Broadband.co.uk Blog: Features

Regular Broadband-related news and comment from the Broadband.co.uk team.

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Broadband-related features and articles.

Piggybank

How to cut your broadband bill without switching providers

Posted on 2019-04-26 14:33 in Features

The obvious advice for anyone who wants to cut their broadband bill is to switch to a different provider. It's so easy to compare broadband deals, and more often than not you'll be able to find something better or cheaper than what you've currently got.

But what if you don't want to switch? What if you're happy with the service you're getting, and would just rather pay a little less for it?

Well, there are a few tried and tested ways to pay less for your broadband without switching providers. Let's take a look.

Don't stay on your old deal after it expires

The first step is a no-brainer, yet it's something that millions of us fail at. Don't stay with your old deal after the initial contract has ended.

When you sign up for a broadband deal you get a price and a minimum contract period. When that contract period ends the price will start to go up. In fact, it might go up the very next day. A recent Which? report suggest that customers who don't bother switching deals end up paying as much as £690 more each year than they otherwise would.

If you only take one thing away from this post, it's that you need to know when your deal ends. That way you can make an informed decision about what to do.

At the very least you can call your supplier and see what they can offer you if you take a new contract. That ought to be better than what you've currently got. But remember that these companies reserve their most attractive offers for new customers, so don't assume that their first offer is the best you can get.

Master the art of haggling

Haggling is not terribly British and our collective refusal to do it is costing us hundreds of pounds a year.

But it's actually easier - and less terrifying - than you'd think. Just use our comparison tool to find a better broadband deal, then call your provider armed with this information. Tell them what you can get elsewhere and see if they can match it.

If the thought of haggling brings you out in a cold sweat, don't worry. Write yourself a little script first. Try this one for size:

"My contract's ending soon and I'm looking at my options. I can get this deal from this provider for this much per month. Can you match it?"

Or this one: "My contract's come to an end and I'm trying to cut my bills. My budget is this much a month. What can you do for me?"

And then follow it up with: "Hmmm… I was hoping for something a little better than that…"

You'll speak to the regular sales team first, and they're limited on what they can offer you. If you aren't happy you can tell them that you'd switch providers instead. This will get you put through to the Retentions department. Retentions exists purely to stop customers leaving, and they have more scope for offering you better deals.

A lot of people don't want to take it this far because they're worried that they'll be forced into starting the switching process even when they don't really want to. But you don't have to make any decisions over the phone there and then. Just tell them you were hoping for a better offer, and that you'll have a think about it and will call them back tomorrow.

Don't accept mid-contract price rises

It's a lot easier to cut your broadband bill when your contract is coming to an end (or has already ended). It's a lot harder when you're still in your initial contract period, but there are a few things you can use to your advantage. One is poor performance, the other is a mid-contract price rise.

In the right circumstances, both of these can lead to you being allowed to leave your deal early without penalty. If you're getting terrible performance then you might want to switch anyway. But you can use a price rise as leverage to get a better deal. Not only might they waive the increase, but they might throw in another sweetener, too.

You have to act quickly, though. You've got 30 days from when you're informed of the price rise. After that you're regarded as having accepted the change.

Cut services you don't need

Another simple way to reduce your bill is to cut services you no longer need. This is easiest if you've got a TV bundle, as you can dump those channels that you don't watch. Or maybe you took out a call plan and now find you don't make as many calls as you thought.

You can even think about what type of internet service you've got. Do you need that ultrafast broadband package, or could you downgrade to a slower speed without noticing the difference? Our guide to what broadband speed you need explains more.

Find different ways to pay

If you've got a chunk of cash sat in your bank account just waiting to be spent, you could potentially make savings on your broadband by paying some or all of it up front. It's rare for providers to allow you to pay all your bill in one go - and we wouldn't necessarily recommend it either - by a few still offer a line rental saver option.

Plusnet and BT both let you pay the line rental part of your deal up front, which can knock as much as £30 off your annual bill. Not a huge saving, granted, but still the equivalent to a month or month and a half of free broadband, and definitely not to be sniffed at.

Paying up front protects you against price rises, but does come with a small risk. If you need to exit your contract for any reason (including something like moving house) you're unlikely to get your money back.

