When you sign up to a new broadband deal, either because you're switching to a new provider or renewing with your current one, you will have to sign a contract.
This contract sets out all the terms you're agreeing to - not just your obligations, but those of your ISP as well.
And while it's tempting to just give it a quick glance over before you sign, that's not a great idea. Not every provider has the same terms, so if you're committing for as long as two years, you need to know what you're agreeing to.
Here are a few of the things you should look out for in your broadband contract.
The main gist of a contract is to set out the basics of your deal: what service you're getting, the length of the initial contract period and the start and end dates, the price, the availability of support, and so on.
Although you should obviously read the contract before you sign it, you do get a 14-day cooling-off period should you change your mind afterwards. We wouldn't recommend treating it like a try-before-you-buy scheme, but it does at least give you immediate protection against buyer's remorse.
Price and price rises
When you're looking for a new broadband deal, the headline price is likely to be the main figure you'll focus on to see how much a plan will cost. But there are other charges that you may have to pay as well. And while Ofcom rules state that they should all be made clear, and not hidden in the small print, you can still overlook them.
The main thing to look out for is information on mid-contract price rises. Annual increases in line with the consumer price index are allowed; anything above that, and not specified in your contract, means you can potentially walk away from your deal without penalty.
Recently, BT, Plusnet, EE and John Lewis have all introduced a policy of annual rises equal to the CPI inflation rate plus 3.9%. This will be in your contract, so you won't be able to complain when it happens.
In addition, installation, activation and postage fees are all pretty common, and they can range anywhere from £5 to £50. It's important that you know which end of the scale your deal sits.
And be aware of any other additional costs that you might not be expecting. Among other things, they might include:
extra charges for choosing to pay by a method other than direct debit
late payment penalties
paper billing costs
fees for moving house
Equipment and installation
Your broadband contract will outline important information about the equipment you'll get, and any installation process involved in setting up your new connection.
Every provider will give you a new router when you take out one of their packages, and sometimes it'll be yours to keep and other times it'll just be a loan. In the latter case the contract will tell you how to return it when your deal ends, whether you need to keep the box, and any other relevant details. Warranty info should also be included here.
Most broadband services don't need any specific installation, you can just plug in your router and get on with your day. But if you're going with Virgin Media or a full fibre provider like Hyperoptic, then the install is often a lot more involved, with an engineer needing to visit your house.
Speed and performance
When you sign up to a new broadband deal the provider will give you a speed estimate so you know exactly what level of performance you can expect. Make a note of this figure because it might not be the same as the average speed that they advertise.
Make sure you're happy with estimate before you sign up, especially if it's a lot lower than the advertised rate. It will also enable you to make a claim for compensation in future if the performance drops below what you've agreed to.
Other than that, keep an eye out for:
details of any speed guarantee, and what you can do if it isn't met
usage restrictions like data caps, fair use policies and so on, although these are fortunately quite rare now
an acceptable use policy, standard across all providers, that bans you from doing anything illegal on the network
whether or not you can use your own router - you probably can, but you might not get any support for it
A lot of broadband suppliers entice new customers with special offers including vouchers and assorted gifts. In most cases, these won't be delivered to you automatically. You have to claim them, and do so within a specified time frame.
Broadband contracts last between 30 days and two years. Your contract will outline what you can do if you want quit early. In the case of the short term deals you usually just have to give a month's notice. For longer plans, you'll have to pay a termination fee, which will be a proportion of whatever is left on your contract.
But do remember that you are legally allowed to quit your contract if the service you're getting isn't up to scratch.
Once your contract period has ended, your broadband service will continue as normal. However, many of the protections specified in the deal will no longer apply. This is especially true of the price, which is very likely to go up, and which is why you should never stay on an out-of-contract deal for long.
Are you ready to start shopping for better broadband? Use our postcode checker to find the best deals available where you live.
How often do you make calls on your landline these days? Chances are, it's not often at all.
The number of landline calls has been slashed by well over a half over the last few years. Millions of us now only have landlines because we need them for our broadband. But that's about to change.
