Is switching broadband provider always a good thing?
It seems USwitch is trying to encourage people to switch broadband providers via its website, which is perhaps no great surprise for a service comparison site. Alas while their recent survey which has surfaced on Web User and other locations emphasises the potential cost savings it does little to warn people about the consequences.
While many people may be able to get a cheaper broadband service, is it going to be a better service? How you use your broadband and what you want out of it is as important as the baseline price, since there is no point in changing provider if the game you are addicted to runs poorly on the new provider. For those who download a lot there is a shift towards unlimited reappearing in product descriptions, which very often hides traffic shaping which can affect people who don't just do the usual banking, web browsing and online radio for a few hours per week.
So what are the risks of changing providers? Well, if for example you are with ntl:Telewest, remember to factor in the costs of the standard BT line rental and consider whether you will be retaining a cable TV service. Some people who are on old contracts are not subject to usage policies, so even if upgrading your account from say 1 Mbps (Mega bits per second) to an up to 8Mbps service, it may involve a new contract and clauses governing the amount you can download or upload each month. One important thing to consider when ordering an ADSL or ADSL2+ service is the proximity to the exchange. If you live a few kilometres from the exchange, you are unlikely to benefit much from an "up to 16 Mbps" or faster service in comparison to a slightly slower one. Also those on long lines they may also find one of the older less fashionable fixed speed services to be more reliable.
So we would urge people when using any comparison tool including those on our own site, to not just rely on them, but spend time talking to friends and reading comments others have made online. The sorts of things you want to find out about are the speeds of service at the times of day you will be using it, how useful are the value added extras and how happy are people with the level of support offered. Also take time to read the contract before you commit to it. Finally check what your current provider can offer as it is possible you missed out on a free speed regrade due to a lost or missed email in the past.
Changes to the migration process between xDSL (ADSL and ADSL2+) providers due in February 2007 will make moving easier, but please remember the new rules do not absolve you of any fees owed under the existing contract.
The moral is that just as in many walks of life, there is a degree of you get what you pay for in the broadband world. Is a service costing £9.99 a month better than a £14.99 one, if it takes two weeks longer to get a fault fixed, or during the evenings you find online gaming to be laggy?