Seek out bundles for better value

Do you get your broadband, phone, TV and mobile from different providers? If so, there's a good chance you can make savings by bringing two or more of them under the same roof. Many broadband providers offer bundles for various services, and it often works out cheaper than buying products from lots of companies. It's more convenient, too, since you no longer have to juggle multiple bills each month.

What's good about this is that you can often do it when you're in the middle of a contract. When you ask your provider if you can give them more money each month they're unlikely to turn you away. Just make sure that your deals for these services with other providers have run out, otherwise you could be penalised for moving them.

Be willing to walk away

Okay, you don't want to change providers, but you're in a far stronger position if you're willing to do so regardless. Not only does it improve your chances of getting the best deal with your current supplier, but it also opens you up to all those incredible 'new customer' offers from everyone else.

And while it sounds like a hassle, the good news is that the process to switch broadband providers is now easier than ever. In some cases your new provider will do all the work for you!

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Laptop and phone

Are broadband bundles or standalone deals right for you?

Posted on 2019-04-11 14:01 in Features EE Hyperoptic TalkTalk NOW Broadband BT Sky Virgin Media

Is it better to get your broadband, TV and phone services as part of a single bundle from the same provider, or should you shop around for the best standalone deals?

Is it simply a question of convenience versus flexibility? And does one work out cheaper than the other?

Let's take a look.

What kind of bundles can you get?

There are three types of broadband bundle. Where providers offer more than one you might see them described as triple or quad-play providers.

Broadband and call bundles

Most broadband services need you to have a traditional phone line, the price of which will be included in your broadband bill. Many providers - even some of the smaller ones - make the most of this requirement by offering you a call plan as part of a bundle. You can add off-peak, Anytime or International calls for a few extra pounds a month. If you don't add a plan the price for any calls you make just gets added to your bill.

Even some providers who don't require a landline will still offer you call bundles, and that can work out cheaper even if you don't intend to use them. For example, Virgin Media's broadband with phone options are cheaper than just standalone broadband for the offer introductory period of. After this, it goes up by £2 a month, but you always have the option of ditching the phone portion at the end of your minumum contract, or some people might consider the extra £2 worth it for extra piece of mind in an emergency. Of course, this isn't always the case, as with Hyperoptic who charge more for a phone bundle than they do for a standalone product. But it's worth investigating to see whether a potential provider requires a landline or not, and if you can make a saving by getting calls bundled in.

Broadband and TV bundles

Broadband and TV bundles are the next most common types of deal. These are generally restricted to the bigger name providers like Sky or BT, and can give you access to premium TV channels that show Premier League football or the latest movies. But beware, they aren't all like this. Some TV bundles, such as the basic TalkTalk or Virgin TV deals, don't offer many more channels than you can get with Freeview. You get a set-top box that lets you record or pause shows, but doesn't include any pay TV channels unless you choose to upgrade. Take a look at our guide on the cheapest ways to get pay TV for the full lowdown.

Broadband and mobile bundles

The other type of deal you can get is a broadband and mobile bundle. Again, these are rarer. Your options are split into two groups: either money off your bill, or a bonus added to your mobile plan, usually in the form of a bigger data allowance. The good thing about the latter is that you can add it to an existing plan if you're already a customer, without needing to take out a new deal.

How do the prices compare?

So how do the prices of bundles compare to buying all your services separately? And do they work out cheaper? Well, it's complicated. When you compare like-for-like services, bundles will usually give you a decent saving. But if you're willing to make compromises on what you need, they might not be the best option.

Here's an example. Let's say you want to sign up to Sky TV.

As of April 2019 you can get Sky Entertainment with 63Mb Fibre in a bundle from Sky for £42 a month. By contrast, if you took the cheapest fibre deal with an average 63Mb speed, from TalkTalk, plus the same Sky Entertainment package from Sky it would cost you a total of £47 a month. It's the same story for different speed broadband, and when you add more TV channels the gap increases further.

Bundles are cheaper when you compare like-for-like services. But - and there's always a but - it isn't quite as simple as that.

If you take that 63Mb TalkTalk Fibre plan and add a NOW TV Entertainment Pass instead of the Sky subscription, the monthly price plummets to just £33. In fact, add the NOW TV plan to Sky Fibre and it works out £7 a month less than the Sky bundle.

What gives? The important thing here is to compare the small differences in the services you're getting. NOW TV is cheaper and gives you the same channels you get through Sky, but it's also a far less premium service. You can't use it to record shows, access red button services, watch 4K broadcasts, or plenty of other things.

