You are a business decision maker in Charlotte or the surrounding area and you are seeking to understand your options for Internet access, I hope this information will help. Depending on your physical address the choices may vary.
It is always recommended to first try and get an understanding of what your needs will be. A few items to consider. Will you be hosting applications in your office that branch locations, remote employees, your customers, or vendors will need to access via the Internet? Will you be relying heavily on applications that are hosted at another location? Will you be streaming video or consistently downloading or uploading large files? Will you be utilizing a hosted telephone system or some other type of voice over IP telephone service? As you consider your current needs, keep in mind that new Internet driven applications and technologies are being created everyday. In many cases these technologies are transforming industries almost overnight. Your needs could change quickly, so don't get boxed in. If you work with an computer network support company, get their opinion on your needs before making a decision. Your considerations are bandwidth needs, reliability, dynamic vs static IP, [Internet globe] number of IP addresses needed, and the ability to upgrade.
Common small business Internet options:
DSL - Delivered over existing copper lines and heavily marketed by AT&T and most LEC phone companies. It is often sold as a bundle with their telephone lines, the speed and reliability of this product is determined by the distance of your office from their central office location. Typically a very affordable option, DSL tends to have limited upgrade options and very low upload speed. It can be good choice for a business with low Internet requirements and a small communication's budget.
FIOS - Delivered over fiber optics, this technology typically delivers 4x or better the speed of DSL at a similar price point. Product is being rapidly deployed in AT&T and Verizon markets and bundled with phone line and HD television options. Definitely worth a serious look for most businesses if you can get it at your location. Sold under the name Uverse by AT&T.
Digital Cable Internet - Delivered over a cable company's digital network. Typically more expensive than FIOS, but the business class service can be a great option for a low cost high bandwidth circuit and is currently offered in many areas where FIOS is not. For extremely high bandwidth needs, ask if wideband service is available.
T-1, PRI, EIA, DIA - Not that long ago these access methods were the standard for a small business with serious Internet needs, but as new applications have driven bandwidth needs higher, many customers find single T-1 products do not deliver enough bandwidth and that the bonded versions are expensive alternatives when FIOS and business class cable Internet are available. One caveat, for many small businesses these circuits deliver both Internet and their telephone lines, often as DID (direct inward dial lines). If you need more and cheaper bandwidth, but also have a need for DID, explore utilizing SIP trunks (type of VoIP telephone line) over an FIOS or business class cable connection.
Wimax - a 4G wireless technology utilized by some wireless telephone providers. Wimax service for a fixed office Internet connection is primarily marketed by Clear in the Charlotte market. If your office is in the coverage zone this can be a cheap connection with some interesting options for using the service on the road. In the past, Clear has had limitations for customers needing multiple static IPs and in some coverage areas the signal seemed to fluctuate quite a bit. [Internet 2]
In summary, determine what your Internet needs are first. Don't get boxed in. Be careful of Internet/voice bundle deals, make sure you are getting what you really need from both the Internet and voice lines before bundling the services. Consider both download and upload speeds, options for IP addresses, and options for future upgrades.