Switching broadband providers (and this advice is equally applicable to finding a new broadband provider) is best achieved with a little bit of planning. The best place to start is to identify the most important aspect of your broadband connection. This might include; cost, contract length (your minimum commitment), maximum download speed, customer service, reliability, bundled services (such as included Film & TV), email, static IP address, virus guard and spam guard, ping time (or contention), consistent response times, upload speed or parental controls, to name but a few. Focusing on your priorities will allow you to identify appropriate Broadband Suppliers and technologies.
Fortunately it's possible to group a few of the most common requirements together, reducing the complexity of the task and more easily identifying the correct Broadband Provider for you. Let's start with cost.
There are four main factors that affect the cost of normal broadband. By normal we mean the type of broadband service that most households in the UK have. These are;
Customer Care is delivered in many forms to suit all tastes. Some people love to chat on the phone, others to email and some folks think live chat is the only way to go. Broadband providers have preferences too. BT and Sky have UK call centres with lovely folks from Aberdeen, Birmingham and the Dales keen to help wherever they can. Others have managed to tame complex technologies that combine screen sharing, chat, email, phone and other means of communication we haven't thought of yet to help you though your broadband difficulties. Plainly we are jesting about the last bit of that statement but the rest is very true. Despite all the anecdotal narrative, all of the mainstream UK broadband providers operate a very sophisticated set of customer care channels, all of which generally boil down to cost. The more you pay for your broadband the more your provider can afford to spend on customer care staff and all the related items that go with it. Some even provide customer care to match your subscription which means that if you are on a low monthly or a pay-as-you-go type package then you may not have telephone support at all.
The length of your contract will obviously influence the total cost of broadband. More importantly (as a general rule), the longer the contract the lower the monthly cost will be and the lower the comparable cost of ownership will be. It is also likely that set-up costs, hardware costs and bundled services might be cheaper or even free as your prospective broadband provider is often happy to provide your equipment or other service benefits ( like anti-virus software ) for free if you are prepared to sign a 2 year contract which might not be the case if you only sign up for one year.
As a rule of thumb it is generally fair to say that faster internet speeds require more sophisticated technologies which in turn tend to come with higher price tags. This is as a result of all the familiar forces related to economies of scale - buying 1,000 fibre optic routers is more expensive per router than buying 10,000. In addition these technologies can't be delivered over existing infrastructure - ADSL for example uses existing telephone lines - which means roads, pavements and driveways often have to be dug up and relaid which is a very costly process, subject to planning laws, disruption costs, etc.
Broadband providers offer a huge variety of extras with their broadband service as a way of moving away from price as the key determinant. These fall into three broad categories, differentiation, entanglement and fluff. Differentiation is a tactic employed by specialist broadband providers who offer a business model slightly out of the norm. Examples are companies like iDNET who cater for online gamers or Zen who offer extremely high levels of support, monitoring and management of your connection - all, admittedly at quite a premium.
Entanglement is a tactic employed by all broadband providers. These tactics range from simple tricks like offering a static IP address, email address or phone number that cannot be transferred to your new broadband provider if you leave. The opposite end of the entanglement spectrum is commonly known as Quadplay. This is generally the preserve of the big players like Sky, BT and TalkTalk who offer TV, Film, Sport and Mobile phone subscriptions - all on a single monthly bill to make your life easier... and harder at the same time as it means it is very hard to chop and changes parts of the service if you wish to do so at a later date.
Our third category, the Fluff comprises all the other things that are on offer that are not easy to categorise or, often, to understand why they are on offer. Online identity protection and antivirus software should not be considered when deciding what broadband offering to go for. These offers are often a way of selling you someone's product for which you will need to pay sooner or later. If you need some antivirus software then do the wise thing and buy the correct software for your needs based on the merits of the software.
Understanding why you want to switch broadband providers is an important step in the process to find one you are happy with. This might seem a little odd as it is natural to expect that a new company might provide a completely different quality of service - which is only partially true. The root cause of your dissatisfaction is important to understand as it may well be that your new provider cannot resolve the issues you are experiencing. If, for example, you are unhappy with the speed of your current, say, Super Fast Plusnet connection after exhausting the process of getting the speed increased (which is a process that should not be ignored), then there is little point changing to the equivalent Super Fast connection with TalkTalk. The reason being that many of the mainstream broadband providers use the same Open Reach infrastructure so the performance of the equivalent Super Fast product will be the same for all these providers. If, however, you are unhappy with the quality of your current supplier's customer care or the cost of your connection, then changing your provider is worth while.