Providing internet is more than a $130 billion industry. With this big chunk of change, numerous providers in many locations make the prospect of selecting one difficult. So if you want a complete guide to internet installation (starting from selection), you’re in the right place.
Below, we will go through the steps necessary to select and order supplies. You’ll also find the basics of self-service in routers and moving, so you don’t have to pay extra for professional internet installation.
Finding the best internet provider
Before signing a contract and booking your new internet installation, you need to know what makes a good internet service provider (ISP). Typically, this comes down to four different areas:
- Availability - Is the internet provider available at your zip code and address?
- Speed - What is the best internet connection for how I plan on using it?
- Customer service - Is the company known for providing a great customer experience?
- Pricing - Is the internet I want in my budget?
Check out our in-depth guide on finding the best internet provider near you for more information. Asking yourself the four questions above is how you get started, but the guide will help you get into the details.
To find the best ISP in your area, you can use InternetAdvisor’s system to simplify this process. Here’s how you do this:
- Enter your zip code
- Click the red search button
- Select your desired services, budget, star rating, and promotions to see what appeals to you
- Scroll through the options and click the “see availability’ or “order online” button to begin the next steps
- You can also click the phone number to connect to a service representative.
Once you’ve decided on an internet company, you can order from them.
Buying a plan from an internet provider
An internet company’s ordering process follows two patterns:
- Making an online order
- Talking with a representative about your options
What route you choose depends on your available time and your desire for convenience over discounts.
Ordering online is a matter of convenience. You don’t have to wait on the phone line, and you can often do a DIY internet installation at your leisure. Online ordering systems have gotten advanced enough for you to handle 100% of the experience directly on the provider’s website or in their app.
On the contrary, ordering on the phone requires more time and more labor. But you will get a more personal experience and can negotiate with most internet providers on the phone. For people who need help with their internet installation, or have a lot of questions about different internet plans, this might be the preferred way to go.
Doing your research and comparing your local providers is also easy with the InternetAdvisor search functions. We’ll help you find available providers by zip code and give you clear transparent pricing and services that are available to you.
Once you have a great internet provider that offers a reasonable rate and the speeds you need, you need to schedule or plan your initial internet installation, regardless of whether you’ll have a professional do it or you’ll do it yourself.
Planning your internet installation
When it comes to internet installation, you've got two options. Once again, they often come down to convenience vs. savings:
- Book your internet provider’s technician for a professional internet installation
- Set up your router and internet yourself
That being said, there are some instances where the internet installation process is out of your control.
In some cases, the internet company may require you to use their internet installation services. This may come at an added cost or be complimentary - that will depend on the individual company’s policy and the type of internet you choose.
If you need a new cable, you don’t have any choice but to call a technician. This is more common with fiber-optic internet or more traditional internet services in rural, both lacking an established infrastructure. Installing fiber-optic internet requires a unique process and a different level of expertise than other types of internet.
Assuming your wires are already ready, you can choose the self-service route:
How to set up your router and internet on your own
Choosing to do your internet installation yourself saves on installation fees and may even get you connected faster. But you will still need to start by getting the right equipment. Here’s what you usually need for any internet installation process:
- A router
- Ethernet cables
- A wireless device (optional)
A router is the connection point between your home network and the internet. While you can technically live without it if you have the correct type of internet, routers are your safety net. Routers come with security (in the form of a firewall) that is your first line of defense.
Here are the steps necessary to set up your first router. These steps assume you’ll need to set up wireless security:
1. Plug your internet-side cable into your router
You plug the internet cable into your router first. You connect your ethernet cables to any wired devices you use. You can connect to your router’s admin console from your wired device for future management.
If you don’t have a wired device, you’ll need to get this information found on the side of your router.
2. Get your network name and password if you don’t have a direct connection
- Your SSID (Service Set Identifier) - This is a fancy way of saying your “network name.”
- Your Shared Key - Another fancy term that means “password.”
To find your SSID on a wireless device, turn on your WiFi and look at the network list. From there, select the matching SSID from the side of your router and enter the shared key (sometimes labeled as WPA/WPA2 Key) in your “password” section.
3. Access your router’s admin console
Once you are connected, enter your router’s IP address (either found on the side of the router or in the owner’s manual). The IP Address connects to your router’s admin console. From the security tab, you will find a way to change your password to something unique.
