We've all got horror stories about bad customer service. But it's people with health, financial or emotional problems that are still having the most inconsistent experiences when they contact their broadband provider's customer service team.
That's the big finding from research by Ofcom, which looked at the progress the industry has made since the watchdog last year published its guidelines for treating vulnerable customers fairly.
They found that while some users received extra support due to their circumstances, and others reported positive experiences despite the provider not knowing about their vulnerability, the overall service was still patchy.
It suggested that people's experiences were heavily dependent on the member of staff they spoke to, with no guarantee they would get to deal with the same person twice.
It suggests there's still plenty of room for improvement in the training of customer support teams.
What makes a customer vulnerable?
Vulnerabilities come in many forms. They include physical and mental health problems, debt or unemployment, bereavement, or even becoming a victim of crime.
Unsurprisingly, the number of vulnerable customers has increased during the pandemic and its subsequent economic fallout.
While Ofcom rules require all providers to have policies in place for helping vulnerable customers, it isn't always easy for them to automatically tell if someone needs extra support. If you regard yourself as being in a vulnerable group, or if your circumstances have recently changed (you might have lost your job, for example), you should contact your broadband supplier and let them know.
They'll add that information to your account, and it should inform any relevant future interactions you have with them.
What kind of support can you get?
With the definition of vulnerable being quite broad and varied, the types of support you can get are also broad and varied.
You should have access to a range of communications channels to speak to customer support. This could include text relay services or support in different languages.
You should be given the time to get help, support and advice on managing debts without the threat of enforcement action.
Providers could consider giving you a payment holiday to help you manage cashflow issues.
Broadband providers should regard disconnection as a last resort.
Broadband providers' vulnerability policies
Ofcom's guidance expects a number of things from broadband suppliers. They should train their staff to be able to recognise the characteristics, behaviours and verbal cues of someone who might be vulnerable, so they can be proactive in offering support. They should identify vulnerable customers and record their needs. And they should make all of their customers aware of the kinds of support and services that they offer.
Many providers publish vulnerability policies. Some have specific support teams in place for vulnerable customers, and some make it easy for you to register your vulnerable status with them. This information will be treated in confidence, and is subject to all the usual data protection legislation.
Here are the relevant pages for many of the leading providers:
Some of the things you can expect include ways to improve access to support via text relay and NGT services or braille guides; simple instructions on using accessibility services like subtitles on TV; and specific policies and help for dealing with financial issues. Naturally, what's promised and what's delivered are not always the same thing, so check our user reviews to see our customers' experiences of their providers' tech support.
If you want to read the full Ofcom report, click here. Or if you want to compare the best broadband deals in your area today, use our postcode search tool to get started.
You know how it goes. Whenever you start shopping for a new broadband deal, you find yourself being steered towards the faster, flashier and more expensive services.
The thing is, not everyone needs an upgrade. Some of us are happy with what we've already got, and some don't even need that.
If you don't have a house full of kids who are all online 24/7, or if you live on your own, or are part of the generation that's less computer-reliant, then you may be able to get away with a much more basic broadband service. It could even save you some money in the process.
Let's take a look at your options.
How light is light use?
First of all, you need to work out how much you actually use the internet, to make sure your usage is as low as you think it is.
If your usage is mostly things like web browsing, shopping and bill paying then that's definitely light use. TV streaming counts as well, so long as there's only one person in your house doing it at any given time, and that you don't want to watch in the highest quality on your massive 4K TV.
But there are lots of other things as well that you don't tend to think about: Windows updates on your laptop that happen in the background, downloading movies and TV shows to your Sky Q box, playing games, and sharing large files for work. And all those other little devices you've got connected to your Wi-Fi. Some of them won't be downloading much, but it all adds up.
Chances are that you do use more bandwidth than you realise, so do make sure that you buy a broadband service that's right for your needs.
Broadband for light use
The slowest broadband you can get is standard broadband. This is the old pre-fibre service that runs entirely on the copper phone network. It offers average speeds of around 11Mb, which is enough for general web use or for one person to watch Netflix in HD.