In summary: if you want the full monty, a bundle will almost always be cheaper. But if you're willing to shave off some of the extras, you might be able to make savings by buying separately.

Are bundles right for you?

Money aside, the big selling point of bundles is convenience. A bundle gives you one contract, one bill, and one customer service department to deal with. In most cases you'll be able to renew at the same time, too. And you could argue that getting all your services from the same provider will give you more leverage when it comes to negotiating the best deal. The more you pay, the keener they'll be to keep you.

But buying standalone deals has its merits, too. You get more choice, for a start, since there aren't many triple or quad-play broadband providers. And more flexibility, which lets you pick up a faster broadband package than your chosen TV provider can offer, for example. Plus, there's the possibility of taking shorter deals. Sky TV comes with an 18 month contract, Virgin 12 months, and NOW TV just 30 days.

Call plan bundles are the easiest to decide upon. Lots of us don't even have phones plugged into our landlines anymore, so don't need them. But if you make a lot of landline calls - especially international calls - then go for it.

For TV, make sure you know what you want before you sign up. For the full pay-TV experience a Sky or Virgin Media bundle will work out cheaper. If you just want a few extra channels, like from NOW TV or the handful of premium channels offered by BT, a standalone deal might actually work out better.

And as for mobile, keep an eye out for indirect savings. Sky TV customers, for instance, are automatically eligible for unlimited free calls and texts, which means they only need to pay for a data plan. The cheapest they offer is just £6 a month - almost certainly less than you're paying at the moment. EE give 5GB of mobile data to their broadband customers each month. This won't show as a saving on your broadband bill, but is likely to enable you to switch to a much cheaper mobile plan and make your savings there instead.

The main thing is to know what you need and how much it will cost you separately. The you can compare it to how much an equivalent bundle will set you back. Use our comparison tool to find your perfect broadband bundle to get started.

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Buffering video

Six things that could be slowing down your broadband

Posted on 2019-03-21 15:56 in Features

Slow broadband is bad enough at the best of times, but when slowdowns occur out of the blue it's really annoying. Especially as there isn't always an obvious reason why it has happened.

So what's the explanation? Read on to find the six things most likely to be slowing down your broadband. And when you're done, sign up to our newsletter and claim your exclusive free guide, 12 ways to boost your broadband speed.

1. Problems with your connection

One of the most common things that causes your internet to slow down is one you can't control - it's a problem with your connection. How can you tell if this is happening to you?

When you signed up for your broadband deal you should have been given a speed estimate indicating the performance level you can expect to achieve. Use our Speed Test tool to compare this estimate to what you're actually getting. We'd recommend disconnecting all other devices when you run the speed test, and standing right next to the router. Better still, connect your laptop to your router via an ethernet cable, if you've got one.

When done, compare the test result to your estimate. If it's significantly slower it may indicate the problem is with your connection. To be sure, reboot the router and try the test again, perhaps with a different device. Now give your broadband supplier a call.

Make sure you know your rights, here. If they don't sort out the problem to your satisfaction you might be entitled to a partial refund, or even to quit your contract without penalty, especially given Ofcom's new Code of Practice for broadband speeds. See our guide on how to complain to your broadband supplier for more info.

Of course, if your speed test doesn't indicate service problems and you still think it's too slow, it's possible you've simply outgrown your particular broadband package. Many providers will allow you to upgrade to a faster deal mid-contract. If you're coming to the end of your contract you can start shopping round for the fastest home broadband deals.

2. Your router's in the wrong place

The position of your wi-fi router is another common cause of broadband slowdowns. Without getting into the technicalities, a wi-fi signal gets weaker the further it travels and the more physical objects it has to pass through. The weaker it is, the slower it will be.

Try and position your router somewhere central in your home, preferably raised off the floor. This will help the signal reach the furthest corners of your home. Be aware that some electronic devices, such as phone bases, can interfere with signals, as can metallic ornaments. Try and keep it in a fairly open space, not on a shelf hemmed in by other objects. And don't cover it up, either. A lot of the broadband hubs you get for free from your internet provider are designed to lay flat. It's very easy to start piling stuff on top of them without thinking.