A new wave of standalone, broadband-only services are on their way, spearheaded by BT and EE. And it's not just a passing trend. Within five years this will be the norm.
So why is this happening now? Simple answer: the days of the landline are numbered. The UK's ageing phone network is set to be switched off in 2025, to be replaced by a combination of mobile and internet calls. The transition is already under way.
What's happened is that Openreach, the BT-owned company that runs the network, has effectively split the phone service out from the copper wire network that it works on. So where you'd normally automatically get a phone sevice whenever you signed up to a broadband package that uses the copper network (which is most of them), now you won't.
Most fibre services still need to use the copper lines, but increasingly you won't get a phone number or dial tone unless you really need one.
This is leading to the launch of new broadband-only packages (the technical name for these is SOGEA broadband, but you don't need to worry about that). Our newly updated guide to Broadband Without a Phone Line has got all the details you need.
Leading the way in this new generation are BT and EE.
BT are offering their Fibre Essential, Fibre 1 and Fibre 2 deals as broadband-only packages, on two-year contracts and priced at the same rate as the equivalent with-landline deals.
EE offer as standard all their regular fibre packages as broadband-only on 18-month contracts. If you do want to keep your landline you have to add it during checkout, and also pay a little extra for a call package.
This is awesome news for those of us whose landlines attract cold callers and scammers and nothing else. But you do need to be slightly cautious before you sign up. When you take on broadband-only you will give up your phone line and lose your number. If you later have second thoughts, you'll be able to get a new line, but you won't get your number back.
If you're in any doubt, a simple compromise solution is to stick with what you've got for now and just unplug your phone. There's no real cost difference either way, at the moment.
These new services aren't your only options for landline-free internet. The biggest provider that can give you this is Virgin Media, who offer all their broadband deals with or without a phone connection. Either way, you don't need a BT line installed to get them.
There's also the small but growing band of full fibre providers, like Gigaclear and Direct Save. They have limited coverage, which is expanding all the time, and come with the added benefit of delivering the fastest broadband in the UK. You can get top speeds averaging around 900Mb - around 13 times faster than the most popular fibre deals.
If you're keen to switch to broadband-only, or want to find out what your options are, use our postcode checker to see the best broadband deals available in your area today.
Were you planning to upgrade your broadband or TV in time for the holidays? It's now the middle of December, so it's probably too late, right? Oh no it isn't!
We can still save your Christmas with faster broadband and more TV than you could ever possibly watch. Here's what you can do.
If you aren't sure your current broadband will hold up under the strain of endless Zoom chats, Netflix bingeing and PS5 gaming, you still have options.
Although it is too late to get a new fibre deal connected in time for Christmas, mobile broadband can still give a decent internet boost.
There are 4G home broadband plans that offer you unlimited data at speeds on a par with a basic fibre deal. And if you're lucky enough to live in a 5G area, you can switch to something that is potentially a whole lot faster than the broadband you've currently got.
What makes it better is that you don't even need to make the switch permanent, since providers like Three and Vodafone let you sign up on 30-day plans. So if you just want to add a bit more bandwidth alongside your existing service for a few weeks, or are visiting family and need to take a decent internet connection with you, then this could work a treat.
Among the best deals available:
Three have unlimited 4G on deals up to two years long. You can get a 30-day plan for £30, plus £49 for a wireless hub (which you'll be able to continue using in future, too). They also do 5G in select areas, with unlimited data and speeds up to an impressive 200Mb. Prices start at £29 a month.
Vodafone have a range of mobile broadband plans, including some with the very highly rated GigaCube wireless router, for both 4G and 5G. You can pick up both on 30-day deals with unlimited 5G data, or up to 300GB on 4G.
EE and O2 also offer mobile broadband, albeit with lower usage allowances or on longer deals. And don't forget that your phone also offers a tethering feature, where you can make it function as a wireless router. Just be careful that you've got a big enough data allowance, as you can burn through it pretty quickly and don't want to be hit with any excess charges.
