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Knowing an ISP's Contract Terms

Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) is a data communications technology that is making high-speed bandwidth a reality. Why is DSL so promising? This powerful data communications technology works over regular telephone lines and is being delivered to homes and businesses in a revolutionary way: competitively. The telephone company is no longer the exclusive provider of data communications. You get to decide who delivers your DSL Internet access.

You order DSL Internet service from an Internet service provider. Behind the ISP are Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs) and Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers (ILECs) providing the DSL network service.

Unfortunately, helpful consumer information about specific ISPs and DSL providers is not readily available. DSL Reports is one of the few sites that provides helpful information for potential DSL customers. This site uses a database to present the results of thousands of DSL customer reviews.

The terms and conditions in the DSL service contract can often make or break a DSL service deal. Restrictions on your DSL service are spelled out in this contract, so you must read it carefully to fully understand what you can and can't do with your DSL service.

Here are some important things to look for in a DSL service contract:

  • What is the time commitment for your DSL service? Many ISPs require that you make a one- to three-year commitment to the DSL service. With some providers, the cost per month drops if you commit for a longer period. Before committing to a long-term contract, consider that DSL service is new and prices will probably come down as competition increases. Check also for any early termination charges.

  • Is usage restricted? Many ISPs include restrictions on the amount of data going through your DSL pipe per month per line. For example, there might be a 10-gigabyte limit for a lower-bandwidth DSL connection. Any data moving across your DSL line in excess of the limit costs extra, usually based on a price per megabyte.

  • Are servers allowed? You may find an even harsher restriction that forbids you from running any servers or using an Ethernet router (or other Internet connection sharing solution) that supports Network Address Translation (NAT) and Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) to share the connection.

  • What are the payment terms? Increasingly, ISPs are billing to credit cards to cut down on their accounts receivable overhead. Others bill on a monthly or annual basis, with the annual billing method offering a discount. Many ISPs also require a deposit to start the service.

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