Picking the right ISP

A question that comes up quite often is “what is the best ISP?” – what people fail to ask is what they’re looking for in an ISP? This normally contributes of 5 things:

Speed: What is the best service I can get?
Reliability: Not to be confused with internal wiring issues (more on that later).
Connectivity:
Are you wanting ADSL, VDSL, UFB or some form of Wireless technology?
Service:
When there is a fault what is the service like to get the fault fixed?
Price:
Really, this isn’t everything.

A general blanket rule for an ISP in most cases is if you’re wanting a phone line then pick between Spark, 2degrees or Voyager otherwise Spark, BigPipe, 2degrees or Voyager are great options in my books for an ISP if you don’t require a phone line – note this is my personal opinion based on experience. Each ISP however is different in how they connect themselves to the internet. Also, don’t just go for the cheapest.

The best way to determine what is right for you is to head over to https://chorus.co.nz/maps and check what service you can get and just go for it. If you’ve got ADSL/VDSL currently and Fibre (UFB) is available then get it. Don’t stick with copper if UFB is available as world class internet (seriously) is waiting there for you on UFB.

WiFi vs Ethernet:
If you’re getting Gigabit internet via UFB then just note you won’t get these speeds over WiFi. You’ll need to use Ethernet to your PC etc. A common complaint I see on ISP’s social media pages is complaining about slow speeds on UFB however in 99% of these cases it is because the customer is using WiFi. Don’t be one of those people, just understand that WiFi is best effort but you can improve your WiFi speeds by using a dedicated access point like a UniFi mounted in the right place in your house. See my Router Guide on Geekzone for a full guide on what I recommend.

My ISP provided router is crap!
Again, this is a misconception. It is only as crap as you make it out to be and all providers currently offer some pretty decent routers. The WiFi however on them is not the best. Most of the time these routers are totally fine for your average home or small office user. For example, the Huawei HG659 is actually a really decent router for your average home user since it can route Gigabit totally fine and has decent WiFi but does only have a 32 device limit. Again, you can solve this by grabbing a dedicated access point.

Peering:
This is quite a big subject as some ISP’s just don’t peer openly (looking at you Spark (and BigPipe) along with Vodafone to a degree). This is one of the main factors of why I moved away from BigPipe as I am an advanced user of Cloudflare + having the ability to use their NZ PoP (point of presence) is quite beneficial for me. Personally, I am using 2degrees for this reason as they’ve got the most open peering arrangement. If you’re a gamer then the ISP best for you at at the moment is simply 2degrees given they peer very openly resulting in lower latency (ping) to most NZ services. Furthermore, they’ve heavily invested in their international network so you can expect top speeds. For most people however I wouldn’t be too worried about this.

Speed:
Again, this varies between ISP’s. If you’re on ADSL or VDSL then you can look at improving your speeds by installing a Master Filter – there is a plain English guide on what this means for you Here. For UFB it is pretty consistent between providers and the main bottleneck here is the customers equipment. I’ve seen people using crappy old routers to connect them to Fibre along with people with Gigabit internet only using an old standard of WiFi. If you’ve got an older router still powering everything and find the internet slows down when you sneeze it may be worth investing in a new router. You don’t have to go with the top of the range router from your local appliance store, in most cases you can ask your provider nicely and they’ll send you a shiny new one to keep you going.

Bundle Deals (with Power):
These deals are often the most expensive of the lot – if your provider is offering you a Fridge or a TV for signing up then they’re making too much money off you. Broadband as a whole is a low margin product so it is best to take a look at Consumer Powerswitch to determine if your power deal is really the best for you along with keeping your broadband separate. It is not a good idea to bundle these services together unless if you want to pay more than the regular user. It is a trap. I’ve done some calculations myself and worked out I would be paying 20% more per month in Electricity if I was going to go with a provider like Orcon/Slingshot or was going to pay more (for a slower speed) if I went with Trustpower. I am personally with Flick Electric for power and still think despite the recent spikes in power pricing they’re the cheapest if you average this over a year combined with a competent ISP.

Upgrading to Fibre:
If you’re not on UFB then it is well worth upgrading to it for a more stable service. In most cases your ISP will allow you to stay on ADSL/VDSL until you’re fully online on UFB. Ask them about this and they’ll make sure to make it work. An upgrade to UFB does take a bit to do (mine took 4 months) but it is worth it – trust me!

I’m rural and want better speeds:
Take into consideration how much broadband you really need each month and consider moving to a wireless (over 4G) plan. You’ve likely already paid for a local cell tower upgrade via the RBI through tax so use it. Skinny + Spark offer some pretty decent wireless broadband plans along with Vodafone + some resellers like Wireless Nation. It is more expensive however the service over it will often be far quicker than a standard rural ADSL connection.

