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Local vs. Nationwide Internet Service Providers: Which is Best for Business?

Local vs. Nationwide Internet Service Providers: Which is Best for Business?

Choosing between a local and national internet service provider is easier said than done. Each type of company has its strengths and weaknesses, and it can be a major challenge to select the provider that's best for your business.

When it comes to choosing the right solution for your company's Internet connectivity, there are plenty of technology specifics into which you can drill. On the other hand, however, many of the principles at play are somewhat universal. Whenever you're dealing with the national vs. local service provider debate, regardless of the type of utility, product or service in question, the same parameters are going to be relevant: scale and scope vs. niche expertise, faceless vs. personalized service, buying power vs. relationships of trust.

Nationwide vs. Local Internet Providers: Which is Best?

Back in the days of the phone line wars of the mid 1980s, following the divestment of "Ma Bell" and the surge of service providers, many questioned the merits of a local carrier as compared to the near-monopoly that had been. The focus of that specific conversation is somewhat different, but the gist of it is also remarkably similar to weighing the merits of the nationwide and local Internet service providers.

Of course, it goes without saying that each company has different needs and what works best for one company is not going to be the best solution for another. Let’s consider the advantages and disadvantages of each approach, and you’ll be able to weigh the pros and cons to determine your best solution.

It All Comes Down to Scale

The advantages of a large, nationwide Internet Service Provider all stem from the size of these companies. A larger service provider is privy to economies of scale, operating a far more extensive network, maintaining a larger fleet of remote technicians and interfacing with clients via call centers – for better or for worse.

The exact flip-side of these same factors is what you'll get with a local provider. Business customers are likely to enjoy far more value when partnering with a smaller provider. The staff is likely to be overall far more knowledgeable, to know each and every customer using the service, and to build relationships of dependability, trust, and expertise with an eagerness to deliver quality.

Network Infrastructure and Scope

Take the scope of the network, for example, often cited as one of the strongest arguments for contract service from a bigger provider. When you connect with a company like Verizon or AT&T, your business gains access to more extensive coverage and sprawling infrastructure. This is perfect if you're operating office branches in different regions of the US, as it allows you to purchase plans for each of them from one company.

However, if you don’t need to use one company for many locations, or if you're okay with procuring Internet service from different firms, then the smaller network of a local provider may the better option for your business.

Service and Expertise

With a local provider, you are likely to receive excellent, personal customer service from a proper expert. When fewer people are involved in an internet service operation, it follows logically that the average level of expertise will be dramatically higher.

At the very least, you are likely to be one of their prized business customers. In contrast, the most common complaint about nationwide providers of any kind is that customer service leaves more than enough to be desired.

The element of customer service is not just a matter of people being nice or not; fundamentally, the greater issue is accountability. For a local provider, just as you are a known commodity to them, you also know them – and if they under-deliver on their obligations to you in any way, you know where to direct your complaints.

How these Companies Are Structured

If your provider is large, with a call center, possibly located offshore and charged with fielding complaints from across the country, not only is your issue fairly incidental to the support staff on duty, but they are also going off duty soon enough, and finding the best solution for your success is not their primary concern.

These companies are built to onboard as many new customers as possible, as rapidly as possible, so they can demonstrate growth to their stakeholders. They have huge marketing budgets and are commonly accused of manipulating data to appear like they provide more thorough territorial coverage than they actually do. When you get that big, the marketing and sales pipeline is always going to trump relationships and service quality.

So a nationwide provider like Comcast or Verizon may have a significant infrastructure to deal with any issue, but the staff may also lack the vested interest or niche expertise to do so.

Evaluating Your Provider Options

There's surely something to be said for going with a company that commands brand name recognition. In the world of people who are considering internet service providers for their businesses, who hasn’t heard of Verizon or Comcast? To a great extent, these companies grew to be large and successful and national because they did their jobs well.

You may believe that their prominence indicates at least a certain level of reliability, and that is a reasonable belief. The large companies have reasonably solid reputations, and they are likely to be fairly easy to work with because they have developed their services to work for the entire country. That is the advantage of name recognition. With the small, local providers, however, you are likely to have greater confidence in their ability to get to know you and your business specifically.

How to Make the Best Decision

At the end of the day, deciding between a local and national internet service requires that you determine how tight your budget is and how critical it is for you to work with one firm across all branches. You will want to examine the costs – that is, all types of costs – associated with signing with a national provider as compared to a local provider.

The practical implications of these choices can be more confusing than one might expect. Before you make your final decision, speak to trustworthy experts professionals to walk you through the decision process, and help you assess the many, many ISPs available. They should help you get quotes from the various providers, a comparison of their billing practices, and their service protocol for less-than-smooth turns of events.

As you interact with these companies, your connectivity consultant will make sure you understand the ins and outs of your possibilities, and you will get a better sense of the ISPs’ varying approaches to customer service, so you can be sure you are doing whatever is best for your business.

As always, we at Atlantech Online are ready and able to answer any questions you might have about internet service. We provide the highest quality of fiber internet connnectivty to our customers in the DMV (DC Metro Area) backed with the highest level of customer service.

Tom Collins
Post by Tom Collins
July 23, 2015
Tom is the Director of Enterprise Sales & Marketing for Atlantech Online. He has over 20 years of professional experience in the Internet Service Provider industry and is known for translating technology into positive results for business. A native of Washington, DC, a graduate from University of Maryland (degrees in Government & Politics and Secondary Education), Tom is also a five-time Ironman finisher.