Advertisement feature

Finding the right broadband provider


Choosing a broadband provider can be difficult. With so many different options and offers, how do you ever know if you’re getting a good deal? There are six key things to bear in mind – get these right and you’ll end up with a  package that suits you. 

You need to think about:

  • Landline connection
  • Length of contract
  • Usage limits
  • Connection speed
  • Family access

Landline connection


Ask yourself: do you need a landline or not? Do you already have an active one? If you answered yes to both questions, then you should consider getting broadband the traditional way – through a phone line connection.

Receiving broadband via ADSL, which is a term used to describe the aforementioned phone line connection, will give you faster Internet and a higher download limit other types of broadband, for instance mobile or satellite.

It’s worth noting that if you do not have an existing landline, installation can cost around £125, while monthly line rental bills can be as high as £15 a month before you’ve even begun to pay for your broadband subscription. Cancellation fees also exist if you end up changing your mind.

Most popular UK ADSL broadband providers: BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Plusnet, John Lewis Broadband.


Having said that, if your broadband requirements are relatively light, for example checking emails, downloading small files, etc, mobile broadband can be a great option. It can give you Internet access and roaming flexibility with no need for a landline at all. The answer to the landline or no landline question really depends on your usage requirements.

Most popular UK mobile broadband providers: Three, Vodafone, O2, Everything Everywhere (Orange and T-Mobile).

Your other two options are cable or satellite broadband. The biggest cable provider in the UK is Virgin Media. Virgin Media’s fibre optic service offers lighting quick connection speeds, but this comes at a price and is not available everywhere. Meanwhile satellite broadband is great for those who live in rural areas and don’t have many providers supplying broadband services to their home. One of the most popular satellite broadband providers in the UK is Tooway.

Length of contract

The main thing to consider in relation to contract length is this: how certain are you that your broadband requirements/ circumstances will remain the same for the next two years?

Longer contracts mean cheaper monthly fees, so tying yourself down to a 24-month broadband contract is going to work out cheaper in the long run and might even land you some handy freebies from your Internet service provider.

However, if you suddenly find yourself needing to be free of your contract after 12 months, you may be required to buy out the rest of the contract, rendering the whole process an expensive lesson in misadventure. Make sure your circumstances suit a lengthy contract before you enter into one, and remember that some providers offer reasonably priced rolling, single-month contracts for those that require them.

Providers which offer broadband on a monthly rolling basis: Plusnet, O2, Be Broadband.

Usage limits

Be extra careful when reading the fine print on your contract, this is where the hidden usage limits will be found. If you’ve analysed your usage requirements and found that you only require a small monthly download limit, it may be profitable to opt for a low usage limit in exchange for low monthly fees. In which case the usage limit will be clearly advertised and there will be no problem.

However, if you purchase unlimited Internet, be certain to scour that contract thoroughly, as this is where companies can hit you with additional charges. The introduction of a 'fair usage policy' to unlimited broadband contracts enables companies to charge you or restrict your service if you go over a certain usage limit each month, despite apparently offering a service with no such limits.

The government is planning to crack down on this, but in the meantime, be sure to read the small print!

Broadband speeds

The first question you need to ask yourself in relation to broadband speed is how fast do you need your connection to be?

If you are a light Internet user – opening emails, checking Facebook etc – a connection of below 10Mbps will suffice. If your usage is slightly heavier – watching BBC iPlayer occasionally, uploading videos to YouTube – a connection of between 10 and 25Mbps will do the trick. If you’re a big gamer or someone who likes to be constantly downloading, something even faster might be more up your street.

The next thing to do is to ascertain exactly how quick your broadband speed will be. If you’re looking at a fibre optic package, this will be relatively simple as the nature of fibre optic broadband prevents signal deterioration and ensures that the connection speed received should be very close to the one advertised.

However, ADSL broadband is less efficient. Through clever marketing, Internet service providers are able to advertise connections with high 'up-to' speeds, but which actually provide a far slower connection, sometimes even below the government recommended minimum of 2Mbps.

Always remember to ask for a local service estimate from your broadband provider before signing up to an ADSL broadband contract.

Most popular fibre broadband providers to look at: Virgin Media, BT, Sky and John Lewis Broadband.

Best budget fibre providers: TalkTalk and Plusnet.

Family access

This is a relatively simple one: what does your family need from a broadband connection?

If you’ve got teenage kids, nothing short of a fast broadband connection will do. This enables them to fulfil all their gaming, movie downloading and blogging needs without their usage creating a lag when the time comes for you to use the Internet. Fibre optic packages – if available in your area – are ideal for this.

If you have small children, parental controls are available that give you the peace of mind that your little ones aren’t visiting any Internet sites they shouldn’t be. This software is provided for free with some contracts, while other providers may charge extra for this.

Most popular parental control software: TalkTalk’s Homesafe

A few things to think about

  • Receiving multiple services such as digital TV, broadband and telephone as part of a bundle from a single provider can save consumers almost £278* a year in some cases.
  • Internet service providers such as Primus, TalkTalk, Plusnet and Direct Save Telecom have a reputation for providing high quality deals on a budget, so contacting these providers early in your search could save you time as well as money.
  • Mobile broadband is often a cheaper option if your usage requirements are only light. Always check your personal usage levels before investing in a new broadband contract.

If you’re unsure which deal to go for, call our independent switching helpline, on 0800 977 5719

* 20% of Simplifydigital customers received an average saving of £278 per year. Data based on 2186 Simplifydigital records between 01 September 2012 – 31st December 2012.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails

ES Rentals

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'