ISPs: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly!
Well, that's probably a bit unfair! So let’s have a look at what Internet Service Providers (ISPs) actually do ...
They provide you with an connection to the internet. They may be the same provider as your telephone service, or different depending on how you run your life.
Your internet connection arrives at your house from your local exchange down the same pair of copper wires as your telephone service, just using different frequencies and technology. Your connection speed is determined by your distance from the exchange for old fashioned broadband, or by your distance from the cabinet for the new-fangled fibre-optic superfast broadband. It's worth adding that if you live in one of the big conurbations cable is also possible where you have a direct link separate from your phone line. But let's stick to traditional ... from the exchange your connection is then routed to your ISP.
If you've followed my convoluted description above then it may have dawned on you that all ISPs are providing the same internet down the same wires ... it's just like gas & electricity!
To a greater or lesser degree all ISPs will provide you with broadband at the same speed because it's all about how far you are from the exchange or cabinet. Notice how the latest BT advert for their services says how you'll get a new "HomeHub 5" with "our best ever and most reliable WiFi connection". It doesn’t mention or promise how fast your connection will be! Notice how PlusNet advertise "Broadband from Yorkshire" ... I'm sorry; it comes from my local exchange, not Bilton-in-Ainsty!
If you looking where to go with your broadband then consider this ... if your existing provider is giving you a fair speed for your location then you can fairly safely choose any other provider if they're offering a better deal. If you can, then bundle your calls and line rental in as well as it'll often be cheaper than splitting suppliers. Beware of long tie-in contracts ... I think that 12 or 18 months is quite long enough ... I have trouble knowing what I'll be doing next week, let alone next year. Most importantly check out how good their help lines are for when things go wrong. BT have now moving their help desk back to the UK, PlusNet have always been in the UK as are most of the smaller providers like Eclipse and Demon. As far as I'm aware, TalkTalk, EE & Virgin are still overseas where language and communications skills remain a problem.
Finally, consider your email address. If you have an email address with your current provider then you may well loose it when you change. Try changing now to an ISP unlinked address like Gmail or Hotmail, then you can become a "rate tart" and change every 12 months to the cheapest deal at the time.
If you're broadband is intermittent, unreliable of slow for your area then you probably have telephony or hardware issues unrelated to your ISP. That's when you need to call in your local, friendly computer repair chappies to help you.
Added: 1st June 2015