The ‘catches’ to avoid when choosing a broadband package

6 min Read Published: 01 Sep 2011

Having recently altered my personal broadband package I have developed a bit of an obsession in looking at the finer detail of the various broadband deals on offer and the service you receive. What follows is a list of common catches and how to avoid them.

Fair Usage Policy

What’s the catch?

A personal irritation of mine, if I’m paying for an “unlimited” broadband package then I expect to be able to use it as much as I like. However this is largely not the case as many ISPs still restrict how much you are able to download each month as part of their “fair usage policy”. Your reward for going beyond this limit are additional charges (some as high as £5 per 5GB) to your account or even restrictions being placed on your internet access for a specific period of time.

How to get round it?

If you are a heavy downloader the best way is to read the T&Cs when picking a service and selecting one that does not have such a policy. This usually means the service is more expensive. If you do select a service that has a “fair usage policy” then you should do your best to stay within your limit. You can monitor the amount you download by using a free tool such as www.thinkbroadband.com/tbbmeter.html.

What to do if you have already been conned

Your ISP should notify you if they have reduced your fair-use threshold so speak to them to find out if you suspect they have. Remember under Ofcom’s rules your ISP has to write to you within eight weeks of a dispute to inform you of your right to complain to a dispute resolution body.

Bandwidth Throttling

What’s the catch?

This is where your ISP slows your connection down during peak times or prioritises other types of traffic over yours. The common ISP response to any complaint is that they are doing it to ensure a good level of service across their network. In my opinion this is the same as advertising an all you can eat buffet and then giving tiny plates to the rugby team that just walked in as you are scared you will not have enough food to satisfy the rest of the diners if the big lads tuck in.

How to get round it?

Be sure to check an ISP’s bandwidth throttling policy before you sign up. However it is also possible to get round throttling by encrypting BitTorrent traffic which is what many ISP’s monitor when enforcing their policy.

What to do if you have already been conned

The short answer is to switch broadband provider to a less restrictive ISP or upgrade your current package to a more flexible option.

False Speed Claims

What’s the catch?

ISPs often promise speeds of up to 24Mbps but few ever deliver a service anywhere near that.

How to get round it?

Before you pick a service check out uSwitch.com’s Broadband StreetStats map. Simply enter your postcode and the free tool shows you the download and upload speeds reported by customers of different providers.

What to do if you have already been conned

Ofcom rules state if your speed falls into the bottom 10% of what other customers are getting you can cancel your contract in the first 3 months of your contract. Longer term if you feel your ISP is not delivering on its promise you can refer your issue to the Ombudsman Services (www.ombudsman-services.org) or CISAS (www.cisas.org.uk) to help get it resolved.

Rolling Contracts

What’s the catch?

Also known as ARCs (automatically renewable contracts) are used to keep customers on a contract once their minimum period has expired.

How to get round it?

Ofcom want to ban ARC’s and make them an opt-in process so for the moment its a case of looking at the T&Cs of a new service before signing up to make sure you are not about to sign a rolling contract - unless you want to of course.

What to do if you have already been conned

If you feel you can get a better deal elsewhere then change your service provider. If your provider changed your contracts T&Cs without warning then you are best contacting Ofcom.

Finally it is worthwhile considering customer satisfaction when choosing a broadband provider and I would suggest you look at Ofcom’s recent customer satisfaction research to see how each one fared.

Image: Michelle Meiklejohn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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