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Local ISPs will usually have less bandwidth than their national counterparts. Smaller companies will have difficulty affording the T3 type connections that the larger companies use. If you're connecting to an ISP via modem, you may find that a local ISP has fewer phone lines (and thus possibly more busy signals). Of course, it may also have fewer customers so this may cancel out. The quality of a local ISP is heavily dependent upon its personnel. A local ISP with good technical people will feature cutting-edge ISP technologies, but a local ISP with poor staff will be constantly behind the times.