Choosing a broadband plan involves getting immersed in a minefield of jargon and sifting through a multitude of options.
However, the good news is that there are some great internet providers out there with deals that are getting better each year - you just need to be prepared to put in the hard work.
Most people sign up with an internet provider and stay with them, occasionally increasing their data allowance as the need arises.
Where switching power companies can save you money, changing your internet provider can save you both money and time.
The first thing you need to do is figure out how you (and family/flatmates) are using the internet. Are you streaming lots of content or just checking emails and browsing websites? Are your kids starting to watch more and more (and more) cartoons on YouTube?
Once you know how you are using the internet, you can then choose a plan according to three key components - speed, data and price.
One thing that cannot be fast enough is your internet connection.
The most important is your download speed (pulling data from the web), though your upload speed (sending data back to the internet) is becoming more important as people upload more photos and videos to websites and use services such as Skype.
If you use the internet a lot and your house is wired for fibre, then it's an easy decision, as long as you can afford it.
If not, see if your house can get VDSL, which is a faster version of normal broadband (ADSL). According to data from independent broadband tester Truenet, Telecom and Snap's VDSL is more than twice as fast as their ADSL offerings.
Vodafone also offers a cable service that is available in parts of Wellington and Christchurch and is faster than ADSL.
However, normal broadband is fast enough for most people, though the speed will vary depending on several factors, including your computer (if you are using an old browser), the distance to your nearest exchange and the speed of the website you are trying to access.
Therefore, changing your provider but keeping the same type of service may not give you the speed boost you desire. For that you may need to upgrade to VDSL or fibre.
Only a few years ago, data plans of about 1 gigabyte (GB) were common. Now, according to Statistics NZ, more than three-quarters of broadband connections have data caps of 20GB or more.
The best way to find out if you need more data is to look through your past bills and see how much you have used. If you are blowing your data allowance only days into a new allotment then it's time for an upgrade.
If you guzzle gigabytes by the truckload, then maybe check out the unlimited plans. Slingshot's unlimited plan is $90 a month while Orcon's is $99.
There are other options too. If YouTube is popular in your house, Snap offers a $5-a-month add-on for unlimited access to the popular video channel.
Also, some providers now allow you to roll over your data, so anything you didn't use one month can be added to the following month's allowance.
This is where it can get confusing. Finding the best deal is hard as you try to weigh up factors such as customer service, length of contract, installation fees, and cost of a modem.
To add to the confusion, plans change all the time and providers are always offering promotions.
The only list of all providers and plans is at telme.org.nz, though the site can produce so many options it can be perplexing. A full list of fibre plans is available from ufb.org.nz, though it's still worth checking each provider's site for the latest information.
The best place to start is with your current provider. If you are happy with their service, you may only need to up your speed and data allowance to get what you want.
If you have to start from scratch then start by looking at the big name providers: Telecom, Vodafone (which now includes TelstraClear), Snap, Woosh, Orcon, and Slingshot. If they don't have what you need keep looking at smaller providers such as, Actrix, WXC and Compass.
Kiwis tend to choose an internet provider based on price rather than a fast connection speed.
Research from market research company Roy Morgan showed 60 per cent of people chose their internet provider to get a cheaper or better deal, whereas only 11 per cent based their decision on speed.
However, don't be too cost conscious, as facing slow page times may not be worth the extra money you save.
Another option is naked broadband, which is a broadband connection over a standard phone line that does not have a phone service with it.
It is often cheaper and suits those who only use their cellphone for calls.
You also need to work out the cost of a modem and installation, though many providers provide this for free, especially during promotions.
It's easy to get overwhelmed, but a few minutes with a pad and pencil will help you sort through the plans. And remember, it'll be worth it when you are seamlessly streaming your favourite clips on YouTube.
WHAT PLAN FOR ME?
A selection of plans that would suit different types of users.
Compass: ADSL, 10GB, $65
Slingshot, ADSL: 40GB, $69
Vodafone, ADSL: 30GB, $75
Vodafone: ADSL, 80GB, $80
Orcon, ADSL, 80GB, $85
Telecom, fibre: 80GB, $125 (30mbs)
Snap, VDSL: 200GB $100
Slingshot, ADSL: Unlimited, $90
Telecom, fibre: 500GB, $159 (100mbs)
This is a guide only, all packages will have various installation and modem costs.
ADSL: This is "normal" broadband and stands for asynchronous digital subscriber line. It's delivered along copper phone lines and can reach speeds of up to 24 megabits per second (Mbs).
VDSL: A faster version of ADSL and it stands for very-high-bit-rate digital subscriber line. It's also delivered along copper phone lines and can reach speeds of up to 50Mbs.
UFB: Ultrafast broadband delivered along fibre-optic cable. Also known as fibre optic or just fibre. UFB will go up to 30Mbps or 100Mbps depending on the plan.
Data: The measure of electronic information you upload and download. These days the most common unit is gigabytes.
Data cap: Your monthly allowance of data that you can use, for example 60GB.
Mbs: Megabits per second which is the speed at which data is transferred.
Naked broadband: A broadband connection over a standard phone line that does not have a phone service with it.
- © Fairfax NZ News