by July 7, 2000 0 comments

There was a time not so long back when VSNL was the only
Internet Service Provider around, and the only package available was a 500-hour
account at about Rs 15,000. Today, you have a number of ISPs to choose from- 54
on the last count, and increasing- and not only have prices dropped
considerably, there are also any number of different packages available from
each ISP.

So, which one do you choose? For pointers to the answer, read
on. However, note that this piece will focus on dial-up connections for personal
use, and not on high bandwidth or corporate needs.

Just browsing?
The focus of almost all ISP ads is on browsing. But you need to remember that
your choice of ISP also decides your e-mail address, and changing that
frequently could be quite confusing for friends and business associates. The way
out is to have a permanent free e-mail address or a corporate e-mail address
while you experiment with different ISPs. Also, some time or the other, you’ll
find a file on the Net that you’ll want to download. Some ISPs choke FTP
access to provide better browsing experience. Such an ISP would be a
disappointment then. Check out our ISP reviews elsewhere in this issue for more

Do you roam?
That is, do you travel around a lot, and need to access the Net from wherever
you are? Then, this question is pertinent to you. If not, you can ignore this.
Not all ISPs operate in all cities in the country. In fact none do. So, if you
travel, then as a first step, shortlist an ISP that is present in all the cities
that you visit frequently. You can get this information from the ISP Lookup
booklet with this issue. However, even if the ISP is present in the cities that
you’re interested in, you may still face a problem. For example, Dishnet DSL
is present in many cities, but roaming is not possible across the country. On
the other extreme is VSNL- the ISP with the maximum coverage, particularly in B
and C class cities and towns.

If you’re an international roamer, it’s a different ball
game altogether. VSNL offers international roaming through the Ipass service.
The rates for this service are different from local usage rates. Pacific
Internet offers international roaming, but only if you bought their account in
Singapore. If you bought it in India, tough luck!

How fast?
Once you get an account, you’re obviously going to do some Web browsing, and
you would also do file downloads. How does your ISP perform on these counts?
This varies from city to city, and even from time to time, for the same ISP. How
they fare currently can be found from the ISP shootout in this issue.

What all?
What all are you going to get along with the account? No, we aren’t talking
about the software that comes with the account, or any other freebies that might
be there in the package. We’re talking about the number of e-mail IDs, mail
space, and Web space that comes with the account.

What price?
How much are you going to pay for the account? Every ISP today offers a plethora
of options and you can choose one that suits your wallet. But first of all, you
may want to check out the ISP’s service yourself by buying a small test
account. Today, 10- or 25-hour accounts are available for anything between Rs
200-400. If you like the service, you can continue to use it by paying up for a
longer-term account. Some regional ISPs offer only high value, large-sized
packages, but you can get one-day test accounts from them- possibly at no cost-
to check out the service.

Krishna Kumar

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