Choosing an ISP

The Internet is becoming more and more popular all the time, with the majority of Australians already enjoying the online experience. However there are many traps that exist when it comes to choosing an Internet connection for the unwary!

When looking for an Internet service provider, we recommend to keep the following in mind:

Watch out for the more commonly known providers!

While this may sound like a crazy statement – some of the more commonly known providers who have great advertising campaigns also have the greatest traps. Sure – they have many customers, but you’ll find it’s more to do with advertising, and not so much the product they support. We have a rule of thumb. If you see them advertising on TV – be very careful! They most likely get their customers through clever advertising, and not by good products, pricing or services! (Although there are some exceptions).

The same rule applies for ISP’s who deal with large retail chain stores.

Look for a company that is popular, but doesn’t put much into retail marketing. “If a company is doing well and it doesn’t have to advertise or use marketing resources – then it’s doing well for a good reason!”

Beware of Contracts!

Some ISP’s don’t have signup contracts, some give you an option, and then there are some who force you to go on a contract or they won’t sign you up at all!. (Some ranging from 1 to 3 years!). As a general rule, we have found if an Internet service provider does not offer a non-contractual arrangement option (whether you’re happy to go on contract or not) – or a contract option that expires in 6 months – then be quite wary. The reason they have the contract may just be to lock in customers after they have signed up, and have been caught unaware – so when the customer finally finds out they’ve made a mistake – it’s too late!

Beware of Download Limits!

There are some plans (with some well known ISP’s) that are a disaster waiting to happen. They sign you up for a cheap price, but it includes a very small download amount (some to the extent that you could use your entire monthly download allowance up in only 10 minutes!) Then – if you go over your download limit they charge like a wounded bull. We have personally had experience with a variety of users caught unaware on this, even in instances where a monthly bill that should have been anywhere from $30 to $70 was blown to over $1,100 from excess use (unaware to the account holders!)!
If you do decide to go on a plan, ask what happens if you go over your limit, and further more, what happens if you go grossly over your limit? Are their caps on the amount you have to pay, or are they free to charge you continuously. (We have heard of people having viruses that have initiated an excess bill of over $5,000 – and these are not one off occurrences! If you’re interested in more information, check out whirlpool.)

Customer Service!

Before signing up with an ISP, try contacting their technical support department – just to see how long it takes to get through to them. This performs a trial run of their service before you commit. Then decide, when you do have Internet problems, would you be happy dealing with a company that has that sort of time frame before getting an answer?
Find out the history of the company and their reputation. How have they done with surveys, etc. Once again, a great place to find out this information is at whirlpool.
Lastly, see what different contact and support options they have. Can you contact them by phone, fax and email? We have found the ISP’s that we deal with that do not have email as a option to contact them to be very inconsistent and unreliable with the information they provide to you over the phone. (Which may be why they have no email contact option, otherwise there would be a log/trace of communication and what the ISP told the customer).

Company Ethics

Find out who you are to the company. Are you a customer with needs, where the company wants to try and find an arrangement that will be mutually beneficial to both you and them, or are you just a means to and end for them – with their focus constantly being on their profits? We find that companies with public shares are normally the worst (coincidence maybe, or could it be because the CEO’s normally get a huge payout if they can raise the share prices?)
Privately run companies don’t have the same goals. They want to make a profit, but don’t have to spread it out between so many people – and thus can look at what’s best for both their company and their customers – and not focus on just their shareholders (and the end of year bonuses to the CEO’s!).
Of course – there is a balance too! You don’t want to go with a company that’s too small (unless they’ve been around for a long time and have a well established reputation, just incase they’re here today, and gone tomorrow).

Double Dipping

Two of what we believe are the most well known Internet service providing companies double-dip on their bandwidth usage. (Amongst other scrupulous things). With most ISP’s, your bandwidth usage only involves what you download (information sent from the Internet to you), but with a couple of others – they count both your downloads and your uploads (imagine if your telephone provider charged you for both calls you made, and the ones you received!). When comparing plans, find out if the companies counts downloads or downloads and uploads before making a decision.

Beware of signup specials!

Normally this only applies to companies that lock you into a contract. Sure – for the first 12 months you may only pay $19.95 (or whatever the company is advertising), but what is the true cost? These deceptive promotions are simply to make their Internet plans look cheaper – but they get you in 2 areas in the end. Firstly the contract, and secondly the download limits.
The best way to calculate the true cost in this situation is to add up the total cost over the life of the contract, and then divide by the total months in that contract. (And then you need to take into consideration the bandwidth limits!). What are you really going to be paying per month over the life of the contract – and how does this apply with other ISP’s plans?

In all honesty we wish that we didn’t have to warn you about these tactics – but unfortunately over the years it has been acceptable for some companies to do anything they can to increase their profits as long as it squeezes into the legal side of the law. While they pretend that it matters, ethics, customer satisfaction and fair trading really no longer exist in the minds of some of the larger companies any more -and you really do have to watch yourself before signing up to an Internet service provider.
For legan reasons, we can’t put on this webs site which ISP’s to go with and which ones to stay away from, but if you would like further advise on which ISP’s we would recommend, or wish to run a few by us we would be more than happy to assist. Please feel free to contact us.