Standard broadband is old tech and is set to be phased out in a few years, but you can still get it right now. It doesn't offer huge savings - standard broadband will typically save you a couple of pounds a month, but over the course of a year they do amount to the cheapest deals you can get.
If you don't want to go quite that slow, the most basic fibre deal you can get is from Onestream. Their 17Mb service is the cheapest widely available fibre broadband package.
Most suppliers' entry-level fibre offers more than double that speed, at around 36Mb. Almost every broadband company has a deal at this level, so there's bags of competition on price and service. TalkTalk, Vodafone and EE all have deals around the same price point for the same speed services.
36Mb is ideal for light use - it's affordable but not too restrictive. It can handle many people online at the same, with even two or three streaming movies simultaneously, so has plenty of headroom for when you have guests round.
You could also consider some specialist providers. Hyperoptic and Community Fibre have great value full fibre packages - at 30Mb and 50Mb respectively - but they're both available in only very limited areas. Or you could go for a mobile broadband deal, running on the 4G network (or 5G in some areas), such as the 18Mb plan from Three.
You don't always have to buy the best or fastest broadband deal around. Pick what you need, and if you only need something basic then you've got plenty of choices.
Ready to start shopping for a new broadband deal? Just enter your postcode into our postcode checker and you'll be able to see exactly what offers are available in your street right now.
Make sure you read the terms carefully when you take out a new broadband deal: there's a growing trend for some providers to sneak in new clauses promising significant mid-contract price rises.
The four BT Group brands - BT, EE, Plusnet and John Lewis - have now all announced new policies to allow bigger price hikes on their deals. They will see annual increases equal to the consumer price index (CPI) inflation rate - plus an extra 3.9% on top.
Previously, ISPs would typically peg their rises to the CPI, or in some cases promise none at all.
Plusnet, for example, have effectively replaced their heralded fixed price guarantee with the guarantee of at least one - and potentially two - price rises over the course of a broadband deal.
BT, meanwhile, no longer offer contracts shorter than the two-year maximum that Ofcom allows. That means you'll be paying at least 7.95% more at the end of your deal than you were at the start.
Here's what they've announced:
BT and EE are using the CPI published every January. The price rises go into effect from 31st March each year, and apply to customers who signed up after 1st September 2020.
For the 2021 increase, Plusnet and John Lewis are using the CPI published in April and applying the increase from 1st June. After that, they're using the CPI published every January, and adding the increase to bills from 1st March. It affects customers who signed up from 7th October.
If you're on an older deal and still within your initial contract period you won't be affected by these changes until the time comes for you to renew. If you're out of contract you will be affected, although you should never stay on an out-of-contract deal for long.
So how much more will you be paying? For reference, the CPI rate for December 2019 was 1.3%, so that's the rate by which your price would have gone up on most deals. Under the new policy, that increase would have been a hefty 5.2%.
The Bank of England's target for the CPI is even higher at 2%. Of course, with the uncertainty that comes from the UK being in the middle of the biggest economic slump in 300 years, it's hard to predict what that rate will be in future. Needless to say, negative inflation won't result in a discount as that 3.9% will stay in place regardless.
What can you do?
Ofcom rules state that you can quit your contract without penalty if your broadband provider introduces "unexpected" mid-contract increases. But by announcing these plans, and writing them into your contract, they won't be classed as unexpected, so there's no escape.
What you can do instead is ensure you factor in the changes in your monthly charges when you're comparing broadband deals. And also keep in mind the date you sign up. If you take out one of these deals in February or March you'll be hit by an immediate price hike.
This move makes genuine fixed price guarantees more valuable than ever, especially if you're signing up for longer than 12 months. TalkTalk, italk and SSE are among the suppliers still offering them, so if you want clarity over what your bills will look like over the next couple of years they're worth checking out.
Fast, reliable broadband is a must-have for any student house. And given that it can take a couple of weeks to set up, it's one of the first things you'll want to get sorted when you move in for the new term.
If you haven't signed up for your own broadband package before, we'll tackle some of the questions you might have here.
It's all pretty straightforward, but as a student you won't have quite as many options as everyone else. Contract length is absolutely vital - you don't want to be saddled with a long term deal that you have to keep paying for during the summer holidays or beyond.