3. Your signal doesn't cover your whole house

Even when you do find the sweet spot for your router there are still limits to how far its signal will reach. If you've converted your loft into an office, for example, the signal might have to pass through several walls, floors and doors to get there. There's no guarantee that it will. Older buildings can be a problem as well, as some of the building materials, or even just the thickness of the walls can have an effect on how far a wi-fi signal can reach.

Look into wi-fi extenders or Powerline adapters as a way to increase the wi-fi coverage in your home.

4. There's too many people downloading

What's an obvious reason why anything slows down? There's just too many people using it! That's as true of your broadband as it is of the M25 at rush hour.

A standard phoneline broadband connection in the UK has an average speed of around 10 to 11Mb, and sometimes quite a bit slower. Netflix alone needs a speed of 5Mb to play HD video - that's half of your available speed. Now, add in someone else watching YouTube videos, someone playing online games, and another person downloading large files for work. It adds up pretty quickly, and something has got to give.

This can also apply to the area you live in. The more built up the area, the more customers there are connected to your local street cabinet. This means that speeds can get slower at peak times, because everyone is home from work and school and making use of the internet. You can work around this by setting updates - such as for phone and computer operating systems and games - to download overnight when less people are using the internet.

A lot of routers are good at prioritising certain types of traffic. This means time-critical downloads like streamed video aren't interrupted, but file downloads might be slower. Not all do, though. If you've got a busy family sharing limited bandwidth, rationing your usage might be the way to go.

You're less likely to get this problem on a faster fibre deal. For more on this, check out our blog post explaining what broadband speed you actually need.

5. Background downloads

While it's easy to get your kids to ration their Netflix use, it's still possible that your broadband will be slowed down by other downloads that you don't know about.

These hidden downloads happen all the time. Like when your laptop automatically downloads and installs an update to Windows. Or your phone gets updated, your TV box, or pretty much anything else you've got that's connected to the internet. These updates might be a couple of gigabytes in size, and on a standard broadband connection could take an hour or more to complete.

Video games are even worse. They often have updates that run to 10 gigabytes or more, and could clog up your system for the rest of the day. The same goes for downloading boxsets from Sky or other premium TV services. Not everyone makes the connection between downloading something on a TV and slowing down their computer, but it's all part of the same thing.

6. Viruses and malware

When your internet becomes slow all of a sudden, and for no obvious reason, it's worth checking that your computer and anti-virus software are both fully up to date and working properly.

Viruses and other types of malware won't slow your internet specifically, but they will slow your hardware and make browsing and other online activities feel a lot more sluggish.

Run an anti-virus scan to try and solve the problem. Lots of broadband providers offer free security software when you sign up, so make sure you're using it if yours does. Also, keep an eye out for other warning signs. This includes your browser's home page changing unexpectedly, or your computer's fans spinning fast and loud even when you aren't using it. This can be a sign of dodgy software running in the background.

How to speed up your broadband

There's a lot more things that can slow down your broadband. Maybe your router's settings need changing, or perhaps your phone cables are the problem. Or maybe your broadband isn't slow at all - maybe your computer is.

So how do you find the answers? Start by downloading our free guide, 12 ways to boost your broadband speed. It's packed with essential tips that are easy to follow and require very little technical know-how.

And if you do decide you need a faster service, use our broadband comparison tool to find the speeds that you need.

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Broadband Rewards Explained

Unwrapping the mystery of free gifts and rewards that come with broadband deals

Posted on 2019-03-08 17:03 in Announcements Features Offers BT

It's becoming common these days for broadband providers to entice customers into buying a broadband package by offering tempting rewards, such as gift cards, shopping vouchers, bill credit and cashback, and even shiny tech like tablets, Amazon devices and TVs. All the big name providers do it and some rewards, such as BT's current offer with a choice of tech and a reward card on top, may seem too good to pass up on.

But such offers may not be the best deal for you, even if they look really good at first glance. Before you rush to take advantage of a deal with rewards, you need to stop and ask yourself a few important questions, including:

  • What exactly are all these different rewards and how do they work?
  • Will these reward deals still save you money on your broadband contract?
  • Is the reward on offer something you already want or even need?
  • Could you spend less by getting a cheaper broadband deal and buying the reward yourself?
  • How do you get your rewards - are you automatically given them or do you need to claim them yourself?

We've got a brand new page in our Help section all about broadband rewards for you that gives you the answers to these questions and more, so when you decide to buy a broadband deal with a reward, you'll know how much money you'll really be saving, exactly what you're getting and how to get it.

