Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Just squeaked in

Sometimes you just have to make a quick decision.

A few days ago, I noticed that Vodafone was offering a cracking Unlimited Broadband deal to new customers, which seemed even better if you were already on a Vodafone mobile phone contract, as I was. I was currently getting my home Broadband from BT (their Infinity 1 package, recently improved - as a 'loyal customer reward' - to 30GB of Internet data per month. But of course a cheap deal on Unlimited Broadband would be better.

I had been free to change my Broadband provider without penalty for some months. Should I switch to the Vodafone deal? But having switched in the past, and finding the experience less than joyful, I was in no hurry to plunge further into Vodafone's hot, sticky embrace.

Still, the notion of reviewing my Broadband arrangements had been popped into my mind. So it was natural to click on an online TechRadar article about the best Broadband deals to be had at the moment. Yes, there was that attractive Vodafone deal again. But it seemed that BT were pushing out a couple of deals for new customers too, involving a generous cashback.

What might they be doing for existing customers? I logged onto the BT website and had a look.

Well, my upgrade options were sparse. But for what appeared to be the same price as now, I could enjoy not merely 30GB of Internet per month, but an unlimited amount. On a new eighteen-month deal.

30GB per month was actually quite a lot of data to use up. You wouldn't manage it, unless watching a lot of streamed or downloaded films, or TV programmes - which wasn't my normal habit. I couldn't justify paying BT more for a larger monthly data allowance, let alone an unlimited allowance. But to have Unlimited Broadband for the same cost? Now that was worth considering!

And there was a possibility that I'd use up more than 30GB in January. I was having a minor operation on the 8th - more on that in a post to come shortly - and then for several days afterwards I'd be more-or-less immobilised at home, and likely to be watching catch-up TV rather a lot, being a daytime and evening fixture in my lounge. It would be jolly useful to watch as much as I wished, without worrying about going over a data limit. A whole drama series, for instance.

That thought - and the fact that BT's offer expired in two days' time - made me act.

It was simple to set up the new deal online. My Unlimited BT Broadband should be available by midnight tomorrow. It's the same type of Broadband as now, not the super-fast sort that costs quite a bit more. So it ought to involve using the same Hub 5 router, with nothing new to set up.

This morning the My BT app on my phone was showing this:

The costs? The same £26 per month that I was going to pay anyway, continuing for the next eighteen months. Then it'll cost £5 a month more, subject to my opting for a different deal.

That £26 doesn't include the landline rental, which I pay separately to BT in one amount, in advance, in order to get a 10% discount. This year the one-off payment will be £227.88, which if spread over the year works out at £18.99 per month. So the real monthly cost of this new deal is £18.99 plus £26.00 = £44.99 per month. But that's no more than I would otherwise have paid.

BT gain by having me contracted to them for another 18 months. I don't mind that. They give me no problems, and seem to have upped their game markedly from the dire service of ten years back.

Clearly the offer of unlimited data usage at no extra cost is a sign of the times! Now that super-fast Broadband is the new kid on the block, and widely available, a provider can't charge very much for ordinary Broadband, which has become the low-cost (and low-status) product. BT are obliged by market forces to provide unlimited quantities of it at a discount. Suits me.

Further thoughts
Mind you, £45 per month over the next eighteen months - even for Unlimited Broadband - doesn't sound like the best bargain in the world. I'm actually looking at paying a total of £537 to BT in 2018 - £228 for the landline rental, and £309 for Broadband.

Looking back twenty years at my 1998 bill-paying spreadsheet, in pre-Internet days when you only had a telephone bill, I paid BT a mere £174. That would be the equivalent of £260 in 2018 money. In 2002, the first full year of having Internet (it was just the old dial-up connection: Broadband lay in the future) I paid BT £236 and Freeserve £164, a total of £400. That would be the equivalent of £570 in 2018 money, somewhat more than now; and of course the Internet service (and the content) is light years better in every way than it was in 2002, so the current £537 represents fair value for money.

But it's still quite a lot. And there's the Vodafone mobile phone bill on top (presently £60 per month, though it will go down to £20-odd in mid-2019). I therefore pay £105 monthly at the moment to own a mobile phone and enjoy ordinary-speed home Internet, albeit as much as I wish to use. Mind you, I do constantly need to consult my phone, and do things with my laptop, throughout the day and evening, home or away; so this isn't wasted money by any means.

I couldn't run my life without the Internet on my mobile phone, or on my laptop at home. There are many folk who would scorn such a declaration, and not all them older than me. But it is on the whole a generational thing, and I am surely a member of the first-ever generation to embrace the Electronic Life, which (shopping lists aside) is mostly a Paperless Life. For instance, I take thousands of photos every year, and publish a lot of them on Flickr, or show them in my Blog, but I normally don't print out a single picture, ever. At home, it's an all-electronic activity.

Well, I now have Unlimited Broadband at my disposal. I will gradually exploit the possibilities. But staring at a screen will always be secondary to getting out and doing real things.

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