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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Read The Small Print In Your Broadband Deals


When we come to choose broadband, we have to make sure that we understand what we are purchasing. If we're doing it for the first time, or even if we have delved into the market before, it can be a confusing activity. This is because there is so much choice and, quite frankly, so little transparency.

This article will look at broadband advertising, so that if you're looking for Post Office home phone broadband, Sky broadband, BT broadband or any other type of broadband, you'll have a better understanding of what you are actually going to get, and a better strategy to find the best offering for your particular circumstances.

Broadband Advertising in the Current Market

In the past, broadband could be advertised as a speed that was attainable by a tiny fraction of an internet service provider's network. They could offer speeds that, quite frankly, you just weren’t going to get.

Nowadays, advertising has changed a little bit and internet service providers must be able to achieve the speeds that they advertise on an up to basis on at least 10% of the network. Of course, if 10% of people can get the speed, 90% won't be able to, and therein lies the issue.

You really must find out what connectivity you're likely to get where you live - in some sort of objective way, and not just by relying on the headline rates. One good way to do this is to go to a postcode checker and find out which internet service providers are servicing areas around you.

On uSwitch, you can find a graphical map displaying test that have been done by people in your local area, when they were looking at what their internet speed was. You can, therefore, see the internet service provider, upload speed/download speed and the latency, so you can understand exactly the reality of internet speeds close to you. This is a much better way than just relying on the ‘up to’ speed.

Other Costs to Watch Out For

There are also a number of additional costs that you need to be aware of. For example, if you buy a broadband package on an unlimited basis, the data may not, in fact, be unlimited. With Post Office home phone broadband, you tend to get a 100 GB per month data allowance on the ‘unlimited’ packages. This is not an unlimited allowance and, therefore, you should be aware of it. If there are lots of you in the same house streaming, playing online games, downloading large files and generally social networking, you may well use up 100 GB of data before the month is up.

You should be aware of additional data costs, too. For example, on BT internet, you'll have to pay an extra £5 for every 5GB. If there are three people in the house streaming high definition movies, at the end of the evening you could have an extra £15 on your bill after you’ve crossed your capped allowance.

Direct debits are often mandatory for providers, and, if you don't pay a direct debit and would rather pay by card, you can be charged an additional fee of £1, £2 or £3 per month. This may not seem a massive fee, but it is an addition you should be aware of, as it eats into the discounts you get over other providers.

You need to ensure that you are comparing like with like. If you are getting a free broadband router, do you have to pay for it to be delivered; and, at the end of the contract, will you have to pay for it to be sent back? If you're getting installation on a free basis, will you have to be pay for it upfront and then be refunded in a few months’ time after you've made some payments?

These are all issues that you should consider, and this is why you should read the small print of any broadband package to ensure that you are getting what you expect to get.

Post Office Home Phone Broadband, BT and All the Others

It's important that you do compare like for like. The best way to do this is with a broadband comparison service, where you have a look at all the different providers available in your area and the deals available to you. Once you have ascertained the best ones and ensured that you can actually get the speeds advertised in your area (through a postcode check), you should have your shortlist in place. When you have your shortlist, you should start delving into the fair usage policies, traffic management policies and fine print of the packages in order to ensure that you don't get any nasty surprises once you tie yourself into a contract.

Some of the providers will allow you to have a 12-month contract, whereas others will require 18 or even 24 months. If you are tied into a contract for 18 months, as you are with BT, it's important that the service you get is of adequate standard for that period.

Technology is getting better and better, and the activities we are doing are getting more and more intensive. Without decent broadband in our homes, we can be left frustrated and wondering why we forked out the money we did to be on the contract that we are.

Top Tip

When you're choosing broadband, it's important that you get the appropriate level of service for your particular needs. There's no point going for an unlimited super-fast broadband connection if you don't use the internet for anything other than browsing the internet and checking email a few times a week.

There are packages that are designed for light consumers that cost relatively less, and, while you may have to be paying for line rental in these cases, you will still save money over the top-end packages. If you do a bit more heavy activity, such as a little bit of streaming on YouTube, listening to music and so on, you may need a medium package with 20 GB to 40 GB of data per month, for example.

If you understand that you are a media-hungry home with lots of people doing high-intensity activities on a regular basis, and sometimes simultaneously, you'll need fast speed and unlimited broadband. You are then regarded as a heavy consumer and, therefore, you should go for a heavy package. The type of package you go for will dictate, to a certain extent, the priority of the traffic you get, because the more you pay the more freedom you will have.

So, make sure that you check whether you are a:
  • light consumer,
  • medium consumer or
  • heavy consumer,

before you engage on your internet journey.
Don't forget other people in your home, as they may well stream movies or do other activities that are high-intensity and should be catered for by the package that you are looking to buy.

Post office home phone deals were available at Sam Jones’s fingertips.  He checked them online with sites such as uSwitch before decided to change providers.
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