And with all the corona-driven uncertainty this year, flexibility is more important than ever. Let's take a look at some of the things you need to know.
What speed do you need?
Your usage is probably going to be pretty high, so the fibre deals in the 60-67Mb average speed range should be your starting point.
You might get away with one of the slower fibre packages if there's only two people in your house, but in most cases the extra speed will be worth more than the fiver or so difference in price.
Faster is always better, of course, and you might be lucky enough to be living in an area where you can get speeds over 100Mb - and sometimes quite a lot more. These might come from the normal fibre providers like BT or Sky, from Virgin Media, or in 5G areas through the likes of EE and Three. Just make sure you keep an eye on the contract length and any setup fees for these faster deals.
What length contract should you get?
Short contracts are key for student broadband, so don't even consider those that need an 18 or 24 month commitment.
12 months is the longest you should go for, but even then you'll end up with quite an overlap with the summer break where you're still paying for your internet while you're hitting the beaches in Spain. Don't rule these out entirely, though, as they might still work out cheaper than a shorter option.
BT offer a few nine month deals that align much better with your term time. Some broadband suppliers, including NOW Broadband and Virgin Media, also offer 30-day rolling contracts that you can cancel at any time. These are best for zero-commitment broadband, but they do often come with significant setup fees. Be sure to factor that in when you're comparing prices.
Do you need any extras?
If Netflix isn't enough and you want a bit of sports action or some more of the latest US shows, you can save some money by adding a pay TV plan to you broadband deal. You won't be able to do this through Sky, as they only offer TV on an 18 month contract, but you can get 30-day deals on NOW TV streaming with NOW Broadband.
For any overseas students in your house, consider adding a call plan with support for cheap international calls.
Who pays the bill?
Even though you'll be splitting the bill with all your housemates, one of you is going to have put their name on the contract. It will be their responsibility. This is one of the reasons why you don't want to sign up to anything longer than 12 months, tops. You don't want to be stuck paying your broadband bill long after your housemates have moved on.
It's a good idea to assign each one of your utilities to a different person in your household so you share the risk. To help manage bills you can also look into setting up a shared bank account across the household, or take a look at apps like Splitwise that make it easier to see who owes what.
Best broadband deals for students
So, what student broadband deal should you choose?
BT offer three plans specifically for students. They're nine month deals, with speeds ranging from 36Mb to 67Mb. You can add a Sports or Entertainment TV package, as well as call plans including cheap international calls to 236 countries.
For one month contracts, you've got two main choices:
NOW Broadband - speeds range from a sedate 11Mb (don't bother!) to a much more suitable 63Mb, with the option to add streaming TV plans as well. All of them come with a £65 upfront fee.
Virgin Media - speeds on the 30-day plans range from around 54Mb all the way up to over 500Mb. Many setup fees have been waived on the 1 month rolling contracts that are specifically for students, but bear in mind that installation takes longer if your house hasn't had Virgin before.
Your other options are for 12 month contracts. When you add in the setup fees and slightly higher prices for short deals, these year-long plans may still end up being competitive, even though you'll still be paying in July and August when you don't need it. Among your best options here are:
John Lewis Broadband - speeds go up to an average 66Mb, with no activation fee, and usually include an e-gift card as a bonus.
Plusnet - speeds up to 66Mb, with just a £10 activation fee. You also get the option to add BT Sport - with Premier League and Champions League football - after you've signed up.
And there's one last thing to consider - broadband over 4G or 5G. This won't be right for everyone: 4G speeds are better for one or two users rather than a large, heavy-use household, and though 5G is blazing fast it still has very patchy coverage. If you're in the right part of London, Three's 5G Home Unlimited plans look good, and include a 12 month option. Find more great mobile broadband deals here.
Ready to start shopping for student broadband? Use our postcode checker to compare the best broadband deals available in your area today.
A lot of broadband suppliers offer freebies to tempt you to sign up, and some of them are really worth having. They can range from cashback and bill credit, to shopping vouchers, and sometimes even tech gadgets. They change all the time, so if you're on the hunt for a new deal it's worth keeping an eye out for what's around.