Parties might be off the agenda this Christmas, so we'll all be relying on boxsets, movies and Premier League football to keep ourselves entertained.
You can access Sky TV without a dish, installation or commitment through NOW TV. This streaming service lets you choose which bundle of channels you want through a range of TV Passes. Among the best offers are:
Entertainment Pass with NOW TV Boost gives you all the Sky entertainment channels including Sky One and Sky Atlantic, while the Boost add-on lets you watch in full HD on up to three TVs at the same time.
Cinema Pass with NOW TV Boost gives you over a thousand movies to watch on demand. You can also get Entertainment and Cinema in a single bundle.
Sky Sports Day Pass with Mobile Month Pass lets you watch Sky Sports for 24 hours for a one-off fee of £9.98. It's ideal if you want to enjoy specific football matches.
Sky Sports Month Pass with Boost gives you the full Sky Sports experience for a full month.
Kids Pass is the perfect way to keep the kids quiet, with ad-free shows. This no longer includes the Disney channels, though, which have switched over to Disney+.
All the monthly deals auto-renew, so make sure you cancel if you only want them for a month. You can cancel early so that you don't forget, and you'll still be able to watch until your month ends.
Better yet, the Entertainment and Cinema Passes come with a seven day free trial. If you haven't signed up before (or if you've got a different email address and payment card you can use), and you're feeling particularly sneaky, you can time your signup so that you get your free week over Christmas - and then cancel before you pay anything.
In fact, you can get a few nice Christmas treats by making good use of free trials on a few other streaming services. Amazon Prime offers 30 days, and Apple TV and BritBox both give you a free week.
Sadly, Netflix and Disney+ no longer do free trials. But you can spend around £15 in total for a month of the two, more than enough time to binge through the latest series' of The Crown and The Mandalorian while troughing the last of the Quality Street.
And if you're ready to upgrade your broadband in 2021, use our postcode checker to find the best Christmas and New Year broadband deals in your area today.
Christmas is going to be a bit different this year.
Even with the hope of relaxed restrictions, it's likely that for many of us, large family gatherings will be replaced by virtual get-togethers, and nights out at pubs and parties will be swapped for nights in with a boxset.
And what does this mean? Our internet connections are going to be more important than ever.
So why not treat yourself to an early Christmas present by upgrading to a fantastic new broadband deal? If your current contract is coming to an end - or maybe it ran out a while back and you haven't got round to sorting it yet - now is the perfect time to start shopping.
There's loads of festive offers on right now, and if you act quickly there's still time to get connected before the holiday season kicks off.
You can even sign up to a premium TV service, so you can catch the latest movies, the hottest new shows, and enjoy the Premier League's hectic Christmas schedule.
Sign up to Virgin Media by 9th December for guaranteed installation by Christmas. You can get both broadband and TV, and activation is free - saving you £35!
You can still get Sky TV bundles up and running in time for Christmas.
For other TV and broadband bundles, check out the latest deals from BT and TalkTalk - TalkTalk packages still come with the promise of no mid-contract price rises.
Plusnet have seasonal offers available until 16th December.
You can get NOW Broadband with a range of TV Passes, covering your choice of entertainment, movies and sports.
When choosing a new broadband deal, always make sure you pick the right speed for your household. Put simply, the more people in it, the faster you need. So while one person making a video call or watching Netflix can get away with a relatively low speed, a few people all doing the same together will need much faster.
And keep in mind any large downloads you need to make. For example, games for the Playstation 5 or new Xbox consoles typically start at around 50GB, and can be double that. To make things a little easier, schedule these downloads to happen overnight, so they're ready and waiting the following morning.
You'll have to hurry if you want to get your broadband set up in time for Christmas. Use our postcode checker to find the best broadband bargains available where you live 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.
While we always do our best to guide you towards your perfect broadband deal in a jargon-free way, you cannot avoid bumping up against technical terms from time to time.
One such example is latency, a hidden spec that broadband providers don't advertise, but which can make even a lightning fast internet connection feel slow.
