What is the best broadband provider?
Broadband has become an essential utility, on par with gas, electricity and water. Few homes are ever without it and, with an increased dependence on connectivity, who we choose to provide that broadband becomes an important consideration.
As times are tough and money needs to stretch further than ever, our attention naturally turns to getting the best deal.
As broadband can be a significant monthly outgoing, anything you can save without impacting your service has to be a good thing.
This is where this article comes in.
But before we go any further, it’s important to state upfront that there is no single best ISP.
We all want different things and have different priorities. Much depends on what’s available in your area, what kind of service you’re looking for, and your budget.
What this article will do is provide the key information you need to make an informed decision in order to get the best broadband provider for your budget and requirements.
Which broadband technology is the fastest?
First, let’s cover broadband technology. Which is the fastest option and which is the slowest?
Full-fibre – Full-fibre or FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) is a full-fibre broadband connection all the way to your property. It is currently the fastest connection you can get and capable of gigabit speeds (1 gigabit per second or more).
It isn’t available everywhere and is mainly in larger towns and cities. FTTP providers include Hyperoptic, Community Fibre, Gigaclear, BT, Sky, Vodafone and Wildanet.
Cable – Cable is the next fastest broadband. Cable is provided by Virgin Media, which has around 53% coverage of the UK and is capable of gigabit speeds depending on location.
Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) – FTTC connections use a fibre main network with the connection between the street cabinet and your home completed over copper telephone wires. It is capable of up to 67Mbps.
This network is managed by BT Openreach but can be bought from other providers like TalkTalk, Plusnet, Shell and others. It’s the most common type of broadband you can buy.
Which broadband provider is the cheapest?
The cheapest provider will differ depending on your location, but there are lots of comparison tools out there to help.
We often find Direct Save, Shell Energy, Vodafone, TalkTalk and Plusnet among the cheapest options, depending on where you live.
Things to consider when looking for the cheapest broadband provider:
The need for speed – Speed isn’t everything. You may not need the fastest broadband package money can buy. Assess your needs and buy the appropriate contract. Generally, the more people in the home or the more you use the internet, the faster it needs to be.
Setup or installation fees – Some providers charge for installation or setup while others don’t.
Data caps – Some broadband contracts will include data caps, while others provide unlimited use.
Free gifts – Broadband is competitive and some providers offer inducements like freebies, gift cards and other goodies. Compare the price to the competition over the 24-month term as those ‘free’ gifts aren’t always free.
Contract length – Have you noticed broadband contracts gradually getting longer? We began with 12-month contracts, which stretched to 18 and now 24 months.
Triple or quad play – Some broadband providers will bundle phone, mobile, TV and broadband into one package. Sometimes this will work out cheaper and sometimes it won’t. Much will depend on whether you’ll make full use of each service.
Which broadband provider has the best customer service?
To see which provider has the best customer service, we can turn to Ofcom. They provide a very useful document that collates complaints and ranks each provider according to the number they receive.
Currently, EE, Sky and BT have the fewest complaints.
You can then turn to websites like Trustpilot to check reviews. Currently, Community Fibre is the highest rated ISP on Trustpilot.
It’s definitely worth investigating this aspect before you commit, especially as some popular budget providers have a poor track record. TalkTalk and Shell provide some of the cheaper contract options but score low for customer service.
We recommend balancing price with customer service and choose which is most important in your situation.
Know your rights
If you sign up to a broadband deal but aren’t satisfied, you have rights, just like with any other contract.
A 14 day cooling-off period – All broadband contracts include a 14-day cooling-off period where you can cancel for any reason if you signed up online. This doesn’t apply if you sign up in person at a booth in a shopping centre or in a store though.
The right to cancel – If the speed you get isn’t as advertised (and if the provider is signed up to the Ofcom code of conduct for speed) you can cancel. If you are promised 67Mbps at your address but get much less than that, you can cancel if the provider cannot meet that speed.
The right to predictable prices – If there’s a mid-contract price increase above the rate of inflation or you don’t get 30 days’ notice of an increase, you can cancel your contract. Contact the provider and let them know.
A statutory right to cancel – You always have a right to cancel a contract, but it might mean paying an early termination fee. For example, you’re moving to an address your current provider doesn’t operate in or are moving out of the country. Some providers will waive that fee, others won’t.
There’s a lot to choosing the cheapest broadband provider and the cheapest option for some won’t be the cheapest for others.
Instead, we recommend looking at what you need, comparing the options in your area and making an informed decision based on the criteria above.
If you do that, you should end up with the best broadband deal for your needs, whether it’s the cheapest or not!