But the important thing to remember is that you very often have to claim your reward separately. And you normally only get a short window in which to do so - miss it and you'll miss out!
We've got a full guide to broadband rewards and free gifts if you want to know more. Or if you just want to know how to claim your swag for many of the main providers, here's what you need to do.
How to claim Plusnet rewards
Plusnet regularly offer cashback, gift cards and reward cards to new customers. They'll send you an email within 10 days of your signing up with a link to claim your reward. You then need to claim it within two months, and should get it around 10 days later.
How to claim BT rewards
A lot of BT Broadband deals include a BT Reward Card as their special offer. This is preloaded with a cash sum that you can spend in most places that accept Mastercard payments. You can claim up to three months after your broadband is activated, and it should arrive within 30 days. Visit https://www.bt.com/manage/bt-reward-card/ to start your claim.
How to claim Sky Broadband rewards
Sky Broadband offer a range of sweeteners at various times, including a pre-paid Mastercard and high street vouchers. You get 90 days to claim your reward. If you're eligible, head over to sky.com/claim and log in with your Sky ID to start the process.
How to claim John Lewis Broadband rewards
Rewards from John Lewis Broadband include e-gift cards that can be spent at John Lewis or Waitrose. You don't need to claim this one - it should be sent via email within 60 days of the activation of your broadband service, so keep an eye on your inbox.
How to claim NOW Broadband rewards
NOW Broadband don't offer as many extra perks as other providers, but when they do have them they'll send the info on how to claim via email. You should get this within two weeks of your service being activated.
How to claim EE rewards
EE Broadband regularly offer cashback or Amazon gift cards as a reward for signing up. If you're eligible for one of the gift cards you'll be sent an email with instructions on how to claim it after your broadband goes live.
How to claim TalkTalk rewards
When TalkTalk offer rewards, they're normally either e-gift cards for specific stores or vouchers to be spent on the high street. Look out for an email with all the details, and you should receive your reward within 90 days of activation.
How to claim Virgin Media rewards
Virgin Media rewards can include bill credit, tech products or even wine, and you don't normally have to claim. The credit will be applied to your bill automatically, and any free gift will be sent out within 28 days of installation of your Virgin service.
To see what free gifts are available right now, take a look at the best broadband deals available today.
Over one and a half million of us in the UK work from home, and the number is growing rapidly. But balancing out the sheer joy of being able to work in your pyjamas is the knowledge that you no longer have an IT-guy to sort out all your tech troubles.
And the biggest of all these troubles is your broadband: if it goes down, you'll lose money.
Let's take a look at how to find the right broadband for your home office.
What speed you need
Whenever you compare broadband deals, finding the right speed is your first priority. For your home office, any fibre deal should offer fast enough downloads for most needs.
However, you need to consider who else will be using your internet while you're working. If it's just you, then fine. But if your kids are going to be jumping onto YouTube and start FaceTiming as soon as they get home from school, you might want to opt for a faster fibre deal to ensure you won't have any interruptions.
Don't overlook the upload speed, too. You need a good upload speed if you do a lot of video conferencing, or need to send large files to clients. For this reason we'd recommend steering clear of a cheap standard broadband plan, as the upload speeds are usually dreadful.
Reliability and support
When you rely on your internet connection to earn a living you need to be confident that it will work reliably. If there are problems you need access to good customer support to fix them. To make your decision a little easier take a look at our customer reviews for all broadband providers. They show ratings for speed, reliability, support and overall satisfaction.
There's often a link between reliability and support, and price. Cheaper services from less established players tend to attract more negative reviews and lower satisfaction levels. It might be worth paying a little extra for a plan from one of the bigger brands.
Also, keep an eye out for speed and performance guarantees from the different broadband suppliers, which will help you avoid being left high and dry should problems strike. On BT Plus plans, for example, you'll be sent a 4G Mini Hub to keep you connected if your broadband ever develops a fault.
Static IP address
So far, the issues we've looked at are ones that you'd consider when buying any broadband service. Next up is a factor that mostly applies only to a subset of remote workers: the need for a static IP address.