Put simply, latency is a measurement of the time it takes to send data and receive a response. If you think of your broadband speed as being like the top speed of a car, then it's latency is more like how long it takes to get the car moving when you first start the ignition and push down the accelerator pedal. And, although it's recorded in milliseconds, this delay can happen every time you send or request new information from the internet, which can quickly add up.
Often called the ping rate or ping time, latency affects everything you do online. Like when you're filling in an online form and there's a lag between you tapping the keyboard and your words appearing on screen. Or when you click a link and the lack of an immediate response leaves you wondering if you need to click it again.
The net result is that high latency leaves even fast internet connections feeling a lot slower and less responsive than they should do. It doesn't affect the speed itself - you can still stream a Netflix movie in 4K, but all the button presses you need to queue up the movie in the first place could be the digital equivalent of wading through mud.
Latency is most often discussed in relation to online gaming: it's the delay between pressing a button on your gamepad and seeing the resulting action on screen. It's especially important for multiplayer gaming. If you've got a higher latency connection than your opponent it's going to be like you've got much slower reactions. It puts you at a real disadvantage, and if it's too bad you can even get kicked out of a game.
In fact, for gamers, latency is a bigger problem than a slow connection. Online gaming doesn't actually need that much bandwidth, so you can get away with gaming on slow broadband as long as your ping time is good enough.
And latency is affecting many more people today, as we spend more and more time in video conferences, for work, education, social and family gatherings. Your latency could be affecting how long the delays are between what you say and what everyone else in the meeting or hangout hears. Your high latency could be the reason why you end up talking over other people, or why they're talking over you. It could making Zoom, Teams or Meet more awkward than it needs to be.
How can you improve latency?
So what does this mean for you? How do you measure latency, and is there anything you can do about it? Part of the problem is that broadband suppliers cannot guarantee a certain performance level because there are too many factors that affect it.
You're most likely to experience high latency when there are high traffic levels on the network. Ofcom research showed that latency increased by 2% in March as a result of the surge in internet usage at the start of the lockdown. You might generally find it's worse during peak hours, which are mostly during the evening.
High latency can be caused by a fault somewhere on the network. It can happen if the website or service you're connecting to is busy, or if there's a lot of traffic on your own router. Things like Wi-Fi extenders, used to improve the wireless throughout your house, can increase latency a little.
It can also be a factor of the type of internet you're using. So, full fibre is likely to be better than fibre-to-the-home, which is better than an old standard connection that runs fully on copper cables. Niche broadband services for rural users - like satellite broadband - will have the highest latency of all.
You can find out how your own broadband connection is doing by using our Speed Test tool. It only takes a few seconds, just run the test, and you'll see the results - your download and upload speeds, plus your ping time, in milliseconds. Ideally, you'll be in the region of 50ms or less; 100ms is the point where you might start to notice it; and 150ms or more could cause you problems, and might even make online gaming impossible.
What can you do about it? To be honest, not that much, since the problem will often be with your service, not with you. But there are some things you can try.
A wired connection should have a lower ping rate than a wireless one. If that isn't an option, check that you've got a good Wi-Fi signal and that your router is set up properly. You could also consider upgrading to a newer, better router. If you've got a large number of devices connected, you could try removing a few that you aren't using.
If the problem keeps on, or gets too bad, speak to your broadband provider to see if there's a problem on their end that they can fix.
When you sign up to a broadband deal, your new provider will send you a wireless router to get started. You just have to plug it in, wait for it to light up, and you're ready to go. Other than having to type in the passcode on all your devices, there's no other setup at all. It couldn't be easier.
But here's the thing: not all routers are made equal. Some are very high end, packed with the latest technology and able to get the absolute most from your home network. Others aren't.
An easy way for a broadband supplier to keep their costs down is to work with only bare-bones routers, or models from a generation or two ago. And many people will be fine with that; for others, there's room for improvement.
Why use your own router?
Did you know that you don't have to settle for the router your provider gives you? You can use your own router instead, and there are lots of good reasons why you'd want to:
A new router can offer a stronger and more reliable connection.