Once you do that, you’ll need to change the password on your current wireless device and reconnect. Changing your wireless password removes it from the factory default, preventing unwanted visitors from accessing your internet.
Connecting to the internet after your router is ready
Once your router is connected, your internet installation is complete and you’ll be able to test your internet. Assuming it is already active and you paid for it, it should work right away.
If it isn’t, contact your ISP’s customer support line to let them know you are ready. They might run a few tests, so be near a computer to inform them of what’s happening.
Some ISPs struggle with certain third-party routers. In this way, paying the equipment rental fee for getting the provider’s router can save you some time. However, you still follow the testing, setup, and activation process. You still need customer support to activate it and test things for you.
Moving your existing internet provider to a new location
When moving your service between locations, the router and internet installation stays the same. However, you’ll need to notify your ISP of your intent to move.
Typically, you do this about a month in advance. This allows you to be ready for a few different situations:
- The provider might need to establish a move date
- You might need to find a new ISP for the location
- Your ISP might not offer the same services between areas
Being ready for both situations is paramount. You’ll often find that ISPs behave differently when moving between states.
For example, CenturyLink is a company with an incredible spread. The company works in both major metropolitan areas and more rural communities. However, they often don’t include these fiber-optic internet services in rural areas.
Knowing your options before you end up living there is essential. You might often find another internet provider that puts more into the local infrastructure. Doing your research is a good idea, even if your ISP has an established network.
Internet installation and internet speeds
Your internet speed, often dictated by how much you pay, limits what you can and cannot do with the internet. With the internet installation process, knowing what internet speed you’ve purchased determines a few things.
For example, the type of router determines your maximum speed. You’ll want to buy a router with the right capabilities to take advantage of your internet service.
To find out your internet speed, you can do one of the following:
- Check your ISP account
- Perform an online speed test (this is not going to be as reliable)
Speed is measured in Megabits per second (Mbps), going as high as 1000. One thousand megabits are equal to one gigabit. Gigabyte internet is the fastest form, typically made available through fiber-optic.
Your internet speed changes depending on these factors:
- What you pay for. The service you pay for is the fastest speed your data can reach.
- Availability in the area. Not all areas support the fastest internet speed.
- The number of users. A high number of internet users can result in reduced speeds.
- Your data cap. If you exceed your data cap, you might be limited in using your full speed.
- The number of people on your internet. If your bandwidth is clogged, your family might be overusing the internet.
As home offices grow, data throttling is becoming more commonplace. Data throttling is a provider-imposed limit on the amount of data you use. This happens as a result of any of the situations above. Data throttling saves your company money, giving them plenty of motivation to do it. A speed test app can help check your ISP for throttling.
The type of internet you have also impacts speeds.
A quick overview of the different types of internet
Below are four common types of internet, sorted by speed from fastest to slowest:
- Fiber-optic internet - Makes use of fiber-optic cables that use light over other forms of electronic communication.
- Cable internet - Makes use of the same line your TV station does to transmit data. This option is pretty fast but mostly done for convenience.
- Satellite internet - These providers are slower but make up for their flexibility. If you have no internet infrastructure in your area, you can still get a satellite provider.
- DSL internet - These providers make use of your telephone line for communication. As a result, you don’t get many providers beyond 10 Mbps.
- Fixed-wireless internet - This internet is a good backup if satellite internet has struggled in your location. It is still pretty slow.
DSL has the second-most widespread availability. This is because you can find phone lines almost everywhere. Making use of existing connections can help. Frontier is one of the most well-known DSL providers.
Finally, Cable is a faster form of DSL, using existing TV connections. Because DSL is an older product, many DSL providers offer more advanced services. These widespread services typically come in the form of cable. Windstream is a famous cable example.
Fixed-wireless internet is your backup option in cases where none of these work. However, it doesn’t have impressive speeds, even when compared to satellite internet. Rise Broadband offers good service for those who can’t get service anywhere else.
Final tips on internet installation
When planning your internet installation, here is a quick roundup of tips to keep in mind:
- Always research providers regardless if you are moving or setting up new internet
- If you want to save some money, know how to set up your own router and internet service
- Check with your ISP before you move to see about what they have in your new area
- Understand the speed you need for different duties
- Know how different types of internet impact your speed limitations
To simplify much of this process, using InternetAdvisor’s tools to find an internet service provider in your area can reduce the research process. The filters enable you to select the right internet for your budget. It also allows you to check for optional features like a professional installation.