Broadband

 
 
Speed: The speed of your connection affects how responsive the internet feels when you are browsing, and how long it takes to download updates and large emails. Faster is better.
ADSL Broadband from the Catterline exchange can operate at speeds of "up to 8Mbps", although what speed you will actually get depends on how far away from the exchange you are and how good your line is. If you have a poor line and are a long way from the exchange, you might not be able to get broadband at all.
You can get an idea of what speeds to expect using DSLZone's Broadband checker.
Transfer allowance: Most ISPs have some form of limit to the amount of data you can transfer in a month, and this can vary from a microscopic 250 Mb up to "unlimited". In practice, anything that is sufficiently above what you'd normally download is, to all intents and purposes, unlimited. How much you download depends on what you do with your broadband connection, but for normal email and web browsing you would be unlikely to use much more than 2 or 3 Mb per month. If you do a lot of P2P, BitTorrent and binary newsgroup stuff you could go considerably over that, but if you know what those terms mean then you don't need me to tell you about transfer limits.
I use the web and email quite a bit, and transfer between 2 and 4 Gb/month.
BT have a very nice little usage calculator which you can use to estimate how much you are likely to download in a month.
Catterline's exchange now supports Broadband Internet access (also known as ADSL) and, as of 31st March 2006, also supports the new ADSL Max service which can give download speeds of "up to 8Mbps". Unfortunately, as you've probably already realised, this does not mean that your existing dialup or broadband internet connection has suddenly got a lot faster. What you need to do to get a broadband connection to your home is to sign up with an Internet Service Provider (ISP). If you already have broadband and want to take advantage of the increased speeds possible with ADSL Max, you'll need to see what options your ISP has for upgrading and perhaps compare this to what other ISPs are offering, as many of them have revised their product lines now that ADSL Max is widely available.
There are dozens ISPs who would be delighted to receive your order, but choosing the right one can be a bit daunting, especially as no ISPs offer products that are exactly comparable with those of other ISPs. The ADSLGuide is an independent website that has tons of information about broadband, and also has ISP comparison data which shows which ISPs get the highest customer ratings. DSL Zone UK has similar ISP comparisons including a rather nice online ratings comparison graph.
The three main things that differentiate the ISPs and their products are;
  1. speed
  2. transfer allowance (or "cap")
  3. price
Speed is how fast you can download to your PC, and basically controls how fast responsive the internet feels when you are browsing. The cap controls how much you can download, and is usually a "per month" figure. The simple truth is that, out of speed, price and cap, you'll only get two out of three - i.e. you can get cheap and fast, but there will be a low cap, or you can get fast and unlimited downloads, but it'll be relatively expensive.
To confuse things even further, ISPs also talk about a thing called "fair usage". ADSL is a "contended service", which means you share the connection with everyone else who is online at the same time. To stop people taking more than their fair share, ISPs have started to use a technique called "traffic shaping", which means that at peak times and when doing certain things you may find your connection is "throttled" somewhat. This doesn't usually affect web browsing and emailing, but if you use binary newsgroups or peer to peer stuff such as BitTorrents you might find that your downloads take rather longer than you might expect.
 
Broadband is an exceptionally competitive market and there are always good deals to be had. The following are worth a look as they do well in the ADSLGuide's comparison tables compared to some of the better known ISPs. However, bearing in mind the "two out of three" rule, some of them are relatively expensive compared to the headline rates that the big boys advertise.
Personally, I prefer to have a fast and responsive connection and I'm not that concerned about monthly download cap because, like most normal internet users, I don't download more than 3 or 4 Gb/month. Provided the cap is sufficiently above that, it is effectively unlimited anyway. If you want to get an idea of how much you'll download in a month, have a look at BT's usage calculator.
Back in August 2005 when our exchange was first activated, I started on the "Home Broadband 5GB" package from Eclipse and was very happy with the service. They did have a quite spectacular service outage in November 2005, but that only affected me for a few hours and I was asleep for most of them. Other than that it was fast and reliable for the vast majority of the time and I had no complaints at all. They introduced a new set of deals in April 2006 when ADSL Max came out and I shifted to Home Broadband Option 2, and then more recently to Home Broadband Option 1 when I realised I was only just breaking 2Gb/month and it was more cost effective just to pay for the extra usage as and when it happened. The last few months have seen an increasing number of complaints about the speed of their service on the ADSLGuide Forum, although to be honest I've note really had any problems and still have no real complaints and they still seem to do reasonably well on the DSLZone Speed Average chart.
 
Alternatively, pipex have some good deals and are definately worth a look, especially if you include their phone deals as well.
 
If you decide to get broadband through Eclipse, I'd really appreciate it if you either click on the banner advert above or quote the referrer code CATTERLINE when you order, as they give me £15 for every customer I refer, and £30 if you transfer from another ISP.

If you have any questions, then send me an email and I'll do my best to help. Alternatively, leave a message on our forum.

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