It can give you better coverage throughout your home - maybe even stretching the signal into your garden.
It can handle more users connected at the same time.
A new router can let you use the latest tech with your compatible gadgets - like the latest Wi-Fi spec, Wi-Fi 6, which works on recent iPhones and many Android phones.
It might offer built-in parental controls, which you can manage through a phone app.
It can give you access to more advanced features, like support for a VPN or your own choice of DNS service.
Potential downsides and other things you should know
Many broadband providers aren't overly keen on you using your own router, even though Ofcom says that you can. So while providers can't stop you, they generally won't offer tech support if you aren't using their supplied gear. And that's fair enough, since there are so many different brands and models of router on sale and they can't be expected to know how they all work.
There may also be compatibility issues with some networks. Sky, for instance, use a special kind of authentication system called MER encapsulation, so you need to make sure your router supports that - and not all do.
On Virgin Media, you can set up your own router but you need to keep your Hub or Super Hub plugged in as well, set to Modem Mode.
It can be even more complex for some specialist providers. On Hyperoptic, for example, your router needs to accept an Ethernet connection, and it won't work with your call plan. If you need to, you can use your own router for internet and the Hyperoptic router for calls.
So if you do decide to switch, always check exactly what you need before you buy, and don't chuck your official router - it might only be on loan to you, for a start! But if you ever need tech support you'll be better off plugging it back in before making the call. That's likely to be the first thing they tell you to do anyway, and - you never know - reconnecting it might actually solve your problem.
How to set up your own router
Once you've bought your router, you need to set it up. Most providers offer basic instructions on how to do this, although the precise details will differ depending on which router you're using.
The process is a little more hands-on than connecting the supplied model. In most cases you need to turn the router on, connect to it on your laptop, then log in to its Settings panel. Check the manual for details on how to do this.
From there, you'll probably have to enter a few details, including a username, as well as tick a few boxes and select a few items from drop-down lists. These are all technical things, but don't worry about that. You don't actually need to know what any of them mean.
Finally, reboot your router and - fingers crossed - it should connect you to the internet. Now all you need to do is connect all your devices again, and you're done.
Using your own router is something for more tech-minded users. You might be perfectly happy with the setup you've currently got, and see no reason to change. Either way, it is useful to get to know how your router works. In particular, it's worth taking a moment to beef up your router's security settings to help keep you safe online.
Internet usage surged by 40% during the lockdown this year, and working-from-home Brits became a whole lot more productive, according to a new survey.
The TalkTalk Lockdown Lessons Report looks at how we spent our time online during the lockdown. The survey gathered feedback in August from users and businesses, and analysed TalkTalk's own network usage patterns to discover the trends that emerged, and what changes it may lead to in the future.
The most unsurprising detail was that internet usage jumped by 40% during the lockdown period, compared to the same time a year ago. This is a large increase, even factoring in the usual year-on-year increase in data use.
The number hasn't dropped since restrictions eased, either, suggesting the change may be permanent. In fact, users ranked internet access as the second most important thing to have during a lockdown - behind only a garden or outdoor space.
So how were we spending all this extra time online?
For leisure use, video chat was the big winner. Some 44% spent time chatting with family and friends, and many of these would have been first time or reluctant users. More than a third said they were now a lot more confident using the technology.
Inevitably, video streaming services also proved popular, with an amazing 4.6 million households picking up a new subscription. 27% spent extra time on social networks, while 11% did more online gaming than usual.
It wasn't all fun and games. 58% of those who had started working from home felt they'd become more productive, and over half don't expect to ever return to the office full time. More than four in five identified a fast, reliable broadband connection as the most important thing to enable them to work away from the office.
Around a third of business leaders agreed that remote working had increased productivity among their teams. 40% said they'd made a contribution towards their employees' phone or broadband bills, and the same number had contributed up to £200 to improve their staff's home-working environment. A quarter invested in mental wellbeing apps.
And there's one more intriguing consequence of the lockdown: it has sparked a revolution in self-improvement.
