If you’ve got this far, you should now you have a basic understanding of what NBN is (Part 1). In short, we want it – we want it bad, but what do we need to consider when choosing a provider and plan?
If you have looked at NBN plans before, then you will know there are a few different variables that most providers seem to offer. Now, assuming they are not just there to confuse us, what do they actually mean?
Analogy time – OK, let’s convert our NBN talk to something we all can understand. Imagine we are talking about watering our garden with a hose.
In our garden, this is how much water we can use each month. Once we have used our allocation (quota), then our tap gets turned right down (to a dribble).
The quota is simply a measure of ‘how much’ data (or internet stuff) you can download/stream in a month. Typically, you can choose from small amounts -100 megabytes (MB) – through to unlimited plans (which are what they say, no limits).
The hard bit is trying to guestimate how much you are going to use each month. It’s not the end of the world if you get it wrong though. Most providers will simply slow you down, rather than charge excess usage. You can also upgrade and monitor your usage online.
NBN charges your provider a consumption tax (they call it the ‘CVC charge’). Basically, the more that is used, the more the internet service provider (ISP) needs to pay NBN. That is why you see the NBN plan prices increase with larger quotas.
Hot Renter tip: We find that most Renters (especially if you are sharing) go for the unlimited plans. This means you don’t have to worry about one person using too much in a month (bloody roomie Dave, the leach!)
In our garden, this is simply the size of the hose. You can get NBN in normal size (probably a similar speed to what you have had before), right through to ‘Fire Hose‘ size (and this is perfect if you are downloading/streaming regularly).
Speed is the port speed of your service (the size of your pipe) and governs the throughput of your connection (how much internet you can consume at any time). Typically, 12, 25, 50 or 100MB/s are the normal options and depend on the technology type. There is no real right or wrong answer in terms of selecting what speed suits you. It really comes down to how many people want to use the service and what you are going to be using the service for. If you are at the “lite touch” end of NBN, i.e. a bit of email and web surfing, then the slower speeds may suit you fine. At the other end of the scale, if you have lots of people and lots of streaming, i.e. high definition video, then the faster speeds are for you.
NBN charge your ISP more for the higher speeds, and much like quota, this is passed to us via our plan prices.
NBN provide a bit of a guide, which you can read about here.
Hot Renter tip: This is a hard one to call. As you move up to speed food chain, there are typically price jumps of around $10 per month. Some providers offer free periods (at the higher speeds) so you can get a sense of the difference it makes. But be warned, once you have tasted the goodness of high speed it is very hard to go back to the stone age.
This one is self-explanatory. The contract length is simply how long you will commit to the ISP for. Standard choices are ‘month to month’ or a 12-month term.
ISPs prefer customers who commit for a period (say 12 months). This is because it helps them gradually write off the initial cost of some of their setup costs for your new connection.
The bonus for us is that ISPs generally reward customers for committing to a contract – this can be a slightly lower monthly fee, a free modem or both!
Hot Renter tip: Month-to-month may seem like the logical choice when renting, but most people end up staying in a place for years, so committing to a contract and saving the extra money is worth considering.
Right, so those are the 3 main points you might want to consider when trying to work out what sort of NBN plan you want.
Choosing an ISP
This can a bit contentious, but now we need to choose an ISP. This can be like choosing an AFL or NRL team – for some, it’s emotional and for others, it’s a logical decision. Let’s cover off on some of the main things to consider.
We all have that friend who is the ‘uber geek‘ – the one who can fix any problem, but sometimes you are going to need to contact your ISP for help. It’s worth considering if your ISP offers support. Can you speak to a human when you need to? Are they open 24×7? (The internet only breaks when you need it the most!)
This is an area where ISPs vary considerably – some are fantastic at support, some are absolutely atrocious.
If you haven’t already, then check out the forums at Whirlpool. This is Australia’s largest forum and covers everything ‘internet-related’ – but be warned, it’s full on.
Is the ISP reputable and reliable?
There are a lot of brands out there and like many things, you can get what you pay for. It’s not a question of company size (there are great ISPs that are big, there are great ones that are small), but there are also ones that don’t have a good reputation and seem to get a lot of customer complaints (Whirlpool can be useful here).
Earlier, we spoke about the consumption tax (the CVC charge) that means every ISP needs to pay NBN. Unfortunately, some ISPs are not provisioning enough capacity on their CVC’s. To try to save a few dollars, they squeeze too many people into a smaller pipe. This manifests to the home user as congestion, and you don’t get the throughput or speed you’re paying for.
Online tools / payment options
Most ISPs offer a wide choice of payment options, with DD CC being most common. Online tools are handy if you want to check and monitor your connection, but if you are on unlimited, there’s less of a need to check.
We’re mentioning this because for most people, this is one of the perceived barriers for changing providers.
If you’re not sure, you can check with your ISP. Some offer a service where you can keep your email address alive, even after you move (iiNet offer this, for example). For many people, simply using a freely available email service is enough (Google’s Gmail, for example) while others will want to set up their own domain (yourname.com) as it can stay with them wherever they go.
The point is, it’s worth looking around. Plans and performance will vary between providers and new brands enter the market all the time.
Internet is now a basic need for most of us and it’s something we need to sort out. Some people can survive on a 4G connection (in fact, some need to because they can’t get NBN fixed line services) but for most, the cost and quotas are too small.
Even if you’re in a shared house, the unlimited plans make sharing the connections easy (that’s Dave sorted) and the high-speed options mean you won’t even notice multiple people doing their own thing.
Prices do vary a bit but there are multiple providers (and even some good ones 😛 ) offering Unlimited plans at the maximum speed of 100MB/s for less than $100 a month.