Picking Internet Service

Finding internet service for your startup is always a challenge. After having to go through this so many times with companies such as Time Warner Roadrunner, twtelecom, hughesinternet.net, Comcast, AT&T, and others, I thought I would share some quick tips in case it saves you some pain.

  1. Symmetric vs. Asymmetric Bandwidth. For some technical reason, fast download speeds are easier to achieve than upload speeds. Asymetric bandwidth is far less expensive. I’ve seen things like 5Mbps up / 15Mbps down for like $199. Symmetric bandwith seems to cost around $125 per metabit per second. Figure out if you can live with asymmetric and you can save lots of money.
  2. Contract Duration. Everybody wants to lock you into a contract if they can. Some asymmetric bandwidth can be purchased on a monthly basis, while most symmetric bandwidth requires a contract. Most companies will try to sell you on a 3-year contract, but keep in mind that the cost of bandwidth typically decreases every year. So you’re locking into a price that will be higher than the market by the end of your contract. A 2-year contract might be slightly more expensive, but you should ask if it’s possible. If there are capital costs associated with giving you bandwidth (like dragging fiber) they will try to build those costs into your monthly cost over 3 years. It’s harder to negotiate when there are capital costs.

    Note: Any time you change anything about your service, they will automatically renew your contract for another 3 years without telling you. It’s in the fine print. Watch for it, and negotiate it out.

  3. Are You “On Net.” Does the provider already have a line coming into your building? If so it’s going to be cheap, easy, and fast to get bandwidth. Try asking your building engineer who has lines into your building. Ask your potential provider if they are “on net” in that building. If they’re not, then they probably contract with AT&T for bandwidth to your building. It’s common, so don’t worry too much about it. But understand that if you have an issue with your bandwidth provider, they themselves won’t be able to do anything but they will just call AT&T to come on-site and troubleshoot. So you have to ask yourself, “Why don’t I just use AT&T?”
  4. Service and Uptime. If the internet goes down, you can’t work and if you have VoIP phones you won’t be able to make phone calls either. Who do you call? What is their up-time guarantee? How long does it take to get a technician on site? When you check their references, you should ask about downtime and how it was resolved.

What tips and tricks have you discovered?

About Bryan Menell

Bryan is the Managing Editor for AustinStartup and the CEO of Mahana. He is a co-founder of Capital Factory, an investor and advisor, and runs the popular Austin Tech Happy Hour with his wife.