Five steps to getting cheaper broadband
The internet has been a big part of most of our lives for more than a decade. Despite being a fairly new innovation it is hard to imagine life without it. Whether you use it for banking, shopping, staying in touch with friends or watching funny cat videos on YouTube, most of us go online several times a day.
"Broadband has become the fourth utility after gas, electricity and water. It is fast becoming an essential rather than a luxury for many," says Julia Stent, telecoms expert at uSwitch. But while the internet has become an integral part of our lives a lot of people aren’t too savvy about where they get it from.
In the UK, 21 million homes have broadband internet but almost half of those households – 46% to be precise – have never switched provider, according to a survey by uSwitch.com. And if you are one of the 10% still paying more than £30 a month for your internet service, switching could save you more than £300 a year.
"Too few people realise they could be getting a much better deal, not only in terms of value for money but also better speeds and connectivity," adds Stent.
So how do you make sure you’re not paying over the odds to surf the web?
Find the best deal
Your first stop should be the comparison websites such as uswitch.com, moneysupermarket.com and, of course, moneywise.co.uk. All offer a broadband comparison service. Just tap in your postcode and the sites will tell you the cheapest deals in your area.
But after that, things get a bit more complicated. You see that headline rate you’ve just been told you can pay for broadband? Doesn’t it look cheap at only £2.50 per month?
Sadly, it’s probably too good to be true. Read the small print and you’ll see you also have to pay line rental, meaning the real price is £16.25 per month once that has been factored in.
The vast majority of advertised broadband rates fail to include unavoidable line rental, so make sure you check the small print to find out exactly what you’ll be paying.
What about bundle deals?
The next hurdle to clear is whether you want to get a bundle deal that includes broadband, telephone and a subscription television deal.
If you would like paid-for TV channels, don’t presume that bundling will save you money.
For example, a bundle including a basic TV package plus telephone and broadband without download limits costs £43.50 a month with Sky. But if you get just the TV from Sky at £21.50 a month, and your telephone and broadband from Tesco at £16.25 a month, you’ll save £69 a year.
So, think twice before you bundle, it may be more convenient but it’s not always cheaper.
How much data do you need?
The next thing to look at is your download limit. Does the attractively cheap package come with a miniscule download allowance, meaning you’ll have to fork out extra each month to cover additional downloads?
For example, the basic Sky broadband package has a monthly download limit of 2GB. That’s fine if you only want to browse the web and download the odd song, but if you like to watch TV or download films you’ll smash through that limit pretty quickly.
Depending on your provider, go over the data limit and you’ll pay extra for your downloads or get upgraded to the next level of package – either way you’ll pay more.
So before you sign up to a deal, assess how much you do online. You can get an idea of how many gigabytes or megabytes you need by using the guide at uSwitch.com.
Don’t forget speed
Finally, find out what speed you can expect to enjoy. Cityslickers may be used to downloading webpages in the blink of an eye, getting hold of the latest album in under a minute and watching an unbroken, live stream of the latest sporting action. But those in the country often have to wait a while just for a basic webpage to load.
Uber-fast broadband may exist but it hasn’t spread far outside Britain’s cities. So, when you’re shopping around for a new broadband deal pay close attention to what speed the company is offering in your area. It can range from 8MB to 100MB, so see if you can double your broadband speed in return for just a few extra pounds a month.
If your broadband speed isn’t what it should be, complain to your provider in the first instance and ask it to fix any problems with your line. Failing that, can it offer you a better-value deal or allow you to end your contract without penalty? If it doesn’t resolve your complaint you should go to its alternative dispute resolution service.
Your final port of call is the regulator, Ofcom. It won’t deal with your individual issue but if it receives a lot of complaints it will take action against the company.
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Once you have picked the right broadband package for you, the switch itself should be fairly painless.
If you are switching between ADLS broadband providers (where you receive your broadband through your phone line) you’ll need to get your Migration Authorisation Code (MAC) from your current provider and give it to the broadband provider that you want to switch to. It will then process your request and give you a date when it will transfer your broadband service.
According to UK law, you should be able to get your MAC number from your provider within five days. Pushy salespeople may try to talk you out of leaving but if you found a better deal somewhere else make sure you stand your ground.
And don’t forget, after your new broadband service is up and running be sure to run a speed test to make sure you are getting the speed you are paying for. You can do this at broadbandspeedchecker.co.uk.