I live in London and need an ISP that's not horrible.
June 24, 2013 3:46 AM   Subscribe

I've just moved and need to find a good UK ISP. My priorities are reliability, good service from human beings, and refraining from shady practices like traffic shaping or overselling the network. Price, decent data allowances and not being owned by Murdoch are also desirable.

At the old house we were with Beunlimited. Their reliability had been dropping precipitately for the last 18 months, and in the end the only thing that didn't suck was the tech support, which was done by actual humans who didn't appear to be reading from scripts. It didn't really make up for being disconnected several times a day, and now they've been bought by Sky, anyway. I don't even know how to find good ISPs any more, and since we moved quite precipitately and I wasn't able to research it in detail beforehand, I'm unnetworked at home and don't have much time to investigate this while at work. My housemate plays PSN games and we watch a lot of TV programmes, both on iPlayer and 4oD etc and by other means, so it's important to have a network that doesn't make that too difficult, either by shaping or with ridiculously conservative data allowances. We have access to a BT phone line, although having a working phone isn't terribly important to us. I've had dire experiences with Virgin before, but if they've changed substantially in the last six years I will consider them. We can only sign up for 12 months, as that's the length of our tenancy agreement and there are no guarantees it will be extended. I'd definitely consider another smaller provider, and although I will pay a bit more if that's the only way to get a decent service, I'd rather keep costs down if possible.
posted by Acheman to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I used Plus Net for 5 years. I'm moving house and am considering shifting to Sky (because I'll be getting an internet/TV bundle), but I had a good experience with Plus Net all this time. They were pretty reliable, the helpline service was good and any issues were resolved swiftly.
posted by Ziggy500 at 3:58 AM on June 24, 2013

I use Virgin Cable and had it installed about 18 months ago. They were reasonable quick and efficient, the installed came when they said they would and when there was a problem with the broadband modem they sent a replacement free of charge straight away.

The connection (fibreoptic) and bandwidth are good and stable - I stream video (4OD etc), play games (Wii and iOS) online, listen to the radio (radio 4 is on nearly all the time via an old ipda and the bbc radio app) and download (legal) torrents with no problems. I think there is some sort of data cap but i've never run into it (despite not very conservative downloading of stuff and frequent use of streaming video/audio).

I can't speak for their non fibreoptic connection (which other people have told me is poor) but if you can get cable with them it works effectively for me and their customer service is good.
posted by Gilgongo at 4:14 AM on June 24, 2013

I've used PlusNet since the late 90s (since they were Force9), and stayed with them across multiple house moves just because I love them so much.

They don't do traffic shaping (IIRC) but they do have some form of latency shaping, so VOIP and gaming get low latency, movies slightly more, web a touch more, and torrents get whatever they get given. That said, on a 4MB line, I'm getting a US TV show in 20 minutes (with good seeds).

I think I'm paying about £20 a month (not sure if that's with or without phone though) for 120GB downloads a month - and it's uncapped midnight to 8am.

They've got good customer service and their tech guys normally know what they're talking about - they'll ditch the scripts if they decide you know what you are doing and you've already done the obvious stuff.

The only reason I'm likely to leave them in the near future is if someone brings fibre into my village.
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 5:07 AM on June 24, 2013

Another vote for PlusNet. I've had them for two years, and recently they began offering an unlimited package for £16.99/mo (plus typical line rental charge) where we are. We also have landline service through them since we get crap reception on the mobiles at home. I'm not exaggerating when I say I've not had to call them once to complain about dodgy service or overcharges.

n.b. we're an hour's train ride from London, so local exchange pricing will be different.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 6:21 AM on June 24, 2013

Response by poster: Sounds like PlusNet shape traffic pretty heavily. :(
It's really important to me that I get to decide what I do with the bandwidth I'm sold.
posted by Acheman at 6:27 AM on June 24, 2013

I use O2 and been totally happy with them, although I appreciate that Be is also O2 and both of them are moving to Sky. So you're probably not going to be interested in that.

Although I've never used PlusNet, they appear to have a "Pro Add-on" which bumps the priority of the things you want to do. It was described on the page you linked to.

It'll cost you, but if you don't want traffic management then it's going to cost you anyway.
posted by mr_silver at 7:01 AM on June 24, 2013

I was on Plusnet and switched to BT Infinity. I'm in London. I wouldn't go back because of the speed. Plusnet was fine, and I had no issues at all. But I get download speeds of 55-60mbps now. And that seals the deal.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:01 AM on June 24, 2013

I've been very happy on Plusnet for over 5 years. Not noticed any traffic shaping, but given that fibre broadband speeds are over 50Mbps (I'm getting 70Mbps at the moment), you're unlikely to ever really notice any loss of speed. (I have the £20/month unlimited package, but only upgraded from the cheaper packages to increase the usage cap -- no difference in speed.)

Most of my geeky colleagues use Zen.
posted by snarfois at 7:39 AM on June 24, 2013

I'm with Fast.co.uk on their fibre (capped at 40mbps at the moment), and I've been with them before that on their ADSL package for a while. Relatively low useage caps, but the uptime has been great - only one or two outgages a year which have really only been when the BT backbone has had problems. Good tech support not reading from a script.
posted by Mattat at 7:41 AM on June 24, 2013

May I recommend Titan Broadband?? I've been with them for 5 years. It's a small firm, and you deal with the same human at every stage. Almost no problems in all that time, no throttlng etc. that I'm aware of, and if a problem arises with BT, they'll do the bullying and shouting for you until things are fixed. Not the cheapest, but I wouldn't change.
posted by pyotrstolypin at 7:42 AM on June 24, 2013

I moved off of Plusnet (well, Metronet which then got bought by Plusnet) and onto Be, specifically because Plusnet's traffic shaping was so bad, so I'd definitely avoid them. I can't say I'm too happy that Be is now Sky, but they do claim to be maintaining the same fully unlimited, unshaped service for what it's worth, so it might be worth trying Sky? Otherwise I've only heard bad things about everyone else except Zen, but you seem to pay a premium for them.
posted by iivix at 7:56 AM on June 24, 2013

I'm surprised no one has mentioned Andrews & Arnold yet. One of the few remaining independent ISPs offering "real" internet with intelligent staff to boot, however bandwidth is metered and has a day and night rate so you'll need to work out a package that suits you. Fully IPv6 ready too.
posted by dirm at 9:51 AM on June 24, 2013

Response by poster: I reckon I'm just going to go with BT. We can't get Infinity, but if we sign up for their Unlimited package (18 months, but can be transferred if we move) they say they don't torrent shape new customers.
posted by Acheman at 10:22 AM on June 24, 2013

I can confirm that BT have recently changed their policy for Unlimited customers. As of February (iirc), I'm getting a pretty consistent 14 Mbps all through the week at all times. They used to shape really heavily on evenings & weekends, so I've really noticed & appreciated the change.
posted by punilux at 11:15 AM on June 24, 2013

Yeah, Zen are good. Pricier than most, but you get what you pay for in this business. See if you can get an FTTC connection out of them.
posted by pharm at 4:42 AM on June 25, 2013

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