An internet connection is as essential to a student house as a bathroom cleaning rota and a set of dinged up pans donated by someone’s mother.
You need the internet to stalk your new classmates across social media, waste the night before an exam falling down online rabbit holes, buy garb for themed nights out, and maybe download a few PowerPoints from the lectures you missed while having a lie-in. It’s clearly indispensable to your education.
With most of your social life and half your coursework conducted online and with housemate harmony crucial, you can’t afford not to get this right.
What Download Speed Should We Get?
If you’re sharing a student house, you’ll also be sharing the bandwidth of an internet connection (and a shower Sophie keeps monopolising and a fridge full of stinking leftovers labelled with someone’s boyfriend’s name). You’ll need enough speed to ensure you don’t step on each other’s digital toes, and that you can download those article PDFs you need for your essay, even as Tom is neck deep in a World of Warcraft mission and Jack is entering his fourteenth hour of a Netflix binge.
Multi-person households, especially those full of internet-hungry students, should opt for the ‘superfast’ speeds (that’s more than 24 Mbps) of a fibre optic connection. Standard, ADSL broadband, with speeds averaging 10 or 11 Mbps just won’t cut it. You’ll shell out more money monthly for a superfast connection but maybe only an extra £10 per month. It’s more than worth the expense to smooth out disputes among living companions about the internet, particularly because the cost is divided among you. You definitely don’t want to be the person pulling the plug on your housemates’ streaming session because you need to download a data set at midnight.
If you need even more speed, you could spring for one of Virgin’s ultrafast cable connections, which come with speeds in excess of 100 Mbps. Virgin cable can be costly though, and is only available to half of UK addresses, and your student house might not be one of them.
How Long Should Our Contract Be?
You’ll likely only be living in your student house for a year, maybe less, if your summertime plans are taking you to Thailand or Benidorm or your parents’ house. You should look for a 12-month broadband contract or even a special, 9-month term time contract, offered by BT and Virgin (more about those below) to avoid paying for months of broadband for a house you’ve vacated.
You might even want to consider rolling, 30-day contracts, from providers like NOW TV, Plusnet, and Virgin Media. These will renew automatically each month though and will have notice periods for cancellation, so you’ll have to stay on your toes and remember to cancel them in April or May.
Should We Go for a Student-Only Broadband Deal?
BT and Virgin offer special, term-time only broadband deals for students, which are generally only available to start between August and October and only with proof of your student status such as an university ID. They could be an appealing option if you’re intending to move out of your student house the second you finish your last exam.
These student-pitched packages may come with appealing extras (BT throws in 9 months of access to the BT Sport app, for instance), but you should do the maths to ensure they’re not more expensive over 9 months than a broadband tariff from a budget provider would be over 12.
What About Broadband and TV Bundles?
Many student households have ditched television sets entirely in favour of laptop and tablet streaming. But if you miss the constant, reassuring blare of daytime TV, or have aspirations for a Sky Cinema-enabled movie night, you might want to consider a subscription TV deal. Bundle it with your broadband and you’ll save both money and the hassle of two bills.
But be aware that most broadband and TV bundles will come with lengthy contracts, which may be inappropriate for your term-time stay in your student house. You could consider monthly TV passes from NOW TV, which can give your household access to a range of channels and on demand content across a number of platforms, including, with a NOW TV box, the television set you picked up off Gumtree. And for simplicity’s sake, NOW TV also offers broadband.
Do You Still Have to Pay Line Rental?
Yes, the idea of a student household plugging in and using a landline phone is laughable. Unfortunately, line rental is part and parcel of almost all broadband connections on the market and strategies for getting out of it—including mobile broadband—won’t necessarily be cheaper. Luckily, advertising standards now require ISPs to include line rental in their total advertised broadband cost, so you won’t be hit with surprise fees.