A national service provider is an Internet Service Provider (ISP) with a national presence. This model differs from smaller ISPs that function as local providers, covering limited geographic areas. A national service provider can serve clients across the country, albeit rural areas might only have partial or spotty coverage.
A service provider that sells broadband connections like Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), cable or Fiber Optic Service (FiOS), sometimes offers benefits that smaller, local providers cannot. For example, these services might bundle phone, television, Internet and cellular services for one easy bill. Robust webspace plans with slicker scripting tools and, in some cases, optional built-in commercial functionality are other features a national service provider might offer. Connectivity can also be more stable with less downtime or outages, though local or small providers might also have excellent uptime records.
The Achilles heel of a national provider often (but not always) boils down to customer service. Larger companies tend to be bureaucratic in structure, which can impede efficiency and fast service. Another disadvantage is that technical support is often outsourced.
While it might only take a moment to connect to a real person manning a technical support line for a smaller or local ISP, it can sometimes be a frustrating experience to get help from a large, multi-product, national service provider. It usually entails wading through a cascade of menu options offered by an automated operator, followed by a long wait that ends in more transfers or, in some cases, terminates in a dropped call. Between hurdles, the customer might have to sit through sales pitches about new products or packages. In the end, success often means connecting to a phone staff halfway around the globe that is simply following a generic script with no technical savvy.
I'm not sure what you're asking. If you will be traveling to Australia you should be able to get Internet access locally through hotspots or the hotel you will be staying at, providing you'll be in a city at least some of the time. Any Internet connection abroad will allow you to do the same things online that a US-Internet connection will allow. So if you need to access a VPN to tunnel to Texas, or you just want to be able to access Webmail or whatnot, any Internet connection in Australia will do. You do not need to be on the same Internet Service Provider (ISP) that you are when you access from Texas. rapaviator January 7, 2009 Can you provide the name / contact number for any "International" Service Providers? I'm trying to establish a temporary connection (couple of weeks) from Texas to Avalon, Australia. Post your comments Please enter the following code: Login: Forgot password? Register: blogherads.adq.push(['sky', 'skm-ad-sky-1']); blogherads.adq.push(['sky', 'skm-ad-sky-2']); blogherads.adq.push(['sky', 'skm-ad-sky-3']); blogherads.adq.push(['sky', 'skm-ad-sky-4']); blogherads.adq.push(['sky', 'skm-ad-sky-5']); blogherads.adq.push(['sky', 'skm-ad-sky-6']); window.stockSnippets = window.stockSnippets ; window.stockSnippets['ss_rhs'] = ` `; By: kjekol National service providers may offer bundles of Internet, TV and phone services. blogherads.adq.push(['inlineoop', 'skm-ad-outstream']); Categories
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Reason #2 reliability may not be the first thing you ask when shopping for a new internet service provider, however it is possibly the one thing that can make or break your relationship with your ISP. As we move towards a wireless, paperless society we rely more and more on our ability to quickly and easily access this information via the world wide web. If for any reason there is a disruption in this vast array of information on the information super highway, than suddenly, or so it may seem, life comes to a screeching halt. Every millisecond we spend down costs us money, whether you are a major corporation or a single consumer. Technology occasionally fails, this is a fact of life, however your local ISP is likely to have a service technician available and near by to get you up and running, while your national ISP may take several times longer due to the greater distance in service area.
Other local options that proved to be faster than their national counterparts include Allo in Nebraska, C Spire in Mississippi, EPB in Tennessee, GCI in Alaska, HTC in South Carolina, Midco in South Dakota, OzarksGo in Arkansas, RCN in Illinois, and USI in Minnesota.
by Roberta Furger (IDG) -- Mike Winckler doesn't ask for much from US West, his Internet service provider. He would like to get online on his first try and have quick, reliable access to his e-mail. Oh, one more thing -- he wants unlimited access for a reasonable price. US West, however, hasn't quite met those modest expectations. "I try to log on and don't get an answer," explains the exasperated computer programmer from Omaha, Nebraska, who depends on the ISP for work and recreation. And there's the maddening problem of occasionally being unable to retrieve his e-mail. But as with many dissatisfied ISP users, the hassle of registering with another provider and informing friends and colleagues of the new e-mail address keeps him from changing providers. "Eventually, I'll switch," says Winckler. Now couldn't be a better time. A wild and woolly marketToday's bustling market of some 4500 ISPs -- a bit larger than last year's -- has one undisputed king: America Online, with its 14 million subscribers. No other ISP comes close to AOL's 13 percent market share worldwide, according to the market research firm DataQuest -- but not for lack of trying. Large national ISPs, local phone companies, and cable operators are consolidating to form global Goliaths -- witness last year's merger of MCI and WorldCom, or the pending union of AT&T and TCI. Regional independent providers like Rocky Mountain Internet and CyberGate are gobbling up little ISPs in the quest to become nationals. And regional Baby Bells, hoping to leverage their brand recognition and telecommunications expertise, have quickly emerged as dominant players, particularly in the business market. Meanwhile, local ISPs keep springing up everywhere, providing users with a homespun touch. In fact, nearly half the respondents to our ISP satisfaction survey access the Internet through a local provider. MORE COMPUTING INTELLIGENCE IDG.net home page PC World home page FileWorld find free software fast Make your PC work harder with these tips Reviews & in-depth info at IDG.net IDG.net's desktop PC page IDG.net's portable PC page IDG.net's Windows software page IDG.net's personal news page Questions about computers? Let IDG.net's editors help you Subscribe to IDG.net's free daily newsletter for computer geniuses(& newbies) Search IDG.net in 12 languages News Radio Fusion audio primers Computerworld Minute This market competition may be short-lived, however. Experts forecast rapid consolidation as cable and other broadband technologies take hold, squeezing out ISPs that can't provide new types of service or cut deals with cable companies. "We expect the market to shrink to well below 1000 providers over the next five years," says Zia Daniell, an analyst at Jupiter Communications' Bandwidth and Access Strategies Group. You're in the driver's seatBut for now, consumers and businesses have the luxury of a buyer's market. So if you're running into busy signals, long waits for technical support, or other snags, don't just sit there -- start looking for another provider. "Consumers have a huge number of options to choose from," says Daniell. "ISPs are looking to differentiate themselves, and they're just beginning to explore all the options they can offer." To help you find the best ISP, we rank 20 competitors. In addition to evaluating the 10 leading national ISPs, as we have in the past, we've added 10 up-and-coming regional providers -- including five Baby Bells -- because of their growing role in the market. In selecting regional ISPs for our review, we divided the United States into five regions (Midwest, Northeast, Rocky Mountain, South, and West) and chose two major providers in each area. (Erols, one of the regionals, took the name of its parent company, RCN, during the course of our review.) We evaluated the 20 ISPs from almost every angle. To gauge speed and reliability, we contracted with Inverse Network Technology of Sunnyvale, California, a leader in ISP performance testing. We surveyed nearly 8000 PC World subscribers to assess their satisfaction with our 20 target ISPs as well as their competitors (for detailed results, see "ISP Support Satisfaction Results," link below). We signed up with each ISP to test the installation and start-up process (except with US West, which provides Internet service only to its local phone customers), and we researched each ISP's features and options, including business-oriented offerings (for details, see "Keeping Score: Rating the ISPs," link below).Best buyWhether you're logging on for work or fun, one Internet service provider stands above the rest: AT&T WorldNet. Backed by big investments in infrastructure and by partnerships with content providers, the huge phone company's aggressive push to become a leading ISP and challenge America Online for customers seems to have paid off. In a single year, AT&T has risen from the middle of the pack in our rankings to the top of the heap. In addition to AT&T WorldNet's