Picking a new broadband ISP can be a daunting experience. How much will it cost? What kind of speeds will I get? Is the provider any good? What is the difference between cable and fibre optic technology? What can I do if the ISP isn't available in my area? It's a fair bet that at least a few of these questions have, at some point in time, made your life far more difficult than it should be.Article Index:
It needn't be so confusing. This guide aims to explain the process of choosing a new provider by enhancing your knowledge of the market, its different solutions and any potential pitfalls that you might encounter along the way. Readers should also check out our ISP Listings and Comparison, Reader ISP Reviews, Broadband Technology, Useful Guides and ISP Complaints and Advice sections for extra information.
Now let's begin.
As we discovered in our earlier examination of related terminology (The Definition of UK Superfast Next Generation Broadband), broadband itself has no fixed definition and evolves with the times. Most people loosely define it as representing any technology that offers "faster" access to the internet than older methods of communication, which can in realty cover a multitude of sins.
As a result it doesn't really matter whether a service is marketed as "broadband", "superfast broadband" or "ultrafast broadband" because they all do basically the same thing - provide internet access. In fact it's best to ignore the marketing terminology altogether because it won't tell you anything new and is often misrepresented by ISPs. Focus on the facts and service details, not the label.
The first step in any selection process is to understand who you are and what you need. This is crucial because most ISPs deliberately design their packages to fit in with a mix of different customer types. The options may vary between providers, although for the purpose of this article we'll define the three most common below.
Firstly it should be noted that GigaByte (GB), which will be mentioned a number of times in this article, is a common measure of data usage and allowance. Practically everything you do online will consume some data, although services like email, chat and web browsing aren't usually very demanding. By contrast steaming a 2 hour movie could easily eat 1GB of your allowance (highly variable).