With broadband prices rising, more of us can expect to pay more for our internet connection. As well as looking for the best broadband deal, there are other steps you can take to help keep costs low.
If you’ve spotted that your broadband bill has gone up lately, you’re not alone. Most broadband contracts allow providers to hike prices in line with inflation which is currently at a 30-year high. This means thousands of broadband customers are seeing price increases in the middle of their contract.
These increases typically take place in the Spring each year. This April saw BT, EE and Plusnet broadband customers all experience price rises of up to 9.3%. Sky broadband customers saw their costs go up between 9% and 10%, while Virgin Media customers have seen prices rise by an average of £4.70 a month, or £56.40 a year.
Exactly how much your bill has gone up by will depend on your supplier, the broadband package you’re on, and when you signed your contract. You can read more about the price increases in our article ‘Broadband price rises: what to do if your bill has gone up.’
If you’re looking to slash your costs, then here’s everything you need to know to help keep your broadband bill low.
How to switch broadband for a better price
In theory, you can switch broadband providers at any time. But if you change deals before the end of your contract you may have to pay a fee to end your contract early.
For this reason, most people only switch broadband contracts when the minimum period on their contract has come to an end. Most deals tend to be for 12, 18 or 24 months.
If you stay with your provider beyond this minimum period, the cost of your broadband deal is likely to go up.
Most UK broadband services such as BT, Sky, Plusnet, EE, and TalkTalk use the Openreach network. Switching between these providers is relatively easy as they use some of the same equipment in the telephone exchange.
The main exception is Virgin Media which has its own network. This means switching to or from Virgin Media is a bit more complex.
How to compare broadband prices
The best way to compare broadband prices is to use a price comparison site. The best ones include:
Each of these sites includes a postcode checker so you can find out what’s available at your address – not all broadband deals are available everywhere in the UK.
You can use a price comparison site to compare broadband deals or ‘bundles’ which also include a phone line and/or TV channels.
It’s also worth checking broadband providers’ websites directly – they sometimes offer cashback or free gifts if you get your deal direct from them.
Can you haggle to lower your broadband price?
If you’re happy with your broadband supplier, but not keen on the price, you may be able to haggle either online or over the phone to get a better deal.
A survey by Which? found that nearly half (46%) of survey respondents had haggled with their existing provider when their contract ended. These people reported saving an average £85 on broadband, and £128 on broadband and TV.
Negotiating with your current provider may result in you getting a better price for your current broadband package or a better deal for the same price. Some providers might offer extras like a better router, extra premium TV channels, or free landline phone calls.
Do your homework before you start haggling. A good tactic is to research prices from rival providers and use these as a benchmark. Another strategy is to tell your provider you intend to leave and ask to speak to the cancellations department – this often results in being passed to the ‘retentions’ team who can offer better deals than their colleagues in customer service.
Think about what you want from the negotiations. Is it a cheaper price? Or do you want a faster broadband speed or more premium TV channels?
Don’t be afraid to say you want to go away and think about any offer made, or to call back on a different day and see if you can get a better deal from a different adviser.
Check how long your broadband contract is
Broadband contracts tend to be for 12, 18 or 24 months. In general, the longer you commit for, the cheaper your monthly price will be.
Some providers also offer short-term 30-day rolling broadband contracts, which can be cancelled at short notice.
These are good for people who might be moving house soon or students who will go back to the family home for several months each summer.
Bear in mind that even if you sign a contract, the small print is likely to allow mid-contract rises in certain situations such as rising inflation.
Check your broadband speed
If you’re paying for ‘fast’ broadband, then make sure you are getting the speed you are promised. If the speed you’re paying for is not available in your area, then you are overpaying.
You should also make sure the speed you are paying for is what you need.
‘Superfast’ or fibre broadband is the fastest broadband, but also the most expensive. The fastest widely available broadband in the UK is offered by Virgin Media, with download speeds of over 1Gb with its Gig1 service.
ADSL broadband, which is delivered to your home via a normal phone line, is cheaper and more widely available. It’s slower than superfast broadband but generally fast enough for most households.
Ofcom rules mean broadband firms must state an average speed, based on the download speed available to at least 50% of customers at peak time.
A speed of 34Mb is generally sufficient for shared houses and families. If you live alone, 10Mb will probably be fast enough unless you have loads of internet-connected devices or game online.
You can normally run a check online to see what speed you’ll be able to get from each provider.
Almost all broadband deals are ‘unlimited’ – this means you can download and upload as much as you want without worrying about extra costs. These deals are usually best. Limited deals might be a bit cheaper, but you’ll pay extra if you go over your monthly limit.
Are broadband, TV and phone bundles cheaper?
Many households bundle their broadband with a phone line (and calls) and a TV service, which can work out cheaper - but check what you are getting.
If you’re switching your TV service alongside your broadband, you should look at the TV box included in the deal and which TV channels you’ll get. If you are including a landline phone service in your bundle, check whether you get any free calls included.
Bundles can work out cheaper for many households. However, if you’re not fussed about having a wide choice of TV channels, you might be better off buying a standalone Freeview box and keeping your broadband separate. If you have inclusive calls on your mobile phone package, there is no need for a calls package on your landline too.
Are you eligible for a social broadband tariff?
If you’re on a low income or claiming certain benefits you might be eligible for a ‘social’ broadband tariff. These deals are cheaper than standard broadband deals. According to Ofcom, they can save eligible customers about £144 a year. We explain what social tariffs are available in our article ‘Vodafone and Sky launch broadband help packages’.
Emma Lunn is an award-winning freelance financial journalist who specialises in money and consumer affairs. She has more than 17 years’ experience writing for national newspapers, trade and consumer magazines, and specialist websites. She has a particular interest in writing about property and mortgages, and enjoys explaining complex issues in an easy-to-understand way.