In simple terms, an IP address is the address of your computer on the network. With all home broadband packages it's assigned dynamically, so you get a new one each time you connect. A static IP address means you keep the same address permanently.
Why might you need a static IP address? There's plenty of reasons, like if you're running a server or hosting your own website, or if you need a secure way to remotely log in to your employer's computer systems.
You get a dynamic IP address with all home broadband products and you'll need to check if your chosen provider can offer you a static address instead. As an example, Plusnet will give you a static IP for a one-off fee of £5, but BT won't let you have one on their residential packages. You need to switch to a business plan instead.
Full Wi-Fi coverage
You don't just need to find the right broadband, you need to get it working well enough, too. And that means making sure your Wi-Fi coverage extends to wherever you set up your office. Now, if you're just working from your dining room then you're probably already good to go. But if you're planning to convert your loft - or even your shed - into an office, you should hold off on that trip to Ikea until you're sure you've got your internet sorted first.
Your Wi-Fi signal is less likely to reach into the furthest corners of your house or garden. Even if it does, a weaker signal will mean slower speeds. Grab your laptop and head out to your office location, then use our Broadband Speed Test tool to find out if your connection and speeds are up to scratch.
Finally, you might be wondering if you need a specialist business broadband package when working from home, or if you're okay with a normal home deal. It depends on what type of work you're doing, and what's specified in your provider's terms and conditions.
BT say that their broadband is only for personal use; John Lewis Broadband say that "occasional home working is acceptable"; while Virgin Media offer the HomeWorks upgrade for £9.99 a month, which adds remote worker-friendly features to a residential plan. In all cases, a residential call plan will be strictly limited to personal use - so don't go setting up a call centre in your kitchen.
Business broadband will get you the option of a static IP address, better customer support - usually 24/7 - and better security options as well. Prices from suppliers like Plusnet aren't all that much higher than what you'd pay for home broadband.
Want more on finding the right internet service for your remote working needs? Check out our full guide to home office broadband.
There are so many strong broadband offers being presented this week that we felt it was time for another round up of the best broadband discounts and rewards around.
Onestream has one of the cheapest broadband deals we've ever seen. The Flow Unlimited package offers average speeds of 11Mb and is an impressively low £13.99 a month on a 12 month contract, with line rental included! Onesteam also have a range of competitively priced Fibre products, starting with their 17Mb average speed truly unlimited Jetstream Lite Fibre that comes in at just £17.99 a month on a 12 month contract with line rental included - that's cheaper than many provider's standard broadband deals!1 £9.99 setup cost applies on all offers.
Shell Energy aren't far behind Onestream for extremely cheap standard broaband, their Fast Broadband package with average speeds of 11Mb is only £15.99 a month all in.2
There are also a number of strong reward offers on this week. For example, if you want a Fibre package from BT, then not only will you get a BT Reward card, you'll also receive a Marks & Spencer voucher! Superfast Fibre is £31.99 a month and comes with an £80 M&S voucher and a £30 Reward Card, while Superfast Fibre 2 is £39.99 a month with an £80 M&S voucher and a £60 Reward Card.3
Plusnet have a mix of reward cards and cashback offers on their broadband and phone bundles this week. Unlimited Broadband is £18.99 a month in low cost areas and comes with £75 cashback, Unlimited Fibre is £24.50 a month and comes with £50 cashback, while the Unlimited Fibre Extra package is £27.50 a month and comes with a £60 reward card. You'll need to hurry, because the Fibre offers end tomorrow night!4
John Lewis are bundling in a Google Home Hub with all their broadband products. This is a hands-free Smart Speaker with a 7" screen worth £119! You can choose between Broadband Unlimited with average speeds of 10Mb for £20 a month, Fibre Broadband with average speeds of 36Mb for £28.50 a month or Fibre Extra with average speeds of 66Mb for £35 a month.5
Blink and you'll miss it, Virgin Media's flash sale on TV bundles starts today. You can get a fantastic £150 bill credit on select broadband and TV packages. Choose from the Bigger Bundle for £57 a month, Bigger Bundle + Movies for £62 a month or the Bigger Bundle + Sports for £72 a month - all of these packages have average speeds of 108Mb. If you to up your speeds to an average of 213Mb and get more TV options, you can get the Bigger Bundle + Sports & Movies for £79 a month. Or you could go all out and get Sky Cinema, Sky Sports, BT Sport, Kids Pick and whopping average speeds of 516Mb with the Ultimate Oomph Bundle for £99 a month. Hurry, this offer ends on the 12th July!6
All offers available to new customers only unless otherwise specified. Some offers only available in provider network areas. Use our Use our postcode checker or verify on the provider landing pages to find out what's available in your area. See respective landing pages for full terms and conditions and details of how to claim rewards.
