ISP packages usually fall into the following
1. Pay-as-you-go - If you
only use the Internet for email and occasional browsing, say
a few hours a month, then this is probably your best option.
These services are often misleadingly called 'free' - you
don't pay a monthly fee, but you do have to pay for your Internet
phone calls. These are usually charged at a local rate, so
an hour's connection on a BT line would cost you about 90
pence off-peak, £2.40 peak. Pay-as-you-go accounts are usually
very quick and easy to set up, sometimes you don't even have
to register your address, the ISP will just display the necessary
access details online or email them to you straight away.
2. Off-peak deals - If you use
the Internet fairly frequently, but only in the evenings and
at weekends, there are numerous deals that give you unlimited
access at off-peak times for a fixed price per month. Many
of these packages are in conjunction with BT SurfTime, meaning
that you pay a monthly fee to both BT and your ISP, but now
there are cheaper products available without the need for
SurfTime. Expect to pay £5-10 per month.
3. Unmetered access - At one
point it looked as though there would never be reliable and
affordable unmetered access in the UK, but it seems as though
we have just about got there - and it's now amongst the cheapest
access in the world. Again, some packages are in conjunction
with BT SurfTime, but this can work out expensive. There are
now many FRIACO products offering fixed-price unmetered access
for £10-20 per month for home users, but many of these still
require a BT line. You do have to be careful though - many
ISPs have been unable to sustain an unmetered service, leaving
many subscribers high and dry. Performance tends to be poorer
than for other dial-up services and you also have to watch
the terms and conditions - some ISPs will restrict what you
can download or place cut-off times to prevent continuous
use. There are unmetered packages available for business use,
but these tend to be much more expensive.
4. Subscription - There
are lots of subscription packages where you pay a monthly
fee and for your phone charges too. This isn't as ridiculous
as it sounds, especially for business users. You often get
a quicker more reliable service with good technical support
and other services - although it doesn't always follow.
5. Broadband - If you use
the Net a lot and are prepared to pay for speed, go broadband.
This gives you always-on, unmetered access at almost ten times
the speed of a standard modem. Some of the best value deals
are through the cable companies, where you can get high-speed
Internet from just £25 per month if you subscribe to their
other services. If you are not in a cable area, or if you
are a business customer, you'll probably have to go for ADSL.
This usually starts at about £40 per month for home-users
and £100 for multi-user business connections, although there
is often a hefty installation fee too. However, ADSL is still
not available in many areas, particularly in rural regions.
The performance of nearly all ISPs is very variable - for
every report of great service we tend to get another saying
the opposite. But some do seem to satisfy their customers
more than others. These ten are a selection of those that
Internet Magazine and their readers consider the better options
- they may not necessarily be right for you, but they are
worth checking out.
Snowgoose thinks you won't go far wrong with Virgin,
- however, it's a bit like choosing a washing machine or a
new car - you have to decide what's best for your circumstances.
We don't like BT
because we have first-hand experience of their terrible service
and customer support - however this is purely our own opinion,
and not everyone may have the same experience when using their
- Voted best ISP on the Planet by the Internet Magazine
team in 2000. Not the cheapest, but one of the most reliable.
Starts at about £14 per month, but you still pay for the phone
connection while on line, i.e. not unmetered access.
(NOTE: Snowgoose has had a Demon account for a long
time. However, their service has deteriorated slightly since
2001 and we only use their service as a back-up connection
if any of our other ISP connections fail)
- If you can, get the cable company's blueyonder high-speed
Internet service - you'll never look back - but it's definitely
not available in North Northumberland!
Virgin Net -
Did very well in the Internet Magazine ISP survey last year
and this, one of the best for customer service. Has launched
new unmetered service, but also rumoured to be a takeover
Perhaps Europe's fastest growing ISP with a good product range
at affordable prices. Definitely won't be going under any
time soon. Voted top ISP for 2001 by Internet Magazine.
Claranet - A large
variety of packages with good all round service. About £7.95
plus VAT. Snowgoose use Claranet as our main ISP, and we
are fairly pleased with their service so far.
- doing fairly well lately (2003), getting good reviews and
ratings in the major surveys produced by the UK Internet press.
Pipex - A bit
pricey perhaps, but Pipex knows what it is doing
Rednet - A top performing
AOL - Not everyone's
cup of tea, but ideal for beginners (Snowgoose do not
recommend this option for a variety of reasons, but some people
really like it - clever marketing!). Also, in January
2003, they have notched up the biggest loss in US corporate
history - $99 billion. You can read about it here.
- A veteran no-frills ISP still going strong
Net in Nutshell
- An unmetered ISP that actually serves those with an NTL
line, which is a rarity at the moment, but will it fail like
- Snowgoose dislike BT intensely. We have first-hand
experience of their diabolical service. However, several of
our existing customers use the BT monthly subscription service
(Btopenworld Anytime) and seem fairly happy with it. The choice