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Choosing a broadband package ?  Don't get caught out by hidden costs.

  • Minimum contract period.  If the provider wants to tie you down for more than one month, ask yourself (or them) why ?  If they are confident that they provide a good service clients would not want to switch. (e.g. 12 months with Tiscali, 18 months with Talk Talk).

  • Flexible packages.  Are you able to view your history of data transfer and easily modify the package to bring the cost down to the minimum necessary to deliver the data you actually want to transmit ?

  • Download and 'fair use' policies.  If you are capped to a maximum amount of data, how much are you charged per MB for exceeding it ?  Do you really want to clock watch ?

  • Call centres.  What happens when things go wrong ?  Is a premium rate call to India necessary ?  Are you forced to use a web interface to log calls ?  What is the average turnaround time for fault reports - good ISP's provide this information dynamically updated on their website.

  • Free extras.  Does the ISP provide a router, firewall, spam filter, parental control, unlimited free e-mail addresses, anti-virus check ? 

  • Tie ins.  See if the ISP sells routers that can not be used with any other ISP in case you choose to switch (e.g. BT Home Hub), or if the ISP requires you to use a special router as they use an unusual or proprietary protocol (e.g. AOL).

  • E-mail and web storage space.  Included ?  Check the maximum amount of space available and the cost.  Is there a limit on the size of a message ?  Or the number of recipients ? Or attachments ?

  • Bundles.  If you are getting phone calls or TV in the package (e.g. Sky Broadband), check whether you are free to leave one segment if the company increases the price of another.

  • Price hikes.  Is the monthly price fixed ?  Some ISPs price cheaply for the first few months then increase the price to compensate.  Always calculate the cost by averaging the first year's subscriptions.

  • Activation fees and cancellation charges.  These vary a lot.  Some are payable immediately, others are reduced to zero as time goes by.

If you feel that personal recommendation and experience of dealing with many ISPs is an important consideration, contact me and ask which I use.