a later date. Provides unthrottled hotspotting when done correctly.
This sounds great, right? Wrongo! Out of the four options above, Ziply offers no caps if you’re on FiOS only. Comcast caps you out unless you pay an extra $50 per month. PogoZone is the only one that is transparently not throttling or capping data usage without the benefit of fiber internet. And lastly, even using the aforementioned hotspot “tweak” to gain unthrottled data usage, mobile internet still isn’t reliable enough in my area.
Do you see the pattern here? You’d need to adjust your living location to either fall into a region where fiber or WISP (uncapped provider) is available. This presents a bit of a challenge. Surely 4G/5G home-based solutions solve this problem? Not even close.
T-Mobile Home Internet — Great if you can get it
Recently T-Mobile came out with a new home internet option utilizing their mobile network. Unlike other mobile data at home providers, T-Mobile is offering their home based internet without bandwidth usage caps. This is fantastic! Well, fantastic if you live in a region being served by T-Mobile.
T-Mobile blasts advertising everywhere and if you happen to live in one of the few areas being serviced by T-Mobile home internet, awesome. I however, do not and I’m hardly alone.
As it stands today however, T-Mobile internet offers beta-level availability at best. On the positive side of things, T-Mobile home internet could be an affordable game changer for some people in the near future. $55 per month, no caps, 50 Mbps and free modem lease — I can think of worse ISP packages. Lucky for us, T-Mobile isn’t the only game in town to break free from lousy ISPs.
Starlink Space Internet — Great if you can afford it
On the pricier side of things, Starlink from SpaceX is easily the biggest game changer of them all. Unlike less impressive satellite internet options that have been on the market for years, Starlink offers better upload speeds, no caps and far better latency than their competition.
The unfortunate downside is the cost and availability of Starlink. But you know what, the cost isn’t that big of a deal to me. I’m quite happy to spend the money for the ability to avoid the local cable company. Lucky for me, the location I’m moving to has an option that matches the performance with the FiOS option I once had through Ziply Fiber.
Municipal Fiber Internet – I’m Sold!
The small city of Anacortes, WA, my wife and I are currently setting up our new home here. It’s a small town of less than 17,000 people with municipal fiber internet, a 24 hour donut (doughnut) shop and it’s on an island with whale watching tours every summer. Yep, I’m home and you couldn’t pay me to live anywhere else. Where else can I take my laptop and watch the sea lions while I work? Not too many places, that’s for sure.
Okay, so where am I going with this? Simple, I am going to be living in a town where fiber internet is a utility. After the city council had enough of available ISPs and their, the city launched their own fiber project. Now I’ve set up a few installs (router/Rokus) for customers in town and folks, the only internet I can compare it to is Ziply’s FiOS. It’s flawless, matching up/down stream speeds and consistent.
Unfortunately the region of the city I’m going to be living is not scheduled for green lighting service until later this year, early next year. This means I am forced to make a choice. Before deciding on buying into Anacortes, I was giving deadly serious consideration to Starlink. But it’s still in “wait and see” mode in terms of how fast I’ll see the hardware at this point.
Therefore, I’m going to be using the local Comcast alternative (Wave) for the short term and dumping it as soon as the fiber option is available. I’m willing to do this as I’ve seen just how great it is here in town – worth the wait. Bonus points for the hyper-local tech support. You literally pay your internet with your water bill – same building.
My advice to my readers regarding ISPs
Folks, I realize 99 percent of the U.S. won’t have choices like this. That said, stop waiting for the federal government to fix it for you. Historically, they fail hard in this department with empty promises that never come to fruition. Instead, use your preferred search engine, ask questions and think outside of the box to find the most ethical option for Internet.
Consider taking a slower ISP provider if it means no data caps and local support. If I lived in a coverage area and wasn’t living in an area with city-wide fiber, I’d go with a WISP solution in a cold minute based on my ethics. The ethical stance I take with ISPs is would this be something you’d recommend to others as a product. If not, then I’m not subjecting myself to it.
To offset any slow downs you might suffer with a slower ISP, look to the self-hosting trend happening right now. Localized media servers loaded with “backed up” DVDs, over the air TV and rely less on cable/satelite or streaming services. As summer approaches, you’ll enjoy two neat benefits:
- You’ll spend less time watching the world burn on TV.
- You’re able to re-take ownership of your media usage and feel better about the ISP you’re writing a check to each month.
Okay, many of you are likely thinking this all sounds great, but your ISP options are nil outside of your local DSL or cable provider. My response to this is usually “horse-pucky.” WISPs and other lesser known providers don’t advertise well. You will have to really look for them. I know a guy who lives in the middle of nowhere and get his Internet via a WISP broadcaster on a nearby mountain.
If this type of thing genuinely isn’t an option, then do yourself a favor get on the waiting list for Starlink. While it’s expensive, the speed potencial is outstanding. Plus, it also means you’re not sending more money to the lobbyists in the cable industry that push for data caps and other offenses that you can find with some quick search engine queries. Don’t given the cable companies a dime if you can afford not to. Food for thought.