Armed with all that information, you're all set to find the best deal with rewards for your needs - use our postcode checker to find out what's available in your area right now!

Read our Broadband Rewards Explained help page.

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Rewards Roundup

EXPIRED: Rewards roundup: broadband deals of the week that come with added bonuses!

Posted on 2019-02-22 18:56 in Features Offers Expired Vodafone SSE Plusnet BT

It's always nice to get rewards and free gifts on top of a good broadband deal, so we've put together a list of the best of those deals from this week for you to choose from.

Plusnet Broadband and Phone bundles each come with a reward card this week. Unlimited Broadband comes with a £75 reward card and is priced at £18.99 a month. Both Fibre products come with a £50 reward card, and are priced at £23.99 a month for Unlimited Fibre and £27.99 a month for Unlimited Fibre Extra. You'll need to hurry, as these offers end on Tuesday!1

Vodafone are offering a £70 voucher with their Superfast 1 fibre package for £21 a month, and an £80 voucher with their Superfast 2 fibre package for £25 a month. These voucher offers are only available through the links in this blog post.2

SSE have a £50 pre-paid Mastercard on offer with their Unlimited Broadband package, which costs £18 a month for the duration of your contract. This offer is also only available through the link in this blog post.3

BT have reward cards on nearly all of their packages. Their basic Broadband with Weekend Calls and a £30 reward card is only £24.99 a month. If you're looking for a Fibre package, then you can get Superfast Fibre with a £50 reward card for £29.99 a month or, if it's available in your area, you can get Superfast Fibre 2 with a £70 reward card for £39.99 a month. TV packages with reward cards are also available.4

 


1. Offer available to new customers only. Standard broadband products are on a 12 month contract, fibre products on an 18 month contract. Connection fees may apply. Prices increase at the end of the offer period when your contract is up, see website for out of contract prices. Plusnet reward is a pre-paid Mastercard of the specified amount. You will need to claim this reward yourself once your broadband is up and running using instructions that should be sent to you by email. See Plusnet site for reward card terms and conditions. Offers ends midnight 26th February.

2. Offer available to new customers only. All Vodafone products are on an 18 month contract. Vouchers are a choice between Amazon.co.uk, Currys PC Word, Marks & Spencer or Ticketmaster. You will need to claim this reward yourself once your broadband is up and running using instructions that should be sent to you by email. See offer page for full terms and conditions and how to claim. Offer ends midnight 28th February.

3. Offer available to new customers only. Offer is on an 18 month contract, SSE will contact you before this is up to inform you have price rises from month 19. Vouchers are a choice between Amazon.co.uk, Currys PC Word, Marks & Spencer or Ticketmaster. You will need to claim this reward yourself once your broadband is up and running using instructions that should be sent to you by email. See offer page for full terms and conditions and how to claim.

4. Offer available to new customers only. All BT products are on an 18 month contract. Connection fees may apply. Prices increase from month 19, see website for out of contract prices. BT reward is a pre-paid Mastercard of the specified amount. You will need to claim this reward yourself once your broadband is up and running using instructions that should be sent to you by email. See BT site for reward card terms and conditions. Offers ends midnight 28th February.

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4G Home Broadband guide

Stuck in a broadband not-spot? 4G home broadband may be the solution!

Posted on 2019-02-15 17:37 in Features Offers 4GEE Three

Superfast Fibre broadband may now available across 95% of the UK, but there are still a lot of people who can't get it. You might be one of the frustrated few stuck in a broadband not-spot, with Fibre not yet available in your area, or - more annoyingly - it is available, but you're just too far from the street cabinet to see the benefit and are stuck with sluggish speeds on standard broadband over copper phone lines.

The solution to your problem may be simpler than you think.

4G mobile technology started rolling out in 2012 and is now available over 80% of the UK, and now mobile providers such as EE and Three are offering a home broadband solution that uses the 4G mobile network to provide users with speeds that can be comparable with their up to 36Mbps Fibre counterparts. You don't necessarily even need to be in a 4G area to get it, either - you can get respectable speeds in many 3G areas as well, plus there's the option to boost the signal with an external antenna if you need it.

What's more, Three currently have an amazing offer on that's competitive with even the cheaper Fibre broadband deals. For just £22 a month on a 24 month contract you can get unlimited data!

