There's been plenty of controversy in the broadband market this year. BT is focusing resources on developing a network capable of 100 megabits per second (Mbps) download speeds, but the spirit of optimism has been tempered by tales of woe from current customers who think such grand promises are a bit rich when they're struggling to get 2Mbps now.
On the other side are ISPs promising customers super-fast connections and unlimited downloads, but throttling the bandwidth of those perceived to be breaking fair-use guidelines and sending out threatening letters to subscribers suspected of downloading illegal software. Furthermore, some customers are up in arms about a new advertising ploy being trialled by certain ISPs, including BT, that tracks their surfing habits in order to target advertising. ISPs make a big deal about protecting people's privacy, yet the suggestion is that paying customers' surfing habits are being sold to the highest bidder.
So, even though reliability and availability have both improved significantly, Broadband Britain is not a completely happy place. It's therefore surprising that people aren't switching ISPs en masse. According to our research, nine out of 10 customers have exceeded the initial length of their contracts, but have opted not to switch to an alternative supplier. Such apathy is surely not down to a lack of information - barely a week goes by without the mainstream media telling us where to get a faster service or cheaper contract. These news stories are usually inspired by the latest findings from a broadband comparison site - and such services can be a good starting point when looking for a better deal.
But for the true story of Broadband Britain, you need to listen to your contemporaries - and what better way to do that than draw on the collective experiences of more than 4,000 PC Advisor readers? We've once again looked at the state of the UK broadband market, and this year's survey received a record response. We asked more than 25 questions to discover exactly which ISP is best for reliability, service and value. The feedback allowed us to rank and rate the UK's 20 biggest ISPs.
It's the perfect way to find out exactly how your current provider compares with the rest of the market, and the results, combined with our advice on how to switch ISP, will provide you with all you need to get a better deal. Pick up a copy of our November issue - on sale now - to find out how.
One of the trends our survey picked up on is the growing interest in mobile broadband. Easy-to-use 3G dongles are designed to allow you to get online when on the move. Sign up for a service from 3, O2, Orange, T-Mobile or Vodafone, plug the dongle that comes with the subscription into the USB port of your laptop and you're online within a couple of minutes. Some people told us they're even using these services to replace their traditional landline broadband connections.
We've tested all five major operators in this issue, and found that the fastest options can compete with many home ADSL connections in terms of speed, provided you're in an area with decent coverage.
But that's the key point. Mobile broadband is a great breakthrough, and intense price competition means there are bargains to be had. But you're rarely guaranteed a super-fast connection and at times you can't get online at all - which makes picking the right deal even more important. Pick up a copy of our November issue to read our verdict.