ISP Options

The two most common connectivity options in most communities are DSL and cable, using the telephone system and cable television infrastructures respectively. Some communities may have additional options including wireless or fiber-based service which should also be examined.

Here are some capability, cost and service factors to consider as you compare and evaluate your local Internet Service Provider (ISP) options.

Speeds are usally not guaranteed. This means that your Internet Service Provider may for example advertise download speeds "up to" 6 Megabits. However, you may or may not actually get these speeds. In contrast, the existing T1 network connections are private, direct links which are always 1.5 Megabits.

Asymmetric speeds. Most Internet Service Providers have larger download speeds than upload. For example, "up to" 6 Mbps download and "up to" 768 Kbps upload. For web browsing and mail this will generally not be an issue, but low upload limits may preclude audio or video participation in web conferencing and similar services. Note the comparison to the existing T1 network at 1.5 Mbps in each direction--your download speed with a local service provider may be better, while your upload speed may be worse.

The Internet is variable. All network traffic to ISU (email, web conferencing, etc) will be across the commodity Internet. This means that the amount of other traffic, the route which your data takes and therefore the speed at which your data travels can vary significantly. It also means there can be delays in receiving data, for example noticeable delays in webcasts.

Calling for network support. While Extension IT will always take your calls, any problems that lie with your ISP will mean an additional call to their technical support. You should understand their hours and response time, whether the support is local to your community, etc.

Equipment costs. A DSL or cable modem (or similar for other services) will be required. Providers may sell, rent or possibly give you a modem with your service. Beyond this access device you will still be responsible for some kind of router, ethernet switch(es) and wireless access point(s) to connect the computers in your office to the provider's device. Extension IT can provide and maintain this local area network (LAN) equipment as well as virtual private networking service (VPN) for a $75/month fee.

IP addresses. ISPs use dynamic IP addresses by default, but usually allow businesses and individuals to purchase a static IP address for an additional $5 or $10 monthly fee. Any office contracting with Extension IT for VPN service and LAN equipment and maintenance should obtain one static IP address to facilitate this service. Having this will enhance EIT's ability to support your office.

Business versus consumer plans. Some providers will offer both business and consumer plans with varying speeds and support levels. Ask for business plans and understand what additional benefits you get for the increased cost.


If you have additional questions or would like assistance choosing an ISP please contact at eit@iastate.edu. It is also critical to coordinate your office's transition from T1 to a local ISP, including equipment changes and VPN service.