1. 12 month minimum contract. Standard broadband price rises to £24.99 from month 13, Fibre Lite rises to £27.99 from month 13. £9.99 delivery fee for the router applies to all deals. Further terms and conditions may apply, see Onestream site for details. Offer is only available via the landing pages linked from this blog post and may end at any time.
2. All Shell Energy deals are on an 18 month contract. Prices will rise from month 19, see Shell Energy site for more details. Offers are only available via the landing page linked from this blog post and ends 11:59pm 8th August.
3. 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 prepaid Mastercard of the specified amount. BT have announced the intention to raise all prices by a small amount annually from March 2020 in line with the consumer price index, this figure is published each January. Offers end 11:59pm 11th July.
4. All Plusnet deals are 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. Customers outside Plusnet Low Cost network areas pay an additional £7.50 per month on all broadband products. Plusnet reward is a prepaid Mastercard of the specified amount, cashback will be issued as a cheque when your broadband is active. Offers are only available via the link in this blog post. Fibre broadband offers end 11:59pm 9th July, standard broadband offer ends 11:59pm 16th July.
5. Virgin Media packages are on a 12 month contract, prices will rise from month 13. £35 upfront cost applies. Credit will be applied to your first bill. See Virgin Media website for full details about included channels and extras. Offer ends 11:59pm 10th July.
6. John Lewis Broadband products come on a 12 month contract, John Lewis will contact you before this is up to inform you of price rises from month 13. Offer ends 11:59pm 30th July.
7. 24 month minimum contract. Availability and speeds vary depending on the mobile coverage in your area and level of usage on the same cell tower. Traffic prioritisation will apply so some services may be slower during peak times. Offer ends 11:59pm 22nd August. Three have announced the intention to raise all prices by a small amount annually from March 2020 in line with the consumer price index, this figure is published each January. Check coverage for your area on the Three website.
It's time for another of our semi-regular rewards roundups, where we do all the hard work for you and gather the best offers of the week for you all in one handy post!
BT are back with a bountiful tech plus reward card offer on Superfast Fibre packages. The tech on offer is worth up to £149, and is a choice between a JBL Bar Studio speaker, a Hive Smart Lights pack or an Amazon Echo. If this offer appeals then you can get your choice of tech on the Superfast Fibre package for £29.99 a month along with £40 Reward Card, or Superfast Fibre 2 for £39.99 a month with a £70 Reward Card.1
If you're a light user who just wants a cheaper option, or fibre isn't available in your area yet, then BT are still showing you some love. You can get the standard BT Broadband package with average speeds of 10Mb for £24.99 a month with a £40 Reward Card. It's worth remembering that you can throw a BT TV package into all these deals for the same rewards, with prices starting at £34.99 a month.1
If you want to grab a £75 or £100 gift card with a Vodafone fibre package, then this offer is only available through the links in this blog post! Superfast Fibre 1 is £21 a month with a £75 gift card, and, if it's available in your area, Superfast Fibre 2 is £26 a month with a £100 gift card. The gift card is a choice between Amazon.co.uk, Currys PC World or Marks and Spencer.2
TalkTalk have a strong voucher offer on their fibre packages, but only if you use the links in this blog post. You can get a pre-paid Mastercard or a voucher of your choice from Amazon, Tesco or Ticketmaster! If you opt for TalkTalk's Fibre package at £24.50 a month then your reward value will be £70. If it's available in your area, then you can get the boosted Faster Fibre packagefor £27 a month and your reward value will be £80!3
Plusnet's reward card offer is available on both their fibre with phone packages. Unlimited Fibre is £23.50 a month and comes with a £50 reward card, and Unlimited Fibre Extra is £27.50 a month with a £70 reward card, provided it's available in your area.4
In a Virgin Media network area? Want the fast broadband speeds but not interested in a TV package? The VIVID 50 + Phone package might be for you. It's £27 a month with free setup, comes with a £50 bill credit and is only available through the link in this post!5
All offers available to new customers only unless otherwise specified. Some offers only available in provider network areas. Use our Use our postcode checker to find out what's available in your area. See respective landing pages for full terms and conditions and details of how to claim rewards.
