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You're about to sign up with a new internet provider, but how do you know what questions to ask so you get a good deal? There are hundreds of internet service providers (ISPs) in Australia and with so many options available, it pays to have a clear idea of the internet package you'll need. We take a look at what to consider before locking in a new broadband plan.
The first decision you’ll need to make: what type of broadband do you want? Your options will generally depend on where you live and what’s available in your area.
The gradual rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) means more Australians are enjoying fast and reliable internet access. However, it’s worth knowing that the NBN Co is a wholesaler – they don’t sell to the public. That means to get the NBN you’ll need to deal with a retailer, such as Dodo, Optus, Telstra, (or there's a bunch out there), when purchasing a broadband plan.
For those not yet able to access the NBN, you still have plenty of options for broadband and Wi-Fi services. Choose the service that’s most suitable for you, so you’re not paying for something you may not need. Find out more about NBN Plans here.
One of your next decisions is whether you want a limited or unlimited data plan. Generally, unlimited plans cost a little more. However, they do come with the peace of mind that you won’t get hit with extra charges for going over your limit. Those who don’t spend too much time online or are on a budget may prefer a limited broadband plan.
If you do go over your allocated data limit, your ISP will generally do one of two things: they may automatically charge you for any extra data you use (which means the savings you thought you were making by opting for the limited plan can quickly evaporate) or your ISP will ‘shape’ (or slow down) your connection.
Ask your potential provider how additional data is charged before signing on to a limited plan. It’s also advisable to look at your current internet usage report to get an idea of how much data you’re chewing through each month.
Broadband plans range from ‘no lock-in’ contracts to those that ask for a one- or two-year commitment. The benefit of longer-term contracts is that many service providers may sweeten the deal by providing a modem and free connection – the catch being that if you want to get out of the contract early you may have to pay out the contract or a hefty exit fee. On the flipside, on contracts with no lock-in, you may have to pay a connection fee and for the modem.
From emails and online gaming to music streaming, it’s important to know how your internet usage impacts your data. For example, some broadband plans may allow you to download films and TV programs from the likes of Netflix, Apple TV, Stan or Telstra TV without it counting against your quota, while others don’t.
When deciding on a new broadband plan, look at the different bundles providers offer, as this may save you money on extras such as a home phone and Foxtel.
Be aware that if you bundle your internet and home phone, often just the phone line rental, not the phone calls you make, are covered. As with streaming, different providers will have individual arrangements as to how many and what kind of phone calls (local, international, mobile) are included before you start getting charged. Consider your phone usage and make sure you’re not getting ‘free’ calls you don’t use, or paying excessively for the type of calls you do make a lot of.
To find the right plan for your household, do some research online, compare a range of broadband plans, and speak to your friends and family about their experiences and recommendations.