Why are broadband contracts getting longer?

Friday, 22 May, 2020

There are many common misapprehensions and urban myths in circulation. Policemen get younger every year. It was cheaper in my day. And what happened to the Dunkirk spirit?

However, some things are demonstrably true. Chocolate bars really are getting smaller due to shrinkflation, while broadband contracts last much longer than they used to.

The trend for broadