I know it's easy to just go with what you're given when you sign up for your internet service. Your internet service provider (ISP) , be it CableOne, AT&T, Comcast, or another, will offer you that free email account, and it can be tempting to just go with it. However, that's a mistake you, just like millions before you, will eventually regret.
You will swap ISPs at some point. That is a fact. As long as you're using your ISP's email address, you've tied yourself to that ISP unless you're willing to go through the hassle of changing your email address and telling everyone you know. It is a big hassle and can be frustrating enough to just stay with an ISP, even if they're overcharging you for slower speeds. CableOne's 50mbps service is now available in our area and I can't help but think of all the people who are stuck on AT&T's DSL service that will likely never see speeds that high. To swap they will have a nice bit of work on their hands. Just think of the eBills, social network profiles, online stores, friends, family, and other places you'll need to update your email address. Not fun.
Get an email address from one of the big three. Yahoo, Windows Live, or Google Gmail. Personally, I can't stand the slow, clunky looking, advertising filled, webmail interfaces of Yahoo and Microsoft. I'm a Google Gmail user through and through and I can't recommend it high enough. It works with Outlook or Windows Live Mail if you prefer that method of getting your email, it's very fast, and the spam filter is unmatched from any other provider I've seen.
Please take this next bit as good all around advice and not an insult. Do not even think of getting an aol.com address. It makes you look very out of touch when you email a potential employer, clients, or anyone that might expect you to be even slightly computer savvy from an @aol.com address. If you have one, go ahead and go through the hassle of switching to Gmail right now. At least get one and begin the process slowly.
At my website design company, WideNet Consulting, we even use Google's Gmail For Business product for nearly all 300 of our clients. So when I say I trust the service and push it, I mean it. Even my email@example.com uses Google Apps to power it.
Google has just launched a pretty clever marketing ploy asking people to help their friends make the switch away from bad email providers. You can watch the video below and visit EmailIntervention.com, a simple site where Gmail users can send intervention letters to convince their friends to switch. It's straightforward and points out the incredible features of Gmail.
The choice is yours of course and I have many friends with Yahoo and Live addresses that seem to be perfectly happy with them. I guess this could be an instance of to each their own, but I like to think after all I've looked at I am a pretty good judge of what's best in tech, and I say, go Gmail.