If 4G home broadband is something that interests you, we've put together a handy guide to the service that addresses:

  • What 4G home broadband is
  • Who it's suitable for
  • The speeds you can expect
  • The costs involved
  • Concerns about data usage

Read our guide to getting 4G home broadband.

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Broadband and Mobile bundles

What you need to know about broadband and mobile call bundles

Posted on 2019-01-11 17:52 in Features

These days most of us have a mobile phone we use regularly - often using it in place of landline phones to make our calls - and we're always looking for a good deal on mobile call packages. Most of us also rely on the internet in our day to day lives, and most households in the UK consider a broadband package as an essential utility.

So wouldn't it make sense to combine broadband and mobile to get a cheaper deal?

With several of the major broadband providers branching out to offer mobile deals and some of the major mobile networks also offering home broadband as well, there are a number of options for getting a good mobile and broadband bundle deal. You can even throw in a TV package to your bundle to make even more savings!

We'll help explore your options and explain in simple terms how mobile from your broadband provider works.

Our new guide on the subject covers:

  • Which providers offer broadband and mobile bundles
  • The pros and cons of mobile bundles
  • What virtual mobile networks are
  • Which mobile networks broadband providers use

Read our guide to getting mobile and broadband bundles.

 

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Stay safe online

PC Security: 5 things you need to do to stay safe online

Posted on 2018-11-29 13:52 in Features Sky Plusnet Virgin Media Vodafone BT NOW Broadband John Lewis EE TalkTalk

As we spend more and more of our lives online - managing our money and doing our shopping - we're more likely to encounter problems. Viruses, scams and other cyber-crimes are continuing to become more common. So what's the best way to stay safe online? Let's take a look.

1. Install anti-virus software

Anti-virus software is a must if you use Windows (less so for Macs, Chromebooks, phone and tablets). It doesn't just protect you against viruses you can get though email attachments or dodgy downloads; it protects against all malware - any software designed with malicious intent. This includes nasties like spyware that steals your passwords, and ransomware, which locks down your computer unless you pay up.

Free anti-virus software from your broadband provider

A lot of the best broadband providers give you a free, or cheap, anti-virus subscription as part of their deal. If yours is on this list, make sure you take them up on the offer:

  • BT: with BT you get the McAfee powered BT virus Protect. You can install it on two or up to 15 machines, depending on your package. You also get Web Protect, which checks websites you visit are safe, and True Key, a secure password manager you can install on five devices.
  • EE: EE Home Broadband gives you a year's subscription to Norton Security Premium for up to 10 devices. After that it costs £39.99 a year, half the normal price.
  • Plusnet: Plusnet Protect, from McAfee, is free for Unlimited and Unlimited Fibre Extra customers. On the standard Unlimited Fibre deal you'll need to pay an extra £2 a month for your virus protection. You can install it on up to seven PCs.
  • Sky Broadband: on one of Sky's Unlimited deals you get a 12 month free trial of the McAfee Internet Security suite for up to three PCs. On the limited packages you get three months. Once the trial is up you can keep it going for £3 extra a month.
  • TalkTalk: with TalkTalk you get HomeSafe, an award winning online security package. This combines some virus protection and parental controls. It isn't a full anti-virus tool, though.
  • Virgin Media: Virgin Media Security is worth £39.95 a year, but is free to all Virgin Media broadband customers. It gives you full anti-virus coverage for up to three PCs.
  • Vodafone: with Vodafone you get a free six month sub to F Secure SAFE anti-virus package for up to five devices. After that, you can subscribe for £39.99 a year - half the normal price.
  • NOW Broadband: with NOW you get the Broadband Buddy service. This helps to protect you against malware-infected sites, but isn't a full anti-virus package.
  • John Lewis Broadband: John Lewis offers a full subscription to the Bullguard security package for Windows users.

If your supplier isn't on the list, there's loads of free anti-virus tools you can get instead. Bitdefender and Avast are among the most highly rated.

Malware isn't just a concern for those who browse the murkier reaches of the internet. Perfectly benign, mainstream websites can become compromised, and even ads can be crafted to try and do bad things without you even needing to click on them.

2. Keep your software updated

It's so tempting to turn off automatic software updates. They always pop up at the worst possible time, and if it happens to be a Windows update you can write off the next half hour waiting for it to finish.

Except, software updates are really important. Especially the Windows ones.