Pricing + Support:
ISP’s run on a pretty low margin – Chorus charge between $45-$65 per month (approx however I don’t have the figures on hand, excluding GST) for just the connection back to the ISP. The ISP then has the task of buying bandwidth (the actual connection to the outside world) and in UFB areas the gear to go in the exchanges which cost tens of thousands of dollars along with other gear to make everything work. What I am trying to say is ISP’s, after everything is accounted for are making around $5 per month profit off you. Some ISP’s promise to be the cheapest but you have to ask yourself what they’re cutting in order to be the cheapest. I can think of a few ISP’s who are literally making a loss from their cheapest plans to get you to go with them.

Going with the cheapest ISP is just asking for trouble – do you want your YouTube, Netflix, Lightbox etc to stream at the highest resolution? Do you want great support? Do you game and want to beat your friends who have paid to go with a real provider? If you answered yes then stop looking for the cheapest and go with a more mainstream ISP. A bit of a note also if you’re in a UFB area and your ISP can only offer 200/200Mbit max it is highly likely they’ve not got the capacity in the exchange to support Gigabit (which often means their connection back from the exchange, or their point of presence in your area is only running at a Gigabit) – if you do the maths here it won’t take much for that capacity to become saturated. Take a look at this thread on Geekzone of an ISP that had just that problem… I also don’t recommend that ISP if you’re asking. There is however an exception to this rule and that is Skinny who are pretty good for your more basic provider.

Going with an ISP isn’t like picking a power provider – there is a mix of good or bad and it depends what you pay. If the ISP you’re thinking of joining doesn’t have comments or ratings on their Facebook page then you’ve got to ask yourself what they’re really hiding? I bet if you comment on such pages your comments will get removed also. Do a quick Google search on the ISP you’re thinking of joining, look on both Geekzone and GPForums for feedback on that ISP and if you’ve got a bad taste in your mouth or are wondering if you should really join then it may be worth reconsidering.

Generally support of the mainstream ISP’s is good. You shouldn’t have to call them for anything after signing up unless if you’re wanting to maybe move house or change plan. In my experience the ISP’s I’ve picked above are excellent with billing, support when you need it and have good uptime on their services. BigPipe, whilst being email only support has been great in my books when it comes to support and Voyager seem to answer the phone in a matter of seconds and also offer excellent email support for those times where your query is less urgent.

My connection keeps dropping! My ISP sucks!
Most of the time if you’re on a copper connection this problem is with your connection, and your connection only. If your ISP’s Facebook page is blowing up with everyone commenting then maybe it is not you but just have a look at the other comments first before acting like a fool and posting. Maybe, fool is a harsh word as people don’t really know.

There are many things that can go wrong with a standard copper connection but most of the time it is due to your own internal wiring. I’d strongly recommend investing in a Master Filter to get your connection stable again. Just like the pipes or electrical wiring in your house anything past that little white Chorus / Telecom demarcation point on the side of your house is your own responsibility. There is also the odd time the problem is with your router however this is rare. If you’ve got a stack of routers you’ve collected over the last year and your internet problem is still not resolved then first of all stop calling your ISP to complain or better yet call them and ask to get a master filter installed if you’ve got more than 2 jackpoints in the house. Yes, it is $200 charged by Chorus but it’ll more than likely solve your problems and give you faster internet in the process.

There is also the odd chance you’re too far from your cabinet. Take a look at https://www.chorus.co.nz/tools-support/broadband-tools/broadband-map to see what you should be getting. If you’re in a VDSL area the problem is you. Do some investigation, try Ethernet to your Router (instead of WiFi), try another phone cable or even try your router on another jackpoint in your house. These are just a few (of the many) things you can try in order to rectify your issue.

Getting hit with CG-NAT:
Something to look out for is ISP’s that use “CG-NAT”. Essentially, this is one public IP address shared amongst many people for internet meaning you can’t open ports (vital if you’re hosting a game or have a web server on your connection for example). Most providers allow an opt-out of this by purchasing a static IP address however there are also a few that don’t. For most people who want internet this is totally fine but if you’re a gamer and host many games then you may want to consider either going to an ISP without CG-NAT or asking them about opting out. I’m not going to list the ISP’s that have this, instead, you’re best to look at your ISP’s FAQ page or ask them about it if this is important to you.

ISP Provided email:
Simply don’t do this – instead, sign up to a free provider like Gmail, Outlook or if privacy is important to you then ProtonMail.

Conclusion:
Again, do not go for the cheapest – treat your internet as your main source of entertainment. What is $10 extra per month for a faster, more stable service? Have a look at https://broadband.geekzone.co.nz to find an ISP that suits you. In general it is hard to screw this up. Look at my recommendations on providers above and use common sense to picking the perfect ISP for your needs.

If you’re on Geekzone then feel free to further discuss this post Here.

If you’re considering joining BigPipe then support one of my friends (and gain yourself $20 in the process) by using This Link. Also check out his radio station at http://thecheese.co.nz. A bit of a protip with BigPipe also is often they have GrabOne deals with a free install and a month or two free – this can be stacked on top of the referral link to give you all the dollars.

Also be wary of ISP comparison sites as on multiple occasions these are run by the ISP’s themselves. If you want a quick list of features that an ISP offers then have a look at InternetNZ’s list: https://internetnz.nz/ispreview.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

nine − seven =