Bye bye Sky bundle deal

29 October 2012

Sky customers with a phone line rental as part of their package got the unpleasant news in the beginning of October of yet another rise in charges. The monthly fee rose from £12.25 a month to a whopping £14.50 a month. This was the second rise in charges in three months, but I’m happy to say that for me it was a blessing in disguise.

The rise is so high it triggers a clause in all Sky customers’ contracts – thanks to Ofcom’s rules – that means I am now free to break my tie-in deal and can escape Sky’s poor internet service.

I took out my current Sky bundle deal a couple of years ago. I had had Sky’s satellite TV services for some time but my phone line was with BT and Virgin supplied my broadband.

I was persuaded to change by one of Sky’s telephone sales team who explained that I would make worthwhile savings over what I was paying. Sky would give me cheaper line rental and phone calls than BT and if I took out its bundle deal I would get free broadband. I was sold.

Over the three years I have saved some money, but I have also suffered frustratingly poor broadband service.

The first blow was the fact my broadband quickly stopped being free. All four member of the Stammers family use internet at home. My wife pays bills and shops online. My son plays online games with his mates on his Xbox. My daughter emails her friends and watches YouTube videos and I like to browse the web and catch up with a few programmes on BBC iPlayer.

This fairly normal amount of internet use quickly went over Sky’s imposed download limit for free broadband, so I found myself paying out £7.50 a month for its “unlimited” service. It seemed a bit harsh to have lost our “free” broadband so quickly but I did nothing about it.

Drop in broadband speed

Over the next year or so our internet speed started to drop. With Virgin we had managed to get an average of 1.5mbps. It wasn’t great compared to the UK average of 8mbps, but we don’t live in a big city and we are a fair distance from our phone exchange. The speed with Sky dropped overtime to around 900kbps and then 800kbps and now we get 700kbps – less than half the speed we had three years ago.

Every few months I would call Sky and complain. Firstly it would tell me that it was because I was distant from the exchange, then it would say it was interference from electrical equipment in my home (repositioning the router box proved it wasn’t). Finally they would forward me on to the engineers who seemed to be able to bump the speed back up a bit, only for it to drop back again. The long calls to Sky would then start again from the beginning of the process.

Our pitiful internet speed has caused rows in my family. Only one person can use it at a time and get any kind of decent connection. It has become a fight between my kids as to whose turn it is to use it while I have had to resort to finding an upstairs room that has just enough 3G signal so I can connect to the web via my iPad.

The government says it is committed to ensure the whole of the UK has high-speed internet, but as always rural towns and villages lose out to the big towns and cities because laying new fibre optic cabling and upgrading exchanges is expensive and makes poor commercial sense when customers are spread out over wide areas of countryside.

New high-speed fibre optic broadband should be coming to my area by the New Year (BT has already pushed back the proposed launch date by six months). It promises speeds of up to 30mbps but I’d be overjoyed with anything in double figures. As I am now released from my Sky contract I can see which provider offers the best deal and hopefully reach the holy grail of good service and good value.