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Getting online and searching the web: Choosing an ISP

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Internet service providers seem to offer complex deals with free equipment and apparently low monthly rates, which can turn out to be more expensive than they seem because of hidden charges. For instance, it’s a condition of the deals (and for that matter a technical necessity) that you use their telephone services as well as their broadband, but the advertised price is for the broadband component alone. In addition there is a price for telephone services that is much greater than the advertised broadband price.

The complexity rises further when the bundle of services on offer is expanded to include mobile phone, internet-based TV and satellite or cable TV.

If you’re not confident about the terminology Learn my way has a good introductory guide. Services such as Uswitch, MoneySavingExpert.com and others like them can help you start looking for a deal. Which? Magazine (which needs a subscription) keeps an impartial eye on the market. Customer reviews are compiled into a ranking system by ISP Review. Comparing notes with neighbours is often worthwhile.

Details to check with your ISP include

  • the full monthly contract cost – this sometimes rises after the first few months, so calculate the full annual cost to be sure you can make comparisons with other companies
  • the contract duration, and any penalties for ending it early
  • the cost of telephone support and whether 24-hour support is provided
  • any limit to how much you can download
  • whether there is a connection charge
  • the bandwidth – the bigger it is, the faster, but bear in mind that your location may mean that you get slower than advertised speeds.
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