David Prosser: Free broadband may still cost you
Saturday 15 April 2006
However much Carphone Warehouse is paying its PR advisers, it's not enough. The company's official launch of free broadband on Monday - The Independent broke the story last month - was greeted with such messianic fervour that Carphone's TalkTalk website collapsed under the volume of enquiries, while its call centres were swamped.
Far be it from me to dampen the enthusiasm of the country's internet users, but there are some issues to consider before you join the rush to TalkTalk. I'm not saying its offer is poor value - around £21 a month for broadband and a decent home phone package is hugely competitive - but there is some important smallprint everyone should be reading carefully.
The biggest issue is that customers have to sign up to an 18-month contract, half as long again as almost every other broadband deal. If you cancel early, there are substantial penalty fees to pay, possibly as much as all the charges that would have been payable over the whole contract.
That's important because independent analysts believe this package will provoke a price war. Even before the TalkTalk announcement, the conditions were ripe for such a battle - and many of the leading players have deeper pockets than Carphone.
Sky, for example, is set to launch a broadband service this summer, while the recent tie-up between Virgin and NTL paves the way for what Sir Richard Branson - in his usual prudish manner - has described as "four-play". Customers will be able to buy home phone, mobile phone, broadband and television services from one supplier.
Then there's BT, which is increasingly desperate to repel the invasion of its key markets. Regulatory changes announced earlier this year will soon enable the former state-owned telecoms monopoly to offer much more competitive prices than today.
In that context, should internet users be tying themselves into a deal for the next 18 months? Carphone has got in first with an extremely generous offer, but it may not be the cheapest deal on the market by the end of the year.
It's also worth considering that price for a moment. I'm always sceptical about "free" offers that require you to pay for something else. In this case, there isn't a cheaper deal than the TalkTalk offer if you buy broadband and a home phone service separately, even from the cheapest suppliers, so Carphone is entitled to crow. But its comparisons with BT's standard products - which are more than twice as expensive - are a little disingenuous, because there are far better deals available from smaller players.
One other word of warning. The TalkTalk deal offers faster internet access than many other broadband deals. But the full-speed 8mb service will only be available to people whose local telephone exchanges have been equipped with the latest technology and for now at least, these are few and far between.
All in all, there's no doubt Carphone deserves enormous credit for this excellent new initiative. But it may just be worth sitting on your hands to see if something better emerges.
n n n As a regular cyclist who has just had three bikes pinched from a locked garage, I wasn't surprised by a warning from Halifax General Insurance this week that cycle theft is up 10 per cent on five years ago. But what has taken me aback - call me naive - is the difficulty many cyclists have claiming on their home insurance.
The vast majority of home contents policies do not cover bikes unless they're actually stolen from your home. And even where you pay a premium to get bike cover, the exclusions and limits on claims are numerous.
My advice is to take out specialist bike cover, rather than relying on your home insurer. I'd suggest starting by consulting the excellent cycling group, the CTC ( www.ctc.org.uk).
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
- 1 Half of young women unable to ‘locate vagina’ and 65% find it difficult to say the word
- 2 Perez Hilton apologises for Jennifer Lawrence naked photo leak
- 3 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
- 4 Mexican woman becomes world’s 'oldest person' at 127
- 5 Jennifer Lawrence 'naked sex video' will be leaked threatens 4Chan celebrity photo hacker
Rotherham child sex abuse scandal: Labour Home Office to be probed over what Tony Blair's government knew - and when
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Ashya King: Parents of five-year-old boy refused permission to visit him in hospital and denied bail at Spanish court
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
Ukip Douglas Carswell defection: Tory MP jumps ship to join Nigel Farage
iJobs Money & Business
£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...
£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...
£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: You will not be expected to hav...
£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL DBA/Developer SQL, C#, VBA, Data Warehousi...
Day In a Page
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize
A three-bedroom red-brick cottage with outbuildings and pretty gardens, £200,000
This three-bedroom flat within a former textile factory spans the corner of the fourth floor and has a balcony