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.
Multi-state and local ISPs often (but not always) excel at customer service, commonly offering 24/7 help through a manned, toll-free number. The lower overhead of a smaller company can mean more money for a better customer service model handled ‘in house’ by trained technicians who know the product. Combined with a decent set of features and a good uptime record, a local or smaller ISP provider can be the way to go.
A few well known national broadband service providers are Time Warner cable (that sells RoadRunner), Verizon, EarthLink, AT&T/SBC Yahoo! and Comcast. Smaller providers that offer some national access include solid performers like the Los Angeles-based DSLExtreme. To investigate local and national service providers in your area, refer to websites like DSLreports or enter your town’s name in a search engine along with +broadband.