These days consumers can find themselves in the position of paying exorbitant prices for bundled communications services, including internet. This article tells you how you may be able to reduce your cost for monthly internet service.
The problem with internet service in the United States is that internet service providers have made agreements with the governments of towns and cities in exchange for virtual monopolies over each locality. One wonders what the towns and cities are getting out of this, because the customers are certainly getting shafted. Consumers are often finding themselves stuck with one or two providers charging high prices. Sometimes we pay close to $200 per month for a bundle that includes, internet, cable, and phone. In the city where I live, we had two choices until recently when Google ran fiber to us. That's in the city. Just outside the city limits, I'm told there are fourteen! And people outside my city have significantly lower prices and similar quality to those of us inside the city. So, what again is the advantage to the city government of giving providers a monopoly inside the city when there are plenty of providers willing to provide services outside the city for lower prices?
The question is what can you do about it? Well, there are many options. For one thing you can unbundle. Drop the cable, or replace it with Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, etc. Replace your bundled phone service with a low-cost provider like Ooma. Where I live, Ooma costs a little over $6 per month, and it has excellent audio quality, and I almost never have an outage. I have to admit, however, that the Ooma people make it almost maddening to set up. But, if I wanted, there are other VOIP providers that are even cheaper, like Magic Jack. And if I really wanted to save even more money, I'm certain I could find other options.
But the topic of this article is lowering your internet service costs, so let's limit our discussion to that. The first thing to do is to determine how fast a connection you really need. With a family full of kids, I understand people wanting higher bandwidth internet. But in a family of one or two I don't really see the need. I'll tell you why. I've been using a 6 Mb/s connection for years, and it works just fine for me. The most intensive need for bandwidth I have is when I'm watching Netflix. I watch on the lower quality setting, by the way, because I'm a cheapskate. But I have never had a problem with Netflix on this setting. Ok, sure, on the occasions when I want to download large files, like Linux distributions, I do have to wait for a bit. But that really isn't a big deal to me. So, one way to lower your monthly internet bill is to reduce your bandwidth down to the lowest you can tolerate without added aggravation. The savings there can be really significant. To find out how significant, call up your internet service provider and ask.
If you have two internet service providers in your area, another thing you can do is switch between them yearly to get their introductory rates forever. Yes, that's inconvenient. And you may feel like it's a little unethical. But, do you think your internet service provider deserves to make more off of you because he's managed to get a monopoly over you?
The next thing you can try appears to be less well known. You can call up your internet service provider and simply ask for a reduced rate. The week after Google ran fiber on my street, I called my provider and asked if they would lower my rate. I didn't raise my voice, express any dissatisfaction, or threaten to leave. I just asked for a lower rate. The first time I called, the response of the person I talked to was essentially, "absolutely not". So, as soon as I got off the phone with her, I called back and talked to a different person. His response was, "sure". So, my service provider lowered my rate from $48/mo to $35/mo--just because I asked. And the service is exactly the same. Maybe the fact that I now had a third option for an internet service provider helped. And then again, maybe it didn't. What do you have to loose by calling and asking?
If you still aren't happy with the cost of your internet service after trying all of the above approaches, there are always more ... drastic measures. One is to share an internet connection with another family next door, either via ethernet cable or wifi extenders. However, if your internet service provider finds out, they may cancel your service. So be careful. If you use ethernet cable, make sure it's ultraviolet light resistant. If you decide to go the wifi extender route, be aware that every time your signal is relayed through another extender (aka repeater), your bandwidth drops in half. So, if you live more than a couple of hundred feet from you neighbor, you will have to use a pair of high-gain antennas to make the link with only one pair of wifi adapters. Don't bother with high-power wifi adapters. My experience after having tried them (for other uses, of course) is that the ones that have been manufactured over the last few years put out no more than the approximately 50 mW of signal that most of the others do--even if they claim they're putting out a watt or two. The same is true for wifi signal amplifiers. You could get from a thrift store an old, high-power router putting out say 500 mW or slightly higher that has a wifi repeater setting and use that for a little extra range. However, remember that to have a successful wifi link, both transmitters must either be around the same power, or one of the antennas must be higher gain than the other. There is also the mesh network option. That gets a little more expensive. Also, the range isn't that great. Because the companies that sell mesh networks don't want you using them for this? There are supposedly higher-power commercial mesh adapters, but I have never tried one, so I can't offer advice.
I hope this article has helped motivate you to try to grab some of your hard-earned money back from your evil internet service provider. Let's hope that in the future something changes that makes this easier.
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