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Here’s What You Need to Know About Internet Service if You Work From Home

Hands at laptop
Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder


The work-from-home job market is competitive but new opportunities open up all the time.

One of the most frequently listed job requirements is for candidates to have their own computer and internet service to be considered for the position.

Job listings typically include details on what type of technology you need, but internet requirements can be pretty confusing. Here we’ll help you sort them out.   

Common Work-From-Home Internet Requirements

Specific internet requirements vary by company, but they generally have a few things in common.

To qualify for many remote jobs, you’ll need:

  • High speed DSL, fiber or cable internet service
  • Minimum internet connection upload speeds of one to five mbps
  • Minimum internet connection download speed of 10 mbps
  • A modem and wired ethernet connection

What Do All These Internet Requirements Mean?

Internet connection to modem
deepblue4you/Getty Images

The terminology companies use to define home office internet requirements can be clear as mud. Here’s what it all means:

To get internet service up and running in your home, you’ll need to set up an account with your local internet service provider, or ISP. Dozens of big-name companies, such as Spectrum, Frontier and Comcast, offer internet service.

Larger companies provide nationwide service, while smaller companies only operate in certain regions or states. Some parts of the country have many ISPs to choose from; others are limited to one or two.

Search the database at DecisionData.org to find ISPs in your area.

High Speed DSL, Fiber Optic or Cable Modem Service

High speed DSL, fiber optic or cable modem service refers to the type of technology your ISP uses to deliver internet service to your home.

  • High speed DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) transmits digital data across the internet via telephone lines. Unlike dial-up internet service, DSL won’t tie up your phone line while you’re online.
  • Fiber optic internet service comes to your house through high-tech fiber optic cables.
  • Cable modems transmit digital data via cable television lines. You don’t need cable television service to get cable internet service in your home, but you will need the same wiring.
  • Satellite internet service is delivered via a satellite dish placed on your house or property. Be aware that many companies do not allow employees to use satellite internet service because the technology may not be up to the job.

Each type of technology has its pros and cons, so do your research if more than one option is available in your area.

Minimum and Maximum Internet Speeds

Work-from-home employees need quick and consistent internet speeds to connect smoothly with customers or the home office.

Internet speeds are measured in megabits per second (mbps). The higher the mbps, the more data that can be uploaded or downloaded per second.

You may notice a big difference between the upload and download speed requirements in job listings. That’s because most of your on-the-job internet activity involves downloading files, web pages and other data.

Companies want you to be able to access the online content you need as quickly as possible, but how quickly you can upload data is less of a concern.

Most ISPs guarantee internet speeds “up to” a certain upload or download speed. That means you may not always get the speeds you expect. Use speedtest.net to make sure your ISP delivers on its promise.

Modem and Wired Ethernet Connection

Modems are hardware devices that wrangle incoming and outgoing digital data between your computer and the transmission lines connected to your house.

Some high speed DSL, fiber optic and cable services allow you to plug a cable directly into your computer to connect to the internet instead of tapping into wifi like you would in a coffee shop.

Companies usually insist on wired connections because wireless connections can be slower and unreliable.  Increasingly, ISPs are only supplying customers with the technology they need to connect over Wi-Fi, so for a work-from-home job you may need additional equipment to access the internet with a wired connection.

A Word About Smartphones

There’s no doubt about it — having a smartphone is like carrying a mini-computer in your pocket. But that doesn't mean they’re up to the task of an internet-based, work-from-home job.

First, there’s no way to connect your DSL, fiber optic or cable service to a smartphone. You also can’t hook a it up to a monitor, corded keyboard and other equipment you may need.

Even if you could, smartphones simply aren't powerful or versatile enough to for the type of work you’ll be expected to perform online.

Where to Find Affordable Internet Service

Depending on the service providers in your area, you may be able to get internet as part of a package that also includes phone and/or cable service.

Sometimes service bundles are a good value, but they can be pricy. Try these options instead (eligibility requirements may apply).

Note: This information is accurate as of May 2018.

Access from AT&T

You may qualify for low-cost internet services if your household has:

  • At least one resident who participates in the U.S. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and
  • An address in AT&T’s 21-state service area
  • A California address and at least one member of your household receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits

Find out more about the Access from AT&T Program here.

Comcast Internet Essentials

You may qualify to get internet for $9.95 per month if:

Find out more about the Comcast Internet Essentials Program here.

Cox Communications Low-Cost Home Internet Program

You may qualify to get internet for $9.95 per month if your family has a K-12 student and receives government assistance.

Find out more about the Cox Communications Low-Cost Home Internet Program here.

Frontier Lifeline Program

You may qualify for discounted internet services if you meet the requirements necessary in your state.

Find out more about the Frontier Lifeline Program here.

Lifeline

You may qualify for low-cost internet services based on your income or if you use SNAP, Medicaid or other programs.

Find out more about Lifeline here.

Spectrum Internet Assist  

You may qualify for affordable internet if someone in your household is in one of these programs:

  • The National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
  • The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) of the NSLP
  • Supplemental Security Income (65 years or older)

Find out more about the Spectrum Internet Assist Program here.

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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