They don't just bring new features or improved performance, they make your computer more secure. Bugs in software can create the kind of security risks that malware thrives upon. Not only do they allow the malware into your system, they can also enable it to spread from one machine to another.

Updates shut down these vulnerabilities. At the very least, don't turn off updates to Windows or your web browser, such as Google Chrome. Better still, allow all your apps to update as they need to.

3. Learn how to recognise online scams

Malware is designed to exploit weaknesses in computer systems, but the truth is the weakest points of all are us, the users. You can lock down your laptop but it won't stop someone trying to trick you into handing over your passwords.

Phishing scams, as they're called, have moved on a lot since the days of the Nigerian prince who wanted to send you tens of millions of dollars. They're now a whole lot more sophisticated and difficult to spot. And it isn't just online that you need to be wary. You might get a text message purporting to be from your mobile network, or you could get a scam call from your broadband provider.

So, how do you spot scams? Here's a few tips:

  • Spelling and grammar mistakes in emails are a dead giveaway. Also, does the email greet you by name or a generic title?
  • Beware of emails demanding urgent action. Scammers try to scare you into responding, like telling you there's been a security alert on your account, or you're overdrawn, and you must log in to fix it.
  • Be wary of links in emails. Don't assume that the link is going to take you where you think it will.
  • Or just don't click links at all. Instead of clicking a link to one of your online services, manually type their address into your browser instead. Or pick up the phone and give them a call.
  • If it sounds suspicious, it probably is. If you didn't buy a lottery ticket, you didn't win the lottery.
  • Don't assume a fancy website means that a site is reputable. This is a rule to follow when shopping online, too.

Anti-virus software and web browsers will help you to sniff out phishing scams. What better reason to keep them up to date?

4. Use better passwords

We all know the importance of using strong passwords and not re-using them. But it can be difficult, since strong passwords are so much harder to remember. There are three things to try to make your life easier:

  1. Think in terms of passphrases instead of passwords. A sentence of eight random words is easier to remember - and type - than a password of eight random characters, but it's just as hard to crack.
  2. Consider using a password manager. Don't save your passwords in your web browser, use a dedicated password manager instead. This saves all your logins under a single, more secure password. With BT Broadband, the True Key offers exactly this feature and is worth trying out. Alternatively, take a look at LastPass or 1Password, both of which are free.
  3. Use two factor authentication. A large and growing number of services offer two factor authentication. When you log in you need to enter both your password and a second, unique code sent to your phone via an app or text message. It's a lot more secure.

5. Keep an eye on your privacy

Finally, keep an eye on how much information you're sharing online. If you use social networks you're probably sharing a lot more than you realise. Check the Privacy section in Facebook and other services to lock them down, and make sure your kids do this, too.

And speaking of kids, most broadband providers offer some form of parental controls that you can use to manage what people can see, or how long they can go online. These are worth setting up, but remember that they are by no means foolproof.

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Broadband Price Rises

What to do when your broadband provider puts their prices up

Posted on 2018-11-15 13:44 in Features

We've all been there. You seek out the best value broadband service; it all goes swimmingly for a few months; and then - Blam! - a letter lands on your doormat telling you that the price is going up.

Mid-contract price rises are the worst part of any broadband deal, and they're mostly unavoidable. But if the increase is larger than you're expecting you don't have to accept it. Depending on how much extra you're being asked to pay, and whether you knew about it before you signed up, you may have options.

Let's take a look at what you can do when your broadband supplier puts up their prices.

Are broadband suppliers allowed to put their prices up?

Nobody likes it when prices go up, but sometimes broadband providers are indeed allowed to start charging you more. In fact, in a lot of cases you'll have agreed to it. Here are the three main scenarios where you might encounter price hikes.

1. Your minimum contract period has ended.

To attract new customers, most broadband suppliers offer a bonus price that covers the minimum contract period, normally between six months and two years. When this period ends your broadband service will continue, but the price will shoot up by sometimes more than 50 percent. You can easily end up paying an extra £20 a month. What's worse, if you stick with this package you're likely to see annual price hikes way above average. To put it simply, when your minimum contract period ends you must start shopping for a new deal. And make a note of the date it ends, too, so you don't forget.

