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Embrace unlimited and stop worrying about usage charges
Thursday 19 February 2015 10:08:57 by Andrew Ferguson

While the big newspaper headlines are about millions paying too much for their electricity and firms not pushing cheaper options to customers the same is very much true in the broadband world. The broadband price wars have seen basic broadband now available for free or less than a coffee per month (voice line rental alas still to be paid) and this is particularly important for those on old 20GB or 40GB usage allowance packages that might be £5.99 per month or more.

The plight of legacy customers has been highlighted by the 'panic' over some emails to PlusNet customers that they might breach their 40GB allowance and incur a £5 extra charge. It turns out the usage system got it wrong and PlusNet are correcting this. We also see a steady stream of customers on older BT Consumer products asking about verifying how much data they are using too.

The price of unlimited broadband packages is now so low that signing up to limited usage account makes little sense unless you literally just use the connection an hour a week. In fact if you chase the offers after your minimum term finishes you can probably get a fibre based service at faster speeds for the price of your old legacy package.

If you are on a legacy package but don't want to switch providers the various voucher offers will not be available, but you might be able to strike a deal on the price if you phone your existing provider, but check the impact of any changes such as voice line rental and call bundles.


Posted by davidinnotts over 2 years ago
I really don't like the policy you have, Andrew, of calling all line rentals 'voice line rental'. Whether voice service is used or not, the line has to be maintained; otherwise, we'd have the ridiculous situation where people who use the voice service pay to keep the line going, but those who use the digital element only get maintenance free!

Better would be for the regulator to require providers to quote line maintenance (rental) totally separately (and this includes Virgin) and if voice services come free, then say so.
Posted by davidinnotts over 2 years ago
On the issue of PlusNet's usage boo-boo , I've been with them for nearly two decades - and reconsidered each year - and found them to be flexible on bandwidth . Unless the package has an automatic fee as soon as the cap is breached a warning email always came first and the charge when the cap was breached again. They used to have an automatic upgrade to the next band once the cap had been breached a couple of times. All this was clearly stated on the website and referenced in the emails. Such transparency is why I've stuck with this provider.
Posted by TheEulerID over 2 years ago
This happened on my parent's Plusnet account about a year ago. It was reported as exceeding usage and, magically, a few days later the usage was zeroed and no charge was made.
Fortunately the market status of their exchange has changed so they are on a (now cheaper) unlimited tariff, so it's moot.
Posted by jrawle over 2 years ago
I agree with David about your reference to line rental. You sound like those naive members of the public who complain about line rental they "don't use". The way broadband is advertised needs to change to incorporate line rental, the headline prices are misleading just like the budget airlines that used to advertise flights for £1. But it doesn't mean broadband will be available for free or for £2.99 a month.
Posted by themanstan over 2 years ago
Unfortunately Andrew calls it that because that is what OFCOM have mandated. All line rental is voice line rental, when they finally allow naked DSL, then there can be single pricing for DSL products.
Posted by tommy45 over 2 years ago
Voice line rental and Xdsl are two different services, and i would never have the same provider supply both, and if customers want to buy from different providers they should be able to,
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 2 years ago
A single bill FTTC option is on the way i.e. copper and voice rolled into one.

The line rental issue is complicated by the fact some providers still require line rental, but you have freedom to pick your line rental provider.
Posted by ahockings over 2 years ago
You're a bit daft if you don't have voice and BB from the same provider. Very hard to get the cheapest price without doing that. Most providers now charge more for BB if you don't take their voice. Why? Because with voice and BB they are selling the BB at a virtual loss. So without voice they HAVE to charge more for BB.
Posted by tommy45 over 2 years ago
Whilst it maybe cheaper, there's the quality of the service provided for that. be that poor support levels, or performance issues due to other factors that are with the isp's control
I would sooner pay a little more and get a better service, I am also not really interested in aany of the big isp's Sky TT BT virgin EE
Posted by mike41 over 2 years ago
To get back to Andrew's title, last year I quit BT's 10Gb ADSL2+ package for another (unlimited) supplier. Shortly afterwards we acquired a couple of iPads and finally got round to trying iPlayer on our smart TV. Our usage has trebled to 30Gb reflecting that once you have it, you use it!
Posted by jrawle over 2 years ago
Many providers let you take line rental from someone else, but then charge more for broadband. So the headline broadband price is unobtainable as you either pay line rental on top, or you pay more for the broadband. Virgin are one of the worst: there's no technical reason for needing a voice line, yet if you don't take one you pay more for broadband (wasn't the case in the NTL days).
Posted by 21again over 2 years ago
If your exchange is 20CN with no LLU provision then cheap broadband is hard to find, line rental is available at various prices now that BTr don't have it all their own way anymore.
Posted by domb over 2 years ago
This posting ignores the disparity with 20CN exchanges or those without LLU. This equates to approximately 4% of lines (if you include TT LLU coverage). Cheap broaband deals are not available in these areas, unlimited is even more rare. This reflects the price of wholesale offering in these areas. Suggesting the average family should look at an unlimited offering in these areas is unrealistic.
Posted by tommy45 over 2 years ago
There is also another downside to having both line rental and xDSL services from the same provider, and thats should you wish to leave /move to another provider, you with a lot of these mass market isp's will have to also move you line rental(voice service) to another provider each time as well, as the majority of them won't let you have line rental if you don't also have their broadband, this IMO is restrictive, and would /could involve greater disruption as it would affect both services not a good idea IMO the cheapest is often never the best choice, unlimited or not
Posted by domb over 2 years ago
tommy45 - The line rental is subsidising the *cheap/free* broadband. Providers with more transparent pricing models are offering line rental from upwards of £10 without lock in. The wholesale pricing trend is a reduction in line rental, whereas the retail pricing has risen to prop up the misleading broadband pricing models of the big four.
Posted by tommy45 over 2 years ago
@domb only too well aware of this, BT increase their line rental every year,and it's down to their race to the bottom, with free this and that along with vouchers and cashbacks being offered, that and their BT sports channels,
What boils my pi$$ is that all their customers are paying for the cheap bb deals and the TV channels that they don't have or want
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 2 years ago
@domb I would happily accept the criticism if I had worded the article to talk about the 4% who have no LLU options.

So many caveats could be added to cope with all the permutations, including those in KC areas, or those on new builds where BT is not allowed yet and they are locked into an alternate provider for example.

As a generic item saying review your broadband and look at the options if on an old legacy package then it stands.
Posted by MHMertens over 2 years ago
"old 20 GB or 40 GB packages? "

If only, e.g. Eclipse leaves customers on 2 GB (no typo, really just two) Home Lite X package at, I think, £12.50/month.
Posted by comnut over 2 years ago
I had to laugh LOLOL... ' less than a coffee per month ' ??
Now what if you are sitting down at your local Costa, that you have been going to very week for a month, £3 for the best coffee, and then you get a bill for £20! Oh thats surcharge for peak users, says the waitress... :D
Posted by comnut over 2 years ago
If you have tried finding a cheap but **reliable** internet, even those offering 'no line rental' want to lock you into a 'BT contract' and are only a few £s less than line rental!! Mobile phone internet is better, you get 'pay as you go', no contract, no problem if your finances are very limitrd...
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 2 years ago
While mobile phone Internet on payg can be better for some people, at around £7.50 for 1GB that lasts 30 days, the lower costs can be very quickly eaten up by updates alone, and if you stream video data usage will climb.

BT Retail does have social tariffs for those that qualify that reduce voice line rental well below usual price and broadband is available on those deals.
Posted by pgre over 2 years ago
I personally wish that the price of BB was related to the various speeds available (and not capped).... that way those who can't get the fastest speeds don't pay as much as those who can (and want it). Perhaps that way, there could be some incentive to improve speeds (both up and down).

Perhaps I am only saying this as I am about to move (to a new build) and although FTTC is apparently available I am not going to get the speeds I am now used too. I'd even consider FOD but from what I read even thats no longer an option.
Posted by comnut over 2 years ago
andrew, do note that part about *limited finance* people!!! :)
My friends (mostly on limited disability benefit) have been burnt by many companies that think *everyone* has a good bank with lots of credit!
If the money is 'taken' before it can be spent on FOOD, then it is not good...
therefore PAYG is better, for the very limited usage of most simple users..
Posted by comnut over 2 years ago
when BT provides a **no** line rental or contract, just 'landline PAYG' a LOT of people will take it..
Posted by comnut over 2 years ago
oh yes, most people have been using VISTA or XP, set up and maintained by their network savvy friends, so DO NOT use IE, outlook or other virus targets...
Posted by Teefenn1 over 2 years ago
I fully concur with tommy45's comments about quality. The article assumes that price is the the single consideration and that every ISP's service is much the same, when they certainly are not.