top-rated performance, users get easy installation, a free trial period, no start-up fee, up to six e-mail accounts (more than any other ISP we reviewed), national coverage, good V.90-modem access, a customized start page, and nonstop toll-free technical support. AT&T WorldNet also offers business customers many extras, including custom Web site design and hosting, credit card processing, and the fullest range of options for high-speed access. The company charges a few dollars more for monthly service than many of the other ISPs here do, but we found that the extra cost is money well spent.Nationals edge out regionalsWhether you're in Fresno, California, or Bangor, Maine, and logging on for business or pleasure, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better all-around ISP than AT&T WorldNet, our Best Buy. AT&T has made big improvements since earning only a Fair rating from us last year. In addition to offering coverage in all 50 states, AT&T WorldNet boasts outstanding performance, easy installation, a comprehensive set of standard features and services, free start-up, and top-notch support policies. It also offers a full range of business-specific features, from six high-speed access options and Web-design services to credit card processing. But no ISP is perfect, and besides costing a few dollars more than most of its competitors, AT&T has been slow to respond to e-mail requests for help. As a group, the national Internet service providers outscored the regional ISPs in most major categories such as installation and support, but not by much. Though AT&T, IBM Internet Connection, and MindSpring took the top three slots on our chart, the regionals (led by Ameritech, a Baby Bell) followed close behind, claiming fourth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth positions. Should you care whether an ISP's service coverage is national, regional, local, or even global when selecting a provider? If you travel a lot within the United States and need to stay connected to the Web, you probably should choose one of the national ISPs -- they offer local access numbers in almost all major urban areas and many smaller cities. Occasional travelers can also select from many local and regional ISPs that increasingly offer "roaming" services (which allow users to connect to another ISP's network) and toll-free lines (for a surcharge) to permit access on the road. Traveling abroad anytime soon? Driven mostly by the needs of Fortune 500 companies with offices in several countries, large ISPs such as Concentric and IBM are going global. While the market for global access is tiny, these ISPs are beginning to offer it in Western Europe and Asia at no extra charge. Concentric, for example, has thousands of access points in 72 countries, and even offers technical support in many of them. IBM includes international access numbers in its dialing software -- all preconfigured and ready to dial. Getting online -- and staying there Anyone who has encountered a busy signal when trying to access e-mail or waited forever for a download knows the importance of fast, reliable performance. Our survey respondents count a reliable connection, a lack of busy signals, and fast e-mail among an ISP's key assets. "Downloading patches sometimes takes a few hours. I want reliability and good performance -- and I'm willing to pay extra for it," says William Robbins of the commercial real estate firm Cushman Wakefield in Dallas.With this in mind, we turned to Inverse Network Technology to run our performance testing. Inverse put the 20 ISPs through a rigorous suite of tests, dialing in to each one at least 2864 times to test connection, log-in, and download times, and -- for all but AOL, CompuServe, and Microsoft Network -- e-mail send and receive times. The PC World Test Center performed the e-mail tests for those three providers because they use proprietary e-mail systems. AT&T, IBM, and SBC/Pacific Bell are the only Outstanding performers; AOL (a perennial bottom-dweller in performance) and US West both receive an Unacceptable rating -- the lowest we give. By some measures, ISP performance in general has improved in the past year. Busy signals -- the bane of every ISP customer's existence -- have dropped to a fraction of last year's rate, says Chris Roeckl, research manager at Inverse. In January 1997, slightly more than a quarter of all calls to an ISP resulted in busy signals. By October of last year, that figure had dropped to just under 7 percent, thanks largely to major services' investment in additional capacity. Still, don't expect ISP performance to match that of your telephone company anytime soon. The technology involved in connecting to the Web is more complex, and ISPs are having a hard time keeping up with their own phenomenal growth. "As providers try to deliver services to more places, something's always broken," says Lance Weatherby, an executive vice president at MindSpring. "When