How to Compare Broadband Offers
By Andrew Bowen
With so many US providers offering multiple options, it can be really difficult to choose a broadband package that suits your requirements. Here are the main factors to consider when buying a home broadband solution.
Average Broadband Download Speed
Up until recently, broadband providers were able to just advertise their ‘Up to’ speed. However, recent regulation now means that they have to show the ‘Average speed’.
The average speed is defined as being the speed that at least 50% of customers get during peak time. The US government communications regulator.
Despite the change, the actual speed that you will get will of course depend on a number of factors including:
- The type of connection e.g. cable or fibre
- How far your home is from the telephone exchange box
- The area you live in
- The time of day you are using the connection
Generally speaking, the faster the average speed, the more expensive the package will cost. Deciding on what speed you need is determined by what you are using it for.
If you just want to surf the internet and get the odd email then a standard broadband connection may suffice. On the other hand, if you are going to stream music and movies, play online gaming or have a family that uses multiple devices at the same time, then a much faster fibre connection is required.
You can always upgrade your broadband connection if you find it’s too slow but you may incur addition costs if you do this whilst in the middle of your contract period.
Type of Broadband Package
Broadband providers generally offer three types of package:
- Broadband only
- Broadband and phone
- Broadband and phone with TV
As you generally require a phone connection to have broadband, there are only a few that will offer broadband only. When you compare broadband, you’ll find that most packages will automatically include a Wi-Fi router, line rental and some kind of call rate package.
A number of suppliers will also offer a TV bundle on top of the broadband and phone connection. This TV package can vary greatly among providers but usually involves some or all of the following:
- The supply of a box that can record multiple hours of TV
- The ability for the box to rewind and pause live TV
- The ability to watch catch-up TV and On-Demand programmes
Broadband contract length
Once you sign up to a broadband package, you will have a cooling off period during which time you can cancel. However, if you decide you no longer want the package or wish to switch to a new provider, then you may incur penalty fee charges for cancelling early,
Therefore, it’s important to ensure you are satisfied with the length of the contract you are signing up to and the terms within that contract.
Generally speaking broadband providers offer the following contract options:
- 12 Month Contract
- 18 Month Contract
- 24 Month Contract
- No Contract
A no contract option is just that. You pay your fees month to month until you decide you don’t want it. However, a no contract option usually has increased per month cost compared to a longer contract period.
Broadband Set Up Cost
This is the up front cost that the provider charges you to set up the broadband connection and/or the cost of package and posting to get the equipment sent to your home.
Some providers do not charge any set up fee or will sometimes have offers to include the set up free of charge.
This is the ongoing monthly fee that you will be paying for your broadband connection.
After deciding all the factors above, you should narrow down your selection to a few packages that meet your requirements. You can then compare the additional features and benefits beyond the main selection criteria.
Extra things to consider are the cost of telephone calls, whether the package includes free weekend or evening calling, the channels available if you opt for a TV package, the functionality of the TV box and the parental controls offered with your broadband connection.