2. Your contract terms specify allowed price hikes.

On a variable deal, your provider will state in the contract that they can bump the price by maybe five or ten percent after a certain time. As long as they stay within this agreed amount, it's fine. But here's the thing: information on agreed price increases can't be hidden away in the small print where you might miss it. Everything you're agreeing to should be made clear before you sign up.

3. Prices go up in line with inflation or tax rises.

Providers can put up their prices if tax rates go up, or to keep in line with inflation. You can only leave penalty free if the price hike goes above the 2.5% allowed for inflation. Even fixed-price deals can be hit by this, as long as it's stated in the contract terms, so be sure to check the small print.

Other mid-contract price rises

Price rises aren't just limited to the ones that are written in your contract. Broadband providers might still jack up their prices for any number of reasons. Perhaps they want to bring you in line with their revamped pricing structure. Maybe they're improving the service, like making it faster. Or maybe they just need more money.

Whatever, you don't have to accept these increases. If it wasn't what you signed up to you have the right to cancel your contract without paying a penalty.

What needs to happen when the price goes up?

When your ISP decides they want to hit you up for a little extra cash, they must inform you in writing 30 days before the new prices come into effect. Make sure you keep an eye out for the letter or email because the timing is really important.

If you're eligible to leave mid-contract you will need to inform your provider during this 30 day period. If you wait longer than that you're effectively accepting the new prices and are stuck with them until your deal ends.

How you can cancel your contract without penalty

So, you've received a letter telling you that your broadband prices are going up, and by a larger amount than what you agreed to. You now have the right to find a new supplier, and you won't have to pay a termination fee even if you've got still got months left on your deal.

What you need to do is inform your provider of your plan to leave. Send them a letter or email, or give them a call to start the process in motion. Make sure to mention that you're leaving because of the price rise. You must do this within 30 days of receiving the letter informing you of the price rises. This is a legal right, so you shouldn't face any obstacles.

What are your options?

When you tell them that you're leaving, your provider might offer you a deal to get you stay. If you're happy with the service you've been getting then by all means try and negotiate for the best deal you can get. But remember, it's easy to switch broadband providers these days. Don't assume that staying with your old provider is the simplest option.

At the same time, start looking for a new package. Use our postcode checker to find the best broadband deals in your area. Providers reserve their best deals for new customers, so you should be able to save a heap of money over what you're currently paying. You can also use these prices if you decide to haggle with your existing provider instead.

Price rises are going to hit all of us eventually. But you can minimise the risks while shopping for a new deal. Some suppliers, like TalkTalk and Plusnet, are starting to offer more fixed-price deals. You can also pick up some fantastic introductory offers, with very low prices over the first year.

Click here to compare broadband prices and start shopping now.

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Best TV Deals

How to get the cheapest deals on all the TV channels you want

Posted on 2018-11-06 16:55 in Announcements Features

We're living in a golden age of TV. There's never been so many incredible shows to watch, and never so many different services to watch them on.

There's a bewlidering array of choices, and it presents you with a bit of a problem. Sign up to just a few channels and you might not able to get all the programmes you want; sign up for them all and you'll end up paying a fortune.

So what's the best way to make sure you don't miss all the unmissable new shows? Do you need Sky or can you stream instead? Should you pick Netflix or NOW TV? And what's the cheapest way to watch live Premier League football?

In the search to get all the channels you want, it's so easy end up with a lot more than you actually need. That's a waste - and completely unnecessary.

Our new in-depth guide to getting the best value TV services cuts through all the confusion. Whether you want boxsets, live sports or the hottest new movies, we'll tell you how to get it for the best possible price.

We'll show you:

  • The best way to catch prestige shows like House of Cards, The Crown and Game of Thrones, and how to find great deals on streaming services.
  • How you can save up to £100 a year on Premier League football by streaming with NOW TV instead of getting it direct from Sky.
  • How to put your old Sky dish and box to work and get access to 150+ free satellite channels.
  • Where to find the most - and the cheapest - HD movies, TV and sports.
  • How to get the best deals on broadband and TV bundles.

And this is only the start. The sheer range of TV options available to us all today is as vast as it is exciting. If you're still trying to figure out which services are right for you, and how you can spend the least amount of money to get them, check out our TV guide now.

Once you've decided what you need, take at the look at the latest TV and broadband bundles, or make sure your internet speed is ready for streaming with our top ultrafast fibre broadband deals.

Read our guide to getting the best TV services at the lowest prices.

 

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