MindSpring served 3000 customers, we were small enough that we could yell across the room to fix problems. We can't do that anymore." High speeds down the road According to our survey, roughly 50 percent of respondents now use a 56-kbps modem to connect to the Internet. But owning such a modem doesn't guarantee you'll actually connect at that rate. First, your ISP must support your modem protocol -- V.90, x2, or K56flex. V.90 became the global standard last fall, and ISPs began scrambling to implement it. Most providers claim to have achieved close to 100 percent V.90 compliance. Only SBC/Pacific Bell and GST Whole Earth Network earned a Poor rating in this category. Many providers expect to complete the transition to V.90 by the end of the first quarter this year. But even if your provider supports V.90, antiquated phone lines make 56-kbps access a pipe dream for many users. "What's the use of having a 56K modem if you can't get on at that speed?" asks Ed Duran, who trades stocks and commodities online from his office in Inverness, Illinois. "I'm getting cable access as soon as it becomes available," he says matter-of-factly. "I want the speed, no matter what it costs." AT&T, IBM, EarthLink/Sprint, MindSpring, RCN, and Voyager were the only ISPs we reviewed that currently offer limited cable connections, though availability will expand this year. In the meantime, many ISPs tout Digital Subscriber Line technology as the high-speed option of the future. All the Baby Bells offer some form of DSL, and MCI WorldCom has tapped EarthLink and America Online as partners in the telecommunication giant's 1999 rollout of DSL service. Cherry Rose-Anderson, a research analyst with the Gartner Group in Stamford, Connecticut, believes cable will ultimately reign as the high-speed access option for consumers. "Right now, cable's strongly positioned for the consumer market," she says. And look for DSL to take hold in a big way in the business marketplace. A bounty of options Not long ago, ISPs gave you access to the Web and an e-mail account -- period. But providers have begun to greatly expand their offerings in order to compete with feature-rich AOL for customers. They provide more Web space, pricing schemes, and extra e-mail accounts, among other enticements. A year ago, $19.95 was the de facto rate for unlimited monthly Web access. Now pricing is beginning to vary, from the high teens to the mid-20s among ISPs we reviewed. At the high end, we find CompuServe and GST Whole Earth Network at around $25; midrange are America Online, Ameritech, and AT&T at $21.95. CyberGate, at $17.95, is the least expensive among the ISPs we reviewed. More and more Internet service providers offer discounted rates in exchange for long-term commitments. EarthLink, for example, charges $19.95 for a basic month-to-month account, but subscribers who sign on for a year pay $18.40 monthly. Although making a long-term commitment with an unknown provider is risky, it can be a great way to save a few bucks with an ISP whose services you know and trust. "My friends thought I was crazy," says Massachusetts software engineer Tom LaRoche, regarding his decision to sign with Erols (now RCN) for three years at a bargain monthly price of $9.95. Two years into the service, he's glad he did. A year ago, multiple e-mail accounts (a necessity for households with several Web users) were rare. Seven of the ISPs in our review now offer them. Internet service providers are even trying to challenge America Online's dominance as a content provider by offering subscribers customizable home pages and one-click access to Web-based content (see "Imitating AOL: ISPs Strive for Easy Web Access," link below). Capitalizing on the growing popularity of personal Web pages, more ISPs now include server space for Web hosting, dispensing from 1MB up to 20MB. When we add up all the features that our 20 providers offer, AOL no longer stands alone as the best. AT&T WorldNet in particular matches AOL service for service and even surpasses the online giant in some areas.Signing up with an ISPAfter many years of refinement, getting up and running with an ISP and properly configuring the software today should be a snap. Unfortunately, on many of the services it's more of a drag. Our experience registering with these 20 ISPs ran the gamut. AT&T's automated phone-ordering system made registration a breeze, while a hyper-responsible Prodigy salesperson insisted on recording our lengthy phone conversation to document acceptance of the member agreement, turning registration into a pain. Ease of installation also varied. We appreciated AOL's no-brainer procedure; CompuServe's unnecessarily complex and confusing process, with misleading instructions and confusing error messages, made us wonder how the company expects to attract new subscribers. You can register with most ISPs online or by phone. If you switch ISPs, it's easiest to use your existing browser and register online. M