Most people have a broadband connection but just because you're with your current provider there's no need to put up with crappy reliability and poor customer service. If you are out of contract you could save money and reduce your SPIIS (Snail Pace Internet Induced Stress) levels by changing to an alternative provider.
Some things to consider when choosing a provider
The speed of broadband you get will affect how fast you can download and upload content. Basic broadband will usually have a download speed of up to 1MB per second, though 10Mb and even 20Mb are becoming more common.
The key point to notice here though is that it says 'up to'. You will not always get the maximum download speeds and many factors can affect this. It's worth doing your research to find out what download speeds other people using the same service have experienced. However, generally the higher the advertised download speed the higher you can expect to see yourself.
We all want a reliable broadband connection, so make sure you read what other people have to say about the different providers. How much down time.
Max Download limits
Some broadband packages come have limits on how much you can download, others have unlimited downloads. If you exceed a limit you can sometimes be charged for the extra data you download. You may even be stopped from downloading any more.
Think about what you want to do – will you be just browsing the internet or sending emails? Will you be watching TV online, downloading loads of music and video files or playing online games? This could seriously increase the amount you download. Also think about how many people will be using the connection. Will there be 5 people in your house all downloading films for example? If so you’ll probably be better off with an unlimited download package. If there are two of you with minor browsing the lower monthly limits of 5GB or 10GB are probably fine.
Terms of Contract
You usually have to enter in to a minimum contract length for broadband packages. So think about how long you will be staying in the house you'll be in. If you’re only going to be there for a year an 18 month contract is going to leave you with a pricey cancellation fee. Most contracts will be for 12 or 18 months, but you can get a few that mean you only need sign up for 3 months. If you want complete flexibility then the AOL Wireless Flexi Broadband comes with no contract which means you only need to sign up for one month at a time!
Whatever you go with make sure you read fully what the implications of ending early or even at the end of the minimum term are. What costs may you encounter? What do you have to do with any equipment you've got such as a router or dongle? Do you have to give these back or pay for them?
Like with reliability do your homework - what do other people say about the customer support? It's something you're unlikely to experience unless you have problems. Make sure you know what to expect - will you have a free 24 hour phone number to call or an expensive premium rate line?
How things used to be...
Prices can vary hugely between different packages. The general rule is that the faster your speed, the higher your download limit and the shorter your contract then the more costly the overall package will be.
But with so many different factors and so many companies out there you really do need to look at what is on offer to see what the best offer for what you can afford is.
Some packages also come with one-off set up costs. This may be for activation or for the cost of equipment. Read carefully what these are as they can sometimes make a package more expensive overall even if they have a lower monthly cost.
What's available in your area
Will you have a phone line in your house? This would be necessary to get broadband via the phone line, but would add on extra cost of the line rental and from the phone calls you'll make.
Cable is still less widely available. You need to check if your house can receive it – most suppliers will allow you to enter your postcode on their website and will tell you the availability to that address.
Finally mobile broadband - will you want to be able to access the internet where ever you go? This could be a tricky solution if more than one person wishes to use it.
Free goodies bundled?
Some packages have free goodies or extra benefits to encourage you to go with them. Do you really need these extra benefits? Are they worth it?
Who are the main providers and how do they measure up?
Here are comments about different broadband suppliers, including some from members on The Student Room about their own experiences .
AOL Wireless Flexi Broadband. All the bells and whistles (but no strings) - from just £4.99 a month.
It's fast and reliable - with up to 8Mbps broadband speed you can download files in a flash – it's equivalent to 2 movies an hour.
Surf from the sofa - with a wireless router included, you can use your broadband anywhere at home - or even out in the garden! Plus, several computers can connect to the internet at once, so everyone in your house can use it.
No long contracts and no strings - long term contracts don't suit you? - AOL's is completely flexible. You can cancel whenever you like, with no fees.
Want to add inclusive calls? No problem - if you're going to be using your home phone a lot AOL's got a range of UK and international call plans that could save you money. You can even get a special offer for unlimited free calls to UK landlines.
The other stuff - After the first three months your phone and broadband package is £14.99 a month, which is still great value for no-contract broadband. There's just a one-off setup fee of £29.99.
"Its good value for money in the sense that I dont pay for any of my calls. Its wireless too. Better to stick to a big well known company in my option. AOL seem to have really good customer support."
"I have been with Bt since dial-up age, so over 7 years! and i have found that they are very good, I have fast uploads and download rates and had hardly any down time but I think that is mainly due to me living very close to the BT exchange which means I get a faster connection!"
"I have had Bethere unlimited for 1 year now. I can say its really good although you do not get the 24mbit, but for the price it's good. I only get 6mbit because I live quite far from the local telephone exchange. The service is pretty reliable and most of the faults (if any) are to do with the phone lines (BT deals with this) rather than Be's fault. If there are problems, they have ticket system which they"
From £7.78 per month, "had it for half a year now, haven't encountered a single problem :)"
"I had orange-well im changing in 30 days to virgin media! The thing is with orange that the internet is unreliable at times, and you have to ring them up quite alot as the dots arent proper on the livebox! Also you need a BT line and they caused me no end in hassle. With BT you end up with lots of bills that you dont even know you used, and alot of ppl have complained about them!"
"My advice is to stay clear from Orange broadband - i had no connection for 3 months and they did not do anything to sort it..."
"i've got sky broadband and ive had no problems (so far)"
"They have a bad reputation (probably deservedly so during the rush after their free broadband promotion) but I get fast speeds from a faultless connection."
"I used Tesco Broadband for a couple of years. I had a few issues getting the service set up which delayed me getting online and required a few phone calls. However they did sort it out reasonably quickly and once set up I had no issues with the service and was hapyp to continue using it until I moved out of the house."
"My FREIND IS with virgin media and on a £20 a month contract-phone/tv and broadband and shes got the 2mb broadband and hell its really good! go for virgin media!"
"Virgin (NTL) and AOL they are good but have many problems, NTL (Virgin) is slow and have many problems with hardware within it boxes which means when many customer use the internet at same time it goes a bit OTT."
""I have Virgin and it's horrendously slow. I've had loads of problems with it and the people on the end of the phone aren't very helpful. It's also expensive.""
Find out more...
Why not check out the TSR Technology forums to ask your questions and see what else other people have been saying about different broadband providers?
How can I compare different providers?
You can compare providers here: