As the way we interact with the world becomes increasingly digital, it goes without saying that every home and every business needs to have a fast and reliable Internet connection. But choosing the right Internet service provider (ISP) can be a real challenge.
By Matthew Campbell, head of SME and FTTH at Seacom
With an overwhelming variety of connectivity solutions to choose from, many customers find themselves tied up in contracts with ISPs that over-promise and under-deliver.
These are some red flags customers should look out for when it comes to ISPs.
Not meeting modern expectations
The right Internet provider should understand modern customer requirements. Always have a look at the online service platforms of an ISP before signing up: do they offer seamless online functionality to help you manage your account?
You want an ISP that offers a fully digital front-end that allows customers to manage their orders or line upgrades, banking details, and support tickets, and includes a self-help portal for easy troubleshooting. If you don’t need to phone customer support to run diagnostics on your active line, even better. An ISP that allows you to do it all on your browser or on a mobile app is an ISP that’s moved into the modern age.
Signing up for a new line can be a long and tiresome process with some ISPs. Look for a provider where everything can be done digitally, and customers can choose an Internet package that suits them. In addition, routers should be provisioned automatically, so you don’t have to worry about additional costs and delivery delays.
Data security is also an increasing concern in today’s digital age, but not all ISPs have the expertise or transparency required when it comes to data protection. A good ISP should ensure that all data is transferred securely with encryption, and APIs are secured via keys and links with secure tokens. Ask if your current or potential ISP shares any data with third parties other than those contracted to them.
Provide an impersonal service
Customer service is one of the biggest pain points for Internet users experiencing a slow connection or network downtime. Automatic replies are not good enough, and a customer shouldn’t have to log hundreds of tickets or wait hours just to talk to someone who can’t help you. A good ISP recognises the need for professional and personalised customer support, and their customer service agents should be armed with all the knowledge they need to assist customers effectively.
When your fibre line is down, and you need help fast, being put on hold for hours is unacceptable – and yet many perceive it as an industry standard. A loss of connectivity is not only a major inconvenience but can also lead to revenue losses for businesses. Instead of being transferred to multiple departments and waiting on hold, your problem should be solved the first time you call, by someone with a broad understanding of all possible problems. If that’s not the case, you should consider switching providers.
Not all ISPs are completely transparent about their service offerings. Some might use fibre-related terminology to advertise products that are actually fixed wireless or satellite-based connectivity. Customers are then led to believe that they are paying for the faster speeds, greater bandwidth, and better reliability of fibre – only to be disappointed by fluctuating speeds caused by wireless interference.
Another marketing tactic that some ISPs use is advertising uncapped connectivity at an affordable rate, without making it obvious that the line is subject to shaping or throttling. With shaping, certain online activities can be restricted during peak times of the day, such as downloading, whereas throttling reduces your line speed (meaning all of your online activities may be curtailed) once you’ve reached an allocated usage limit, or when the network is strained by high traffic.
Knowing the terms and conditions of your agreement with an ISP is essential and could save you from disappointment before getting tied up in a contract. Some ISPs are quick to shift the blame to the fibre network owner instead of taking responsibility for their service to the customer.
The digital world we live in today demands fast and reliable Internet. Don’t settle for less. If you see signs of these bad practices from your ISP, consider switching to a connectivity partner you can trust to deliver on their promises and exceed your expectations.