Things that Piss Me Off 4: Shitty Broadband Comparison Sites

I’ve come across this before and complained (to no avail, but the vent was worth it) but today I discovered that Ofcom has an accreditation scheme for broadband sites. This sounded promising so I checked out the two sites that I was advised had received said accreditation: SimplifyDigital.co.uk and BroadbandChoices.co.uk.

Long-time readers (pretending there are any) will know that misleading advertising broadband is a major pet peeve of mine. Not misselling speeds, because there’s no reliable way an ISP can accurately predict what speed your line will take (if you don’t already have broadband).  This mis-selling is much worse; I’m talking about the companies who lie in their headline speeds by advertising broadband “from £4.99 a monthfor the first three months, £14.99 thereafter, 12 month contract applies, not inclusive of compulsory phone-line rental.

Of course companies will continue to advertise lies like this as long as they get away with it, even the once-honest Plus net (who I do otherwise like) have now jumped on the bandwagon claiming they need to compete with scum like Tiscali and BT. Until someone takes them up on it they’ll continue lying and cheating customers with scant regard for concepts like honesty and integrity, but surely we can expect more of the broadband comparison sites who are, after all, fighting for a fair deal for the consumer, right?

Wrong. It seems the comparison sites get all caught up in the headline figures and thus actively encourage the misleading advertising that broadband companies seem so keen on.

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Plus.net Top Broadband Customer Satisfaction Poll

I have kind of a love-hate relationship with my ISP. Their speeds are pretty good (I think, anyway) and their culture (if you like) or their philosophy, is great.

I like the wee touches like their community forum and blog and I love their geographic (01) phone numbers for support. I’ve never had to use them so I don’t know how good they are once you’re actually on the phone, but at least you don’t have to worry about the cost. 0p a minute works fine for me.

I know I always mention it, largely because it’s my only real complaint, but I do hate the peak-time usage limit of 8GB per month*. I understand bandwidth costs them money and I know I can get more for a relatively low cost either through additional bandwidth bundles, pay-as-you-go or a £5 package upgrade, but I don’t really fancy any of those options. It would seem I’m just expecting too much, but it does leave me feeling content or happy with the product, rather than delighted. I’ve suggested extending the unmetered/unlimited usage ‘off-peak’ period (currently midnight to 8am) through to 10am or midday, but it doesn’t seem likely (cost reasons, apparently).

I blame the big providers for spreading the myth of unlimited usage (while growing ever tighter in their so-called “fair use” policies). They’ve clearly set my expectations too high because Plus.net have come out top in a customer satisfaction survey of the UK’s top 10 ISPs; it’s always nice to have your choices reaffirmed. Bigger names like AOL, Orange, Tesco and BT didn’t come off quite so well.

I have also sent a strongly worded complaint to Broadband Choices regarding their unforgivable (they’re supposedly a consumer site after all) use of the headline figures provided by these companies (like BT’s infernal £8.95/month bullshit) instead of the actual charges. I find that behaviour scummy, but unsurprising, when the companies trying to sell you their own product do it (caveat emptor and all that) but for a self-proclaimed consumer site to take them at face value (possibly something to do with their affiliate/referral fees?) is a disgrace.

* Since the time of writing the peak time usage limit has increased to 15GB – which is much better. I still do the majority of downloading at night, but don’t need to worry if I decide to lie in at the weekend and let it run til noon or have to download the odd large file during the day.

Plus.Net; a 2-month review

Some time ago now I mentioned that I was leaving Tiscali’s awful broadband service behind and joining Plus.Net on a 90-day trial instead and at that time I promised to give my thoughts on my new ISP after a few weeks. Well I’m coming to the end of my second full month with Plus.Net so figured my review was overdue (and I know people are dying to find out what I think of Plus.Net).

Summary
Speed: “Up to” 8Mb/s
Usage: 8GB 15GB (plus unlimited usage from 00:00 to 08:00 every day)

Plus.Net and their Service

Overall I’m quite pleased with the service. The first month went off swimmingly; my broadband speed ended up somewhere around 6,000 kb/s download and 375kb/s upload according to SpeedTest.net. My ADSL modem says it’s synced at about 8,000KB/s so everything’s looking good. I’ve been pleased with the speeds, haven’t noticed any service interruptions and billing seems to have been hassle-free.

Overall I like the company too. I like the reassurance I get from knowing I can contact them without using a rip-off 0870/0871 number like Tiscali’s if I can’t quickly resolve any matter that might arise by using their forums. I also like the fact that they don’t use scummy Tiscali/BT-type marketing of “From £4.99 a month” with tiny small-print hidden away somewhere informing you that that only applies to the first 3 months of an 18-month contract!

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