Thursday, April 1, 2010

Landline/Internet Service-A Comment Response

I received a comment the other day from Anne, a newly arrived expat inquiring about suggestions for the vast array of landline/internet services that are available, and in the process of beginning my response to her realized it was going to be a bit lengthy-and perhaps a proper post about the topic would be better.  So, here goes..
Unlike the US, the telecomm industry here is ridiculously competitive.  Landline.  Internet.  TV.  Bundled.'s enough to do your head in trying to figure out which company/package to go with. 

When I first arrived two years ago, my flatmate at the time & I decided to go a Landline/Internet bundle from a company, TalkTalk because another expat suggested them.  They were reasonably priced, and our package allowed for 'unlimited' phonecalls back to the US.  That was great.  The customer service of TalkTalk (now Tiscali...)?  HORRIBLE-worst than any other customer service I've received here. And, that says something!  I cannot under any circumstances recommend Tiscali.  The cost savings-given that there are *tons* o' companies here of offer a similar package-sihmply wasn't worth it in hindsight, but like Anne, we were overwhelmed with options, and went with TalkTalk on a recommendation-and to kind of get it over with. If memory serves me correct, with taxes & everything, we paid about 30 a month-which was worth it for the internet access & US calls alone.  Truthfully, we hardly used the landline for local calls at all, but peeling that out of package wasn't an option at the time.

The past year, Simon & I have gone in a completely different direction-no landline, and a 'PAYG'-Pay as you Go mobile broadband dongle from O2.  For phone calls back to the US, I use Skype.  For the most part, this arrangement has worked out without any problems.  Occasionally the Skype connection is crappy, and on 1-2 occasions we've been unable to connect to the internet-last nite being one of those times.  But, that can happen with any internet service.  We pay 17.50 a month for the broadband access, and I don't think I've yet spent 10 quid on a good number of hours conversation back in the States.  All things being equal, this has been a much better option for us, and I can't imagine going back to a fixed contract service while here.

The one thing I have't mentioned in either of these scenarios is TV as part of the bundle.  Most TVs in London can get a good 20 channels with something called Freeview (think basic cable-with a few extras) for free.  There are exceptions to this depending on how old your TV is, or the area you live in, but this is the gist.  I don't completely understand all the details, so I'll refrain.  But, my point is, unless you are a hard-core TV watcher who simply won't be able to do without 50+ channels-and many US shows-I don't think it's worth it.

Anyhoo.  The reason for my long-winded commentary thusfar is to illustrate a)the array of options and b)to hilight some of the things you should think about when trying to figure out which company/package to go with.  It's a lot to take in, and no normal human being should be forced to think about all of this.  Fortunately, there are a good number of comparison shopping (comp shop) sites out there that do the thinking for us! :)  All you have to do is plonk in a few details about where you live (to determine which services are availble in your area) and what features you want.  There's still a ton o' options from there, but at least the wheat has been seperated from the chaff.  So, to that are a few of those sites that I'd recommend.  I'd start with Money Saving Expert.  They'll provide a great overview on options/prices, but also provide information on additional comp shops.   [As an aside..I almost always start with MSE whenever I have *anything* financial to contemplate here in the UK.]
After MSE, I'd suggest or or  I don't mean to overwhelm...they're all basically the same, but you may simply find one UI better than the other for your purposes.

Whew.  That was just supposed to be a few sentences about my Internet service! :)  Sorry about that, Anne, but I hope that answers your questions a bit-and perhaps a few others as well!


  1. A delayed thanks for the tips on the internet (and the blog mention!) Haven't gotten it sorted out yet, but think we're going to go with Virgin as the flat is already wired for it, so I am crossing my fingers that speeds things up a bit. NOT that I have a UK account yet to pay for said contract. How ridiculous to have to pull all these silly original documents for proof of residency! Barclays said since I can't prove my UK address yet (no utility bills since I just moved in over the weekend, and my lease isn't official enough or something), I can prove my US address with original copies of utility bills, bank statements, etc. As if (1) I don't just do all of that online in the states or (2) I shipped it over here anyway!
    Enough to make me go mad. Good thing it's been so lovely.
    Anyway, thanks again, and maybe our paths will cross some day!

  2. This is a great that I have learned something from your experience. Thanks also for some effective tips that I tried it myself.

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