First ask yourself what you really need
Broadband providers will try to sell you super-whizzy fibre optic first. But is this going to be worth the extra cost if you only browse shopping web sites and send the odd e-mail? Superfast connections are much more expensive and you’re really only going to benefit if you’re streaming films, gaming online or regularly downloading large files. If this isn’t you, a cheaper, vanilla broadband package will do the job just fine.
Similarly, what do you want from your phone line? Now that mobile phones are many people’s preferred method of communication, often the landline seldom gets used for calls at all. So ask yourself if you really need a call package. Many will offer free evenings and weekend calls, but if you don’t even need this, maybe a direct cable connection is the way to go.
Don’t overlook line rental
Look beyond the headline figures in those flashy ads for broadband – you’re also going to need to pay line rental. Often the services are interlinked, so cheap broadband can mean a costly phone service. If you’ll be using your landline to make calls, factor in these costs on top of your monthly payment. Do you get any periods free? Do you have to pay a premium to call during business hours? It all adds up. Also watch out for the attractive price that gets bumped up after six months (that part will be in the small print).
Watch the speed
The advertised broadband speed is not likely to be the actual speed. That only applies if you happen to live next to an exchange and use industrial quality cables and connectors. In the real world, all sorts of factors will slow it down – how many people are using the service, the time of day, etc. You might want to check what speeds your neighbours are getting here: http://www.uswitch.com/broadband/speedtest/streetstats/
Don’t accept your limitations
Beware the data limit. This caps how many gigabytes of information you’re allowed to download every month. If you go beyond it, you may pick up a penalty charge on top of your normal payment. Downloading a film or TV show in HD quality will use up a fair chunk on its own. To avoid this pitfall, look for the magic word, unlimited. Then again, if casually browsing web sites is all you ever do, a data limit can be okay – but only if it works out cheaper.
Switch, threaten to leave, haggle
Phone/broadband providers rely on you getting comfy with them and not wanting to go through the ‘hassle’ of switching to someone else. That way they can keep upping the prices and hope you won’t complain too much. In truth, switching providers is so easy, you’ll barely notice the join. But check any contract you might still be under in case there are exit penalties.
Before you do switch, ring them up and tell them that your suitcases are packed and you’re leaving. If you really want them to believe you mean it this time, ask for your MAC (Migration Authorisation Code). You’ll be put through to a department that specialises in customer retentions, who will try to sweet talk you. If they care, they’ll offer you a carrot or two to stay. It’s worth a try.
If you don’t get any joy, it’s their loss. Just shrug your shoulders and head over to a comparison site like USwitch. Then (taking in our advice above), see what’s on offer from everybody else and pick a deal that’s right for you. Agree to switch and your new provider will take care of the rest. You might get a new router through the post, but disruption will be minimal.
Remember that the telecoms market is extremely competitive. Even if you don’t see the perfect package, somebody may be willing to tailor one to suit your exact needs. It’s you who’s calling the shots.