Are you really getting good value from your broadband provider?

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Broadband providers invariably promise lightening fast connection speeds in their advertisements and promotional material. However, once you get connected the reality can be far different. In fact, sometimes it can seem like you are back in the dark days of dial-up. Here is some advice on what you should look out for when choosing a broadband provider.

The first thing you need to do is find out who provides broadband in your area. In most areas you will have a choice between at least two providers and potentially a lot more. You will also be able to choose between a standard or a wireless package.

In general, standard packages should give you a better connection speed than wireless, but not always. Also, wireless can be handy if you have a laptop as you will probably be able to connect anywhere in your local area.

When you look at different broadband products you will notice that they can provide connection speeds 'up to' certain limits. 'Up to' is the operative phrase here as many services will not come near this stated upper limit, or will only do so in the dead of night.

Contention ratio

One of the main reasons many broadband packages rarely reach the promised speeds is because of high contention ratios. To explain, broadband providers lease connections to internet backbones, which are extremely fast internet lines. The number of customers an broadband provider packs onto each of these connections determines the contention ratio.

So, if you are sharing this connection with 99 other users (100:1 ratio) it will be very slow if everyone is accessing it at once. However, if there are just 20 people sharing the connection (20:1 ratio), you should always get good speeds. We advise you to look for contention ratios of 20:1, or 33:1 at the most, and a speed of up to 8Mb. This should give you a very good connection speed, even during the day.

Contention ratio isn't the only factor that will determine the speed of your broadband connection, but it is certainly one that you can check before buying. Your ISPs quality of service will also be a factor, but this is difficult to gauge for the average consumer. However, checking the internet for other consumers' opinions and customer testimonials on services you are interested in is always a good idea.

For most home users, download speeds are the main concern. However, if you have your own websites or if you have a small business that needs to upload information to servers regularly you may want to check out upload speeds as well.

Other issues

Amazingly, some broadband providers still impose monthly download limits. This practice should be a thing of the past and we encourage you to reject these products out of hand. There are plenty of competitively priced packages on the market with no download limits.

If you have concerns about your broadband connection, you can test your connections speed on websites like Speedtest.net. However, the results you see here will not always reflect the connection speeds you experience as an end user.

There are many factors that can affect the speed of your broadband connection, and many of these will be beyond even your broadband providers control. However, if you choose a provider with a low contention ratio and reasonable upload speeds you should get a good service.

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