Over half of all the people surveyed said that they'd learned new skills during the lockdown. 40% had looked up "how-to" videos, 19% had used learning apps, and an impressive 16% signed up to a full, online educational course. Languages, cooking, IT skills, gardening and yoga were the popular areas for learning.
Overall, a third developed a new skill, and the same number plan to continue learning into the future. Nearly a fifth of 18-24 years even felt their career prospects had improved. Younger people were also the driving force behind the trend for setting up an online side-hustle. One in ten said they'd pursued their own part-time business, like selling stuff or offering freelance services.
It remains to be seen what the digital legacy of lockdown will be. Many of the changes we've seen do seem to be an acceleration of trends that were already well underway. And if the results of this survey are anything to go by, changes in how we keep in touch with family, how we spend our leisure time, and how we work may well be here to stay.
Subscription TV services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are great for giving you a greater selection of stuff to watch. But what happens when you want to watch a specific movie or TV show?
With so many different services available, it can be hard to keep track of which films or shows are available on which one.
Some TV shows may be exclusive to a particular streaming service, or others - especially those made for broadcast TV in the States - might be available to rent on an episode by episode (or season by season) basis. Some will have both options on different providers.
The picture's even more complicated with films. Not only is there the same subscription/rental confusion, but the recent lockdown meant that a lot of new movies skipped the cinema release entirely.
The new Disney film Mulan is the biggest example. If you want to watch that you have to subscribe to the Disney+ service (or at least take out a free trial), then pay £19.99 on top. Or you can wait until December when it will become available as part of the standard Disney+ plan.
How to find what's showing, and where
Finding where the show or film you want is only part of the problem. When it's available through more than one service you'll often find that the prices vary considerably. Fortunately, there is a good solution.
The best way to keep track of all the streaming services, to find out which one is showing what, and how much you'll have to pay to watch, is through JustWatch.com.
JustWatch is part search engine, part comparison site for streaming services. It covers pretty much every major service available in the UK, including:
Amazon Prime Video and Amazon Video
Apple TV and Apple TV+
Sky Go and Sky Store
YouTube, and many others
All you need to do is search for a particular title, and it will show you where you can watch it. The results are split into streaming, buying and renting, and you can filter or sort them by price or resolution. So, if you want the cheapest 4K version of your favourite film, this is where you'll find it.
JustWatch has a stack of extra features, like a watchlist and a very useful recommendation engine to point you towards the kind of stuff you might like. It's completely free, and there are apps for your phone as well.
While JustWatch is our favourite among the TV search guides, and certainly the most well known of these services, it isn't the only one. Check out ReelGood and TMDB for two of the best JustWatch alternatives. It's worth giving them all a trial run to see which you prefer.
Where to buy or rent
Once you've tracked down the show or film you want to watch, you might have to decide which service to use to view it.
If it's exclusive to one subscription service, then your choice is made for you. If you aren't already a customer, make sure you make use of the free trials most services offer. And don't forget to cancel your subscriptions to any that aren't actively using - your monthly fees are going to rack up quickly if you sign up to every possible service.
If you're planning to buy, it's probably a good idea to stick to a single provider so you can keep your collection in one place. Amazon has good compatibility across devices and platforms, as do Apple and Google Play. Rakuten TV is convenient because it's built into many smart TVs - but not all. You don't want to lose all the films you've bought next time you upgrade your telly. Similarly, you can only access things like Sky Store and TalkTalk TV while you have a contract for those services.
For renting, it doesn't really matter where you shop, as long as you've got an easy way to watch it. You can choose whichever offers the best price.
What speed broadband do you need for streaming?
Streaming should be possible on almost any reasonable internet connection. You need a broadband speed of around 5Mb to stream in HD, or closer to 25Mb if you prefer to watch in 4K. A decent fibre deal will clear this comfortably, though remember that the actual speed available to you depends on how many people in your household are online at the same time. So, if two people wanted to watch their own 4K streams together, you'd need a 50Mb connection.
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.