I wouldn't swap my near perfect £25p/m AAISP connection with 100gb usage for any of the large ISPs, even if they were free. Just take a look at the Sky forum to see an example of a useless ISP that fails to fix under capacity, video buffering problems and more, with so called tecnical staff that clearly have little skill or knowledge.
Posted by tommy45 over 2 years ago
Also on another point no ISP has yet started to offer a 1mth min term contract on FTTC services for those who have had FTTC for 12mths or over who wish to migrate, as of november last year BT openreach & wholesale stopped holding ISP's to the 12mth min term for qualifying migrations and they also reduced the activation/install fee for migrations from the £50 to £11 , Maybe this race to the bottom by the big 4 is partly to blame ?
Posted by Blackmamba over 2 years ago
Hi Broadband Watchers.
If you used BT FTTC you can Moniter your upload and download daily thus calculating your contract costs.
Posted by NetGuy over 2 years ago
Thanks, Andrew, for a pretty well-rounded article, all things considered (and criticisms understood, but not necessarily justified, IMO).

I seem to have struck lucky over the years - I had a contract with Three from 10/2008 to 09/2012, giving me 15 GB/month for half price (initially 7.50 then 8.00 when VAT rose).

Posted by NetGuy over 2 years ago
I've just paid 120 quid (*) for annual line rental to the Post Office, which raised their monthly price for line rental to 15.00 and dropped broadband (unlimited, no FUP) to 8.00/month... 18 month minimum (but has given me 6 months free) and they installed a new phone line free, too.

(*) The Post Office prices changed on 05/01/2015 so now it is 155.88 for annual rental, but I rang them just before Christmas and pushed for the old rental fee.
Posted by NetGuy over 2 years ago
Post Office link (actually provided by TalkTalk) is a second line to the house, first is with Primus at 5.99/ month line rental, with Plus.Net Unlimited BB and fixed IP, (with discounts they charge me under a fiver).

There are some low(ish) prices about, but headline BB costs need to be taken with pinch of salt as cheapest regularly insist on own line rental too.
Posted by NetGuy over 2 years ago
In general happy with PN, but I think a major criticism of Plus.Net in all this is that many of their customers could (and in my view SHOULD) have been told of the new unlimited account options.

PN SEEMS to have a policy of allowing people to pay the old fees as long as possible, when in PN's favour.

They then (eventually) get angry customers feeling they were 'ripped off' because they were not told of cheaper options, and those customers leave and give the firm bad (but deserved) PR as a result.
Posted by NetGuy over 2 years ago
@jrawle - "Many providers let you take line rental from someone else, but then charge more for broadband."

I'd say broadband mostly falls into two camps these days -
a) line with BT or reseller like Primus and you can use whichever ISP you want, or
b) LLU option (Sky, TT, and resellers of TT), where you are unlikely to even get their broadband if you don't rent line too.

PlusNet is one of the few I can think of allowing BB on line rented from anyone and charging an excess... do you have a list of others?
Posted by professor973 over 2 years ago
@tommy45 As is often the case within fora, your statement that "NO" provider supplies FTTC with no contract tie-in is quite wrong. I am quite sure of my facts as MY provider hates long contracts so much they refuse to employ them, along with calls less than 1p, no call connection charge and per second billing. They aim to keep customers via top service.
Posted by csimon over 2 years ago
Coast-like outltes all competing on 50p per cup.One offers 40p providing you only go there for 12mths.Another one offers 39p, if you go only there for 18 months & they'll throw in a Blockbuster (?) voucher.Customers clammering over this,told by watchdogs that we must keep swtiching to make them competitive. The catch? They all charge £5 per cup of coffee for the use of the mug. How can we switch when they lock us in? How is that be competitive? How can the cost of the coffee itself be relevant when compared with the must-have add-on that is incredibly expensive?
Posted by csimon over 2 years ago
*Costa-like outlets...
Posted by fasthorsedog1 over 2 years ago
Agree with the comments above, I have access to 2 ISP connections, one is 'unlimited' and one is capped at 200gb. It appears that the 'unlimited' one traffic shapes and you can clearly see from the thinkbroadband tools that there is loss and latency that indicates their centrals probably running hot.VOIP calls are also choppy at times. Whereas the 200gb cap service is clean low latency and works fine with VOIP 24/7, so this is where I have my VOIP phone connected.
Posted by fasthorsedog1 over 2 years ago
In addition I think most people don't use as much data as they think they might, even with heavy use of iPlayer and netflix I are lucky to get through over 100gb each month.
Posted by goodviews over 2 years ago
I am always surprise by the way internet prices are charged. One could relate it to the suppliers' actual costs such as line connection and maintenance plus any interconnect costs based on usage (and then make a profit) or just pluck out an analogous reference such as rateable value or postcode. The current mish-mash seems to make no sense.
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