Get super-fast broadband for £3 a month
Why pay £15 a month or more to get online, when you can get an 8Mb broadband connection for just 10p a day?
A few months ago, something bordering on disaster happened to me: I lost my home broadband connection for nearly a week. My home is my workplace, so this could have caused endless problems. However, from adversity comes opportunity...
Shopping around for bargain broadband
Faced with the possibility of being unable to work at home, I did two things. First, I asked my neighbours on both sides if I could piggy-back on their wireless-broadband signal. They generously agreed and, within the hour, I was back online again.
Second, I decided that it was time to search the whole broadband market for a new supplier. My main goal was to find a reliable service offering reasonable bandwidth at an attractive price. My existing deal from Prodigy Networks cost £14.99 a month in return for an 8Mb service with a 2GB download limit (with each extra gigabyte charged at £1.50).
Three or four years ago, most users had a 2Mb connection, and 8Mb broadband was considered a luxury. Today, three in five households (60%) have an 8Mb connection. In fact, this should read 'up to 8Mb', because various technical issues will affect your 'true' connection speed.
Your actual connection speed will be affected by where you live (for best results, live in a big city), your distance from your local exchange (the shorter, the better), the time of day, and the number of connections to your service.
According to telecoms watchdog Ofcom, the average speed users get from an 8Mb service is around 3.6Mb, or less than half (45%) of the theoretical maximum. Check your actual speed with this broadband speed test.
Super-fast broadband for 10p a day
I was confident that I could find an 8Mb service with a much higher download limit for far less than I was paying before. Sure enough, after about 30 minutes of trawling through offers, I came across a great deal from award-winning ISP PlusNet. (Amusingly, PlusNet was bought by BT in January 2007 and thus competes with its new owner for customers.)
PlusNet Value offers 8Mb broadband with a 10GB download limit for £5.99 a month for the first three months. This includes a free wireless router (add £6.99 for postage and packing) and free connection, but you must have a BT landline to apply. After three months, if you live in a low-cost area (known as a 'market 3' exchange), then you continue to pay £5.99 a month, otherwise the price jumps to £11.99 a month.
In common with about four-fifths (80%) of the UK population, I live in a market 3 area, so my PlusNet broadband is £5.99 a month, or £71.88 a year. This is a saving of at least £108 a year, so I'm one happy customer. Even better, I applied via cashback website Quidco and got £36 cashback (reduced to £28), cutting the first-year cost to a mere £35.88, or under 10p a day!
All's well that ends well
I've found that my PlusNet connection is more than enough for web browsing, email and watching the odd programme on BBC iPlayer. What's more, my connection is very reliable -- an essential requirement, as both my wife and I work from home.
Note that PlusNet uses 'speed throttling' to control its traffic, which slows you down at busy times if your usage gets too heavy. Many ISPs apply this as part of their 'fair-usage policies'. Thankfully, I don't download lots of large files or stream a lot of television, so my 10GB monthly limit is way more than I need. However, anyone who does lots of downloading or P2P file-sharing may need a higher download limit.
Finally, when shopping around for broadband, do look into the bundled home phone, web and digital TV packages on offer from the likes of BT, Sky and Virgin Media. Although I'm not a fan of bundling in general, there are some cracking deals on offer for those willing and able to move their line rental to a new provider.