£150,000 for broadband?
As one pensioner is quoted £150,000 by BT to install broadband to her home, we round up five ways broadband providers try to rip you off - and more importantly, what you can do to avoid being caught out by them.
BT this week sank to a new low this week when it quoted a Welsh pensioner £150,000 to install broadband to her rural home near Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire.
When she received the quote, the pensioner, Beverley McCartney, could have been forgiven for thinking that instead of helping her to join the information super-highway, BT was planning on building an actual highway to her home.
BT attempted to justify the charges, telling the BBC that "in very rare cases, additional charges need to be applied because of an exceptional amount of work required to the network in order to provide service". It added that there it was working hard to find solutions for the "relatively few" areas of Wales still unable to access broadband.
Needless to say, Mrs McCartney - who stressed she did not live in the wilderness, or on top of a mountain - will not be taking BT up on their kind offer to fund £8,000 of the bill if she met the rest of the costs.
The trouble is, it's not just pensioners in Wales who get ripped off broadband companies. So, here are five of the UK’s top broadband rip-offs, together with a few ideas on how you can combat them.
Follow our five easy tips and get better value for money from your broadband package.
1) Super-fast broadband
You might think super-fast broadband sounds amazing. Lightning-fast deals via next-generation fibre technology allow you to surf the net at more than 5 times the usual speed (50Mb). Unfortunately, however, super-fast broadband generally comes with a much higher price tag than packages with standard connection speeds. And I think, at £40 a month, providers are ripping us off - especially when you take into account a 8Mb package with a 10GB usage limit can cost less than £6 a month.
The fact is, unless you need faster speeds for things like watching internet TV or downloading HD movies regularly, these packages probably have far greater capability than you really need. If you’re not a heavy user, paying the higher monthly cost is a waste of money, frankly.
2) Restrictions on download limits
Many broadband providers boast of unlimited download limits, only to accompany these bold statements with a little asterisk which, on closer inspection directs you to a fair use policy that restricts the amount you can actually download.
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Fair use policies are often a get out of jail free card for providers which advertise unlimited download limits, only to impose penalties or other restrictions if you exceed a certain threshold.
And, to make things even more complicated, finding out about your own download habits can sometimes feel like trying to break into Fort Knox.
For example, when I called my own provider to ask them about my usage, I was only told that I ‘need not worry’. This ambiguous phrasing may make little difference in my case, but in some circumstances you’ll only realise you’ve exceeded your fair usage limit when you get a warning from your provider – or worse, when a hefty bill lands on your doormat.
If you want to gauge your surfing habits, this data usage calculator from Virgin is a nifty tool which will give you an idea of your own monthly usage, which you can then use to get the best plan for you. Alternatively, providers Be and O2 offer super-fast broadband with truly unlimited download limits.
3) Broadband without a landline.
If you move into a property without a BT landline in place, it will cost you £124.99 to connect yourself to the outside world, plus £10.50 a month in line rental, unless you commit to an 18-month contract.
If you don’t fancy forking out all this just to get connected, one alternative is Virgin media which, providing you live in a cabled area, will connect you without the need for a BT line (£30 connection fee applies).
Another way you can get connected to the internet without the need for a BT landline is via a dongle. Dongles provide a convenient way of getting online, though from experience provide much slower download speeds than conventional broadband.
4) Tag on the line
This is one of the sneakiest ways broadband providers can stop you from switching easily. They put what's known as a 'tag' on your line, which is difficult to remove. When you run into trouble, they often point the finger at your landline provider, who then points the finger back at the broadband provider, and so on.
John Fitzsimons looks at what you can do to get better value for money from your broadband package
What many people don't realise is that you have to talk to the provider you want to switch to and ask them to remove it. Luckily, Broadband Choices offers a handy list of numbers on its website to contact with regards to having a tag on your line.
5) Long contract terms
Last but not least, contract lengths for broadband, and indeed your mobile phone are slowly creeping up, and these days you’ll often have to sign an 18 and sometimes a 24 month contract in order to secure the best deals.
However, there is light at the end of the broadband tunnel, and if you don’t want to be tied into a lengthy contract, you could always opt for a provider which doesn’t impose one.
For example, you can now get one-month only contracts from providers like Plusnet and Zen, which enable you to switch at any time.
Obviously, your broadband service is unlikely to be 100% perfect, 100% of the time, but hopefully these small tips will help you on your way to a smoother surfing experience.
This article has been updated from an earlier version published in 2008.