1. 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 prepaid Mastercard of the specified amount plus a choice of tech between a JBL Bar Studio speaker, a Hive Smart Lights pack or an Amazon Echo. Offers end 11:59pm 23rd May.
2. Vodafone fibre products are on an 18 month contract. You must enter a valid email address on the WeGift landing page before you sign up. Offer ends 11:59pm 29th May.
3. TalkTalk Fast Fibre products are on an 18 month contract. You must enter a valid email address on the Giftcloud landing page before you sign up. Offer ends 11:59pm 23rd May.
4. Plusnet Fibre products are 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. Customers outside Plusnet Low Cost network areas pay an additional £7.50 per month on all broadband products. Plusnet reward is a prepaid Mastercard of the specified amount. Offers end 11:59pm 21st May.
5. Virgin Media VIVID 50 is on an 18 month contract. Credit will be applied to your first bill. Offer ends 11:59pm 5th June.
6. John Lewis Broadband products come on a 12 month contract, John Lewis will contact you before this is up to inform you of price rises from month 13. E-gift card can be redeemed at John Lewis or Waitrose. Offer ends 11:59pm 10th June.
The first of the month usually has broadband providers dusting off some good offers, and today is no exception. Take your pick from the great deals below!
BT have a very tempting offer this week. Not only can you bag a BT reward card on most packages, if you opt for a fibre product you also get a choice of an Amazon Echo, a Fitbit Charge 3 or a Samsung Tablet A 10.1 - worth up to £179! Superfast Fibre is £29.99 a month and comes with an £80 reward card or, if it's available in your area, you can get Superfast Fibre 2 for £39.99 a month with a £120 reward card.
If you’re not looking from fibre from BT, their standard Broadband with Weekend Calls is only £24.99 a month and comes with a £50 reward card, though sadly no tech extras. TV packages with these rewards are also available.1
TalkTalk’s Fast Broadband package is only £17 a month and comes with a £60 voucher. This offer is only available through the link in this blog post.3
John Lewis have several e-gift cards on offer, depending on the package you opt for. Broadband Unlimited is £20 a month and comes with a £35 e-gift card, Fibre is £28.50 a month and comes with a £50 e-gift card for and Fibre Extra is £35 a month and comes with a £75 e-gift card.4
EE have a Double Data Boost on all their broadband packages. If you have a mobile calling plan with EE you can increase your mobile data allowance by 10GB instead of the usual 5GB boost. Your broadband packages options are Standard Broadband for £21 a month, Fibre Broadband for £27 a month, or Fibre Plus for £31 a month. TV packages are also available.5
All offers available to new customers only unless otherwise specified. See respective landing pages for full terms and conditions and details of how to claim rewards.
1. 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. Offers ends midnight ending 14th March.
2. 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. Offers ends midnight ending 12th March.
3. TalkTalk Fast Broadband is on a 12 month contract. Vouchers are a choice between Amazon.co.uk, Argos, Tesco or Ticketmaster. Offer ends midnight ending 15th March.
4. Offer is on an 18 month contract, John Lewis will contact you before this is up to inform you have price rises from month 19. E-gift card can be redeemed at John Lewis or Waitrose. Offer ends midnight ending 5th March.
5. Offer available to existing mobile customers. All EE products are on an 18 month contract. You will be contacted before your contract is up to inform you of price rises from month 19. Data should be added to your mobile account. Offer ends midnight ending 28th March.
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:
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.
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.
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.