Frequently Asked Questions

What is an ISP?

ISP stands for 'internet service provider'. In other words, your ISP is the company that provides your broadband service.

What is a Byte, KB, MB or GB?

A Byte is a measurement of data and the amount you use depends on what you're browsing and how long for. A Kilobyte (KB) is equal to 1000 bytes (measurement for a unit of data). A Megabyte (MB, Meg) is equal to 1000 Kilobytes. A Gigabyte (GB) is equal to 1000 Megabytes. A simpler example is that a typical four-minute YouTube video will use between 8MB and 10MB. Many ISPs place a cap on the amount of data you can use in any one month.

What is the download speed?

Your download speed is the pace at which data (like web pages, music, video content etc) is transferred to your computer. The better your download speed, the faster your internet connection will be. That means that, next to price, it's one of the most important factors when choosing a provider. It is worth noting that all broadband products are advertised with 'up to' speeds. This is because in most cases you will not actually receive the maximum potential speed.

What is the usage limit?

Many providers cap the amount of data you can receive with any internet package and can limit your connection or charge you more if you go over. Heavy users will usually want unlimited usage, while people who use the internet for surfing and checking emails etc may be happy with lower caps.

What is LLU (local loop unbundling)?

Local loop unbundling is the process whereby BT (or Kingston in Hull) allows other providers access to the local exchange. That means they can then install and upgrade their own lines, bringing more competition to the market. If your local loop is not unbundled then it may cost you more to use an alternative provider.

What is a MAC code?

If you want to move from one provider to another, you'll need to ask for a migration authorisation code, more commonly called a MAC code. It holds the details for your address and line, and your new provider will need it to be able to move your service. From the date of requesting the MAC code, your existing provider has up to 5 working days to provide this to you. Thereafter the code is viable for 30 days.

What is a fair usage policy?

Quite often, when a provider advertises a package with 'unlimited downloads', it's actually subject to a fair usage policy. That means that, if your internet usage is deemed excessive, you could be asked to limit your browsing. If you continue to exceed the fair usage limit you could find that your provider slows your connection during peak times, or even terminates it. For most people, this limit will be so high that it won't be an issue, but some particularly heavy users could find this an issue.

What is a bundle?

A broadband bundle is a package that will allow you purchase your broadband along with your home phone and perhaps also your digital TV service. In many cases you can make significant savings by having just one provider for your broadband, home phone and digital TV.

What is cable broadband?

Cable broadband is provided via underground fibre-optic cables. The benefits include fast broadband speeds, reliable services and options for additional Digital TV, but the service has not yet been made available to all UK households.

What is mobile broadband?

Mobile broadband allows you access to the web wherever you are, as long as there is network coverage. Unlike Wi-Fi. It allows you to gain access to the internet anywhere at any time of day. The benefits of mobile broadband are its flexibility and ease of use, meaning you don't need any wires and you don't need a landline to operate.

Can I switch provider at any time?

You will need to check that you are out of contract with your current provider (typically most long-term contracts are 12 - 18 months). In the event that you are still under contract you will need to review the cancellation terms in your agreement. In most cases, the provider will request that in order to cancel the contract you pay the remaining monthly costs. Once you know how much you would need to pay it is simply a case of working out if you're better off seeing out the remainder of your contract or switching to a new, cheaper deal.

How do I switch provider?

Check with your current provider to find out if you're free to switch and if you're still under contract, check the terms for early cancellation. Compare the broadband market fully to find the right deal for your needs, both in terms of price and speed. The watchdog Ofcom regulation states that before signing you up, a provider must give you the opportunity to view an estimated speed that they think you'll get. Once you've found a deal to switch to, ask your existing provider for a MAC code (they have five days to comply) and give this to your new supplier within 30 days. The new company will do the rest!

Will I always get the advertised 'up to' speed?

Broadband providers now advertise an 'up to' speed, meaning the speed you see advertised is the maximum possible that you will receive and will not necessarily be what you constantly receive. In fact, in most cases you'll get a lower speed than this most of the time.

However, if you're not getting a good speed with your current provider then be sure to ask them if they can improve the service for you and what speed they realistically think you can achieve. It may be that your location is unable to access high speed broadband, in which case it may not be advisable to pay a premium for a package advertising high speeds. You could well get the same level of service on a cheaper deal elsewhere.

What's the best bundle to go for?

This all depends on what you want from a bundle - there are a number of options meaning you can really find one that meets your specific needs. This can include the speed or usage of broadband, the times at which you make your phone calls or what TV packages you want to include. If you're not sure, try using our broadband finder tool.


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