A note on broadband comparison sites – Often the price you see advertised is not the true cost. To find the true cost you do need to consider things like contract term, line rental charges, top up fees, set-up fee’s, cost of hardware (i.e. router, wireless dongle), monthly subscription and finally exit fee’s. Most comparison sites will take some of these costs into account, it’s unlikely however that all will be factored in so you shouldn’t assume what you see at the top of the list is the best deal.
Comparison sites also tend to compare different contract lengths side by side as if they are equal. They compare the monthly cost of Cable and ADSL packages without factoring in the cost of line rental (for ADSL). These factors alone can make a significant difference to the total cost.
The pricing model for broadband is generally based around
– How much you download
– The bandwidth you require
Obviously the more you download and the speed at which you download influence the monthly cost.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
– What do i use the internet for?
- Streaming HD Films
- Streaming SD Video
- TV On-demand
- Downloading Music
- Online Gaming
If you want to catch up on last nights TV for example and watch the latest episode of Top Gear then this equates to around 700mb, if you want to download this weeks numbers 1 single this equates to around 7mb. If all you want to do is browse the news headlines and read your e-mail this equates to even less. The point i’m making here is there is no point in paying for what your not going to use, and you get what you pay for (with a few exceptions).
Peak Usage Limits
Many ISP’s split the download allowance into peak and off-peak periods. Peak hours are when more subscribers are likely to be using the internet, usually during the day and early evening. Off-peak hours are the opposite, i.e. during the night or early hours of the morning. It’s a bit of a con as by definition peak hours are when you are most likely to want to use the internet, so by restricting the usage during these times the ISP is effectively dictating how and when you use the service your paying for. The tactic the ISP’s use is to wait until you complain about the service your getting and then try and sell you a more expensive package which will ‘better suit your requirements’. Again i must stipulate not all ISP’s do this, just the unscrupulous ones, so if your not happy with your ISP, switch (hidden ‘exit fee’s’ may apply – read the small print before signing!).
You can (and many do) schedule your downloads to start during off-peak hours by using a download manager or a dedicated download box or NAS (Networked Attached Storage) drive. These devices are pretty common place these days and are relatively inexpensive. Dedicated devices such as NAS boxes or even some media streamers can be configured to download files via HTTP, FTP, BitTorrent and Newsgroups at a given time, during off peak hours. Most dedicated devices have power saving features like hibernate and scheduled power on/off which help save the cost of electricity.
Contract term refers to the contract length, or period in months in which your agreeing to subscribe to that particular ISP. Don’t be fooled by lower monthly costs, if the contract length is 18 months and exit fee’s apply you could be sorry for taking the cheapest package. Shorter contract term packages usually charge more each month, but are usually much more open and ‘honest’ about the service. In order to retain customers they must provide a high level of service, otherwise they wouldn’t have any subscribers.
Watch out for lengthy contracts when subscribing to a ‘package deal’. If you subscribe to TV, Phone and Broadband via the same supplier you may get a good deal on your TV package but you may find yourself tied into a 18 month contract just because you opted to take TV and Phone with the same vendor. Read the small print!
Broadband Consumer Choice website has more detail on the common pitfalls of broadband contracts. 
With such a wide choice of broadband options available in the UK it can be difficult to find the best package. One thing is certain, all broadband service providers are not equal. There are many that offer a fantastic service at a very competitive price, but sadly there are also some that offer what appears to be a good service to entice you in, but the once the contract is signed the reality is very much different. Don’t be one of those people that take the first package at the top of the price comparison list, do your homework and get a service that you won’t later regret.
Before making your decision and signing the contract, consider:
1. What do other customers think of the service they are receiving? Visit sites such as Sam Knows 
2. What will you use the internet for, what are your bandwidth requirements?
3. What type of package do i require, do i want to be tied into a lengthy contract, does it work out cheaper in the long term buying TV and Phone via the same supplier?
4. Does the ISP have a Fair Usage Policy, have i read it and do i think it’s fair?
5. Does the ISP use Traffic Shaping during peak hours, how will this impact the service i receive?
6. Use price comparison sites, but check for hidden fee’s and extra costs which aren’t included by the comparison site.
7. Always read the small print!
 Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG)
 Broadband Usage Calculator – Broadband.org
 Broadband companies offer clarity on connection slowing – BBC News
 Broadband performance, availability and speed – Sam Knows
 Broadband contract nasties – Broadband Choices