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A recent BBC news report talking about the latest misleading broadband ads caught our attention recently. According to Citizens Advice (CAB), the adverts that companies use are confusing to the public and, according to the research carried out by CAB, more than half of the respondents said they would not be able to choose the best deals from those presented to them. And three quarters felt they would not be able to make a decent price comparison because the information in the adverts is too complicated.
That concerns us, as when you have a tight budget to stick to, or you are already dealing with problem debt, choosing the deal that fits your needs, at the right price, is really important. You don’t want to be wasting money on something you don’t use.
So how do you choose the best broadband deals?
Thankfully there’s plenty of good advice about how to choose the best broadband deals, and the first step is to understand what you’re looking at when you see broadband package deals on a typical comparison site. So, we’ll explain.
Column 1 Column 2 Column 3 Column 4 Column 5 Column 6 Column 7
As you can see, there’s quite a lot of information on this page – we’ll go through it step by step.
The first column shows the broadband provider – unless you have a specific reason for wanting to choose a certain provider, this column isn’t really that important. However, there are some things you may want to bear in mind when choosing which company to use, customer service for example. A quick search on Google, using a term such as ‘customer service review for Virgin Media’, and you’ll soon see what people think of the service they are getting. It is worth noting that Virgin Media uses its own fibre optic cable for broadband – so you should check whether it is available where you live. Most other providers use BT’s broadband network (for both regular and fibre-optic broadband), which they buy from BT’s “wholesale” division – called BT Openreach.
The second column gives a description of the service you’re getting and what’s included in the deal, such as TV and landline, or any special offers you may get. This allows you to see if there’s something on offer from a certain provider that tempts you, such as the free connection offered by TalkTalk in the examples above.
A little summary box of the offers included in column two, nothing extra added.
This column indicates what average speed you can expect – the quicker the speed, the quicker your internet will go. Well, that’s the theory anyway, however, it may not be as simple as that. What speed you get at your end will depend on a number of different things. Some of those are out of your control, like the number of people using the service at peak times. And some are more under your control, like how far you live from the telephone exchange, if your connection comes down the phone line. However, we’re not sure how many people would consider moving just to get faster broadband.
So when you see a speed advertised, it may be worth checking your current speed to see if you actually get what you pay for at the moment. If you do a speed check for a week you can work out the average speed you’re getting, and that you’re probably capable of getting, if you keep the same service. If you change to fibre or cable, you may be able to access quicker speeds, because of the different technology used.
You can check your broadband speed using one of the many speed checkers, we’d advise using this one, Broadband Speed Checker.
Why is speed important?
The answer to this question really depends on what you do when you’re online. If you love to stream videos or films a quick speed would be useful, as it’ll allow you to watch your favourites without it stopping to buffer every two minutes. It’ll also allow you to access Skype and communication services, such as Apple’s Facetime. Downloading and uploading will also be quicker, so if you use websites like Instagram, where you upload lots of photos, we’re sure you already know how frustrating it can be waiting what seems like forever for each one to complete.
A full explanation of all the issues that can affect your broadband speed can be found on thinkbroadband.com. And you can find some more information on why you might need faster broadband in this article – Why You Need Superfast broadband.
And finally, it’s also worth remembering that the wording of adverts usually includes the term ‘up to’ in their average speeds. And, the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) states that a company offering a certain speed of broadband must only be able to show that at least 10% of their customer base are able to access that speed. That leaves the other 90% of people not able to access that speed, despite the fact that they are paying for it.
This is what TalkTalk put on their website about broadband speeds:
Important information about your speed estimate
We've signed up to Ofcom's broadband speeds voluntary code of practice and we'll always give you the fastest speed your line can handle. We've estimated your line speed based on the actual speeds measured on our broadband services.
We'll do everything we can to try and give you a great experience online but the speed you experience is likely to be affected by certain things outside of our control like the distance your home is from the telephone exchange, the specification of your PC and the condition of the wiring in your home. You may also notice a drop in your speeds during peak times in the evening and at weekends when more people are using the Internet.
These days, providers offer unlimited downloads as standard on most of their internet packages. However, if you’d like to choose a package that has a limit on it, you might want to run through the broadband usage checker from Which? It’ll give you a much better idea of what you might need. If you choose a package with a monthly limit on downloads the firm may charge you if you exceed the limit.
This is one to watch out for, as there are lots of companies offering contracts on a 12 monthly and 18 monthly basis. Make sure you check which it is before you sign-up. Some of the longer deals do offer better perks, so if you don’t mind signing up for a longer period, you could grab a great deal.
Some would say this is the most important column – the price! This shows what you’ll be paying monthly and the cost of any line rental, if it’s needed. Scrolling over the ‘price details’ tab will show you any installation charge you’ll have to pay and any other offers you can use in conjunction with the broadband one you’re being presented with.
And there you have it. Now you should be able to look at your broadband comparison results page with a little more confidence. You know what the best deal is for you, that also stays within your budget. But, getting the best broadband deal doesn’t end there!
Once you’ve found a great offer, it’s time to call your current providers to see if they’ll match the deal. Now, whether you want to do this or not may depend on the reason why you want to leave your current provider in the first place. If you want to leave because of the terrible customer service they offer, or because they get your bill wrong pretty much every month, then nothing they can do will make you want to stay. If, however, you are only changing because the price has gone up, or you’ve seen a like-for-like package cheaper elsewhere, it’s always worth letting your current provider know. That way you give them the opportunity to match it if they can.
Which? have done a great little script for what to say when you call your current provider to cancel, that’s been tried and tested. In 22 out of 30 calls Which? made to major broadband providers this script ended in a success. Here it is:
1 - ‘I'm not sure I'm getting the best broadband deal I can and I'm thinking of cancelling.'
Wait for the initial response as you may be put through to a specialist cancellation team. Whoever you speak to next, say:
2 - ‘I think I'm paying too much. Newer customers are being offered better deals and better equipment and I think I'm missing out.'
Wait and see what the call handler says. If you are not offered any incentives by the provider to stay at this point, you can push a little bit harder. Try saying:
3 - ‘If you don't give me a better deal, I'll have to leave.'
If the broadband provider still hasn't offered you an incentive to stay, it helps to mention the name of another provider that you've seen offering better deals:
4 - ‘I've seen [name of other provider] seems to be offering new customers 12 months half-price broadband, so I'm wondering why I shouldn't be getting the same?'
Right, that really is it now. So off you go and see if you can get a better deal than you already have. Happy hunting!
If you are struggling with your finances and you’d like to get some advice or help, please contact us using the buttons on the left of the page. We have trained, experienced advisors ready and waiting to help you.
by Shelley BowersBack to blog home