Before entering into any
Internet plan you should determine what your needs are. If you want
an Internet connection just to send the odd email and do Internet banking,
then a slow plan with a 400Mb capped connection will be
fine. If you have teenagers downloading music a videos, then a fast
plan with a 20 or 60 Gb limit will be more appropriate.
Because everyone's needs
are different, you have to make the decision on what plan suits you.
Keep in mind your own circumstances can change and you might have visitors
stay with you who could easily exceed the limits you normally wouldn't
If you have no idea what
you will use, play it safe and order a typical plan. This should have
at least a 1Gb data allowance and the plan should be capped. We can't
emphasise how important it is to get a capped plan. The alternative
is writing an open cheque to your ISP.
You also have to consider
your budget. Can you afford 10, 50 or 100 dollars a month? There are
also upfront fees for connections and modems that could be anything
between $30 and $500 for a home user unless you are prepared to commit
to a 12, 18 or 24 month plan.
When budgeting for your Internet
connection, be aware of excess usage fees. Most plans have a data limit
and when you exceed that, some plans will charge you a rate per Mb.
We've seen bills of over $25,000 so it's important to avoid these plans,
we discuss capped plans below.
What type of Internet connection?
There are a number of different
ways of connecting to the Internet. Dial up is largely dying as it's
slower and more expensive while satellite is expensive. This leaves
options as the main way of getting onto the net.
Broadband can come into your home through cable on the pay tv cables,
ADSL through the telephone line and wirelessly. Wireless is a confusing
issue that many people mix up with the home wireless networks. We explain
the difference between wireless technologies on our different
flavours of wireless page.
All of the different flavours
of broadband have their advantages and disadvantages as we've discussed
previously. Wireless and cable are only available in limited areas and
there are only a few providers. We recommend ADSL for most users as
the market is far more competitive and offers better value for money
than the cable and wireless options.
Get a capped plan
The common complaint from Internet
users is excessive bills. Most Australian Internet plans have limits on
how much data you can use. When you pass that limit you will either be
charged a rate for excess use or be "shaped"
as part of a capped plan.
A capped Internet plan slows
the connection down when you pass the data limit. Rather than receiving
an nasty surprise when you receive your Internet bill, you have a slower
connection until the end of the billing period. It can be an inconvenience,
but it won't break the bank.
Some providers have a combination
of caps and excess use fees. That is, they charge excess use fees up
to a certain point and then cap any further costs. We recommend avoiding
these as they still can give you a nasty surprise. For instance, one
provider's $9.99 a month plan can be up to $69.99 a month should you
over the 150Mb limit.
Another factor to consider
is the capped speed. Capped speeds are usually 64Kbit, which is a little
faster than an old dial up connection and is still usable for web surfing
and email. Some though are only 32Kbit which we recommend you avoid.
How much data
The next step is to decide how
much data you need. A typical user should be able to get away with 1Gb
a month. If you have teenagers in the house the sky is the limit.
A capped plan is usually
a good warning if someone in your household is using the net excessively.
The slower limit will frustrate the power user while mum and dad can
still use email and the web on the lower speed. It's certainly better
to put up with a slow net connection than receiving a massive bill.
If you find the cap is too
low, most Internet providers have no charges for moving up to a higher
usage plan. So we'd recommend being conservative at first and increase
your plan if you find you're regularly being capped. Check before signing
up that you won't be charged a fee should you decide to move up to a
higher monthly limit.
A big selling point for broadband
is you can choose the speed to suit your budget and needs. The cheapest
plans are 256Kbit, which is fine for basic websurfing and email. Most
people are prepared to pay for faster speeds.
The fastest speeds currently
available are 24Mbit on ADSL and 30Mbit on cable. Some of these are
surprisingly affordable. But there's usually a trade off with download
It's important to remember
too that the faster the connection, the more you tend to download. So
a limit that would be fine with 256kbit connection, might not be with
a 24Mbit connection.
There are few broadband plans
that don't have up front connection fees. These vary substantially between
providers and it is important to be aware of these costs before committing
to a contract.
Most connection fees include
equipment. Cheaper connection fees may have cheaper modems or nothing
at all. If you are planning to share a connection between computers,
then a more expensive fee with a router, either wired or wireless, may
be better value.
Like mobile phone plans,
it's possible to get out of paying a connection fee by committing to
a long contract. If you are prepared to sign up to a one or two year
contract, you'll often find the connection fee will be waived.
Like many other businesses
Internet service providers like to customers to commit to long term
plans. This helps them with their budgets and cash flows.
For the customers, these
plans often have benefits like discounted rates and no upfront fees.
But they do lock the customer into a minimum monthly or annual spend.
We recommend users choose
plans well below their budget. Usually ISPs have no problem with customers
wanting to upgrade their plans during the contract so if you find the
plan doesn't meet your needs you can increase your speed or data limits
Before entering any contract,
it's important to read and understand the terms before committing to
it. Understand what your costs will be and budget accordingly. If you
don't understand anything, ask the ISP what it means before agreeing.
The Internet is a big, complex
beast and the technology that lets you connect to it sometimes hits
problems. When those problems hit, you need a helpful support line.
Some of the cheaper providers skimp on support and a few even charge
premium rates while you are talking to them. Choose a provider with
good support who doesn't charge.
It's surprising how little ISP's
market their extras. Many ISPs include spam filtering, virus scanning,
five or more email addresses and other useful features. Others charge
extra for such things.
We recommend choosing an
Internet provider that throws in these features for free. Other features
such as movies and music downloads are often not particularly good value
and can be had without going through a certain ISP. Again, it's a matter
of shopping around for the service that has what you want.
All the telcos
are currently trying to entice customers into "bundled" plans
where the customer has one bill that include landlines, mobiles and