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Questions to ask your new business broadband provider

Choosing a new broadband provider for your business should not be difficult. You want fast broadband, that is stable and allows teams to complete tasks quickly and efficiently. A recent Which UK survey found that 70% of users had experienced problems with their broadband supplier in the last 12 months. A huge increase caused by more users relying on cloud-based software, a lack of customer support following recent lockdowns and lack of infrastructure following years of under-investment by companies chasing connections to keep shareholders happy at the cost of their customers.

So what questions should you ask your new business broadband provider before signing the contract, and what do these terms mean? Let Baltic Broadband be your fully independent guide to choosing the best business broadband provider for your company.


1. What happens when my service is affected?

This may seem like a very obvious question, but it is important to drill down into how your business broadband provider deals with your problems. What ticketing system do they use? What process is in place for escalating complaints? Where is the customer support and technical support team based? What level of service is considered ‘poor’ or ‘insufficient’ before your Service Level Agreement (SLA) is actioned?

The chances are that your first contact will either be with an offshore call centre or via an AI supported virtual support desk. The team will not be familiar with your location, you will likely be nothing more than a customer number and job reference number. Your SLA will only be actionable following multiple problems within a set time scale (often three months) meaning for a considerable amount of time your team may suffer from poor connectivity and be left unable to complete uploading and downloading documents, affecting relationships with customers and causing backlogs internally. Really drill down into what happens when your service is affected and make the decision based on the best customer service and reimbursement. Your broadband should work, it’s only when it doesn’t that you see the real cost of not asking these questions and knowing the answers in advance. 

Most Alternative Networks (Alt-Nets) will offer much better customer service with local support and have real relationships with their customers. It is well worth searching out for local suppliers who can fix problems quickly and become a real partner to your company, as if things go wrong, you want problems fixed, not passed from department to department in various regions and countries.

2. What is the contention rate on my business broadband service?

Your first question may be ‘what is a contention rate’? It basically means how many companies/ other users are sharing the broadband line being supplied to your business. And why is this important? Well, think of broadband and the internet as a road. Everything moves quicker when there are fewer vehicles on the road. Huge amounts of vehicles results in traffic, slower movement and sometimes completely blocks a road. Imagine you are paying for a quiet road that gets your vehicle wherever you want it. A single lane. And then that lane is filled with vehicles from all of your neighbouring companies. It makes your connection slower. It’s really important you have access to the road you pay for, rather than your business broadband provider selling your road to everyone else by you. Look for a business broadband provider that caps contention rates, or has a low number of users. The maximum you want is a ratio of 10 users to one line. Otherwise your business will be impacted by multiple other users sending and downloading huge files that affects your service and productivity. And your SLA is unlikely to cover ‘slow’ traffic caused by multiple users. Most Alt-Nets will cap their contention rates in order to provide better broadband speeds to customers. As they are not tied to shareholders, they will generally provide a better service to customers rather than trying to impress shareholders with selling the same space as many times as possible and are well worth checking out.

3. How long is my contract and what happens at the end?

This seems obvious but there is a reason to ask this question. Many, many providers ‘roll-over’ customers into their next contract without the customer even realising it has happened. Hidden in the small print is often text that highlights that without a clear cancellation three months before the end of the term, they can roll your contract over for another 36 month period. It happens all the time. You can eventually get out of this contract but then there will be an exit fee applicable, which often amounts to a significant sum. Many Alt-Nets will offer monthly rolling contracts or 12 month contracts with no exit fees. It is well worth doing your homework to make sure you are not tied into expensive contracts for longer than necessary when other options are available in the market.

TL;DR Version

What happens when there is a problem with the service?

Most providers have a ticketing system that will involve their contracted suppliers and third-party engineers diagnosing and working on the problems with your service. Companies like Baltic Broadband (and other Alternative Network Providers) supply a service where you speak to the team that installed your service and know exactly where to look to solve problems quickly.

What is the contention rate of the service you are supplying to my business?

Unless you are installing a costly fixed line solely for your business with a long lead-time for installation, you will be sharing bandwidth with many, many other companies. This will slow down your service. Companies like Baltic Broadband cap the contention rates to ensure you always have a fast service.

How long is the contract and what happens at the end?

Most providers will put you into a long contract, typically 36 months, with a hidden ‘roll-over’ written into the contract to tie you in for even longer or face an expensive exit fee. Companies like Baltic Broadband offer monthly rolling contracts or 12 month contracts with no exit fee.

Want to know more? Contact and see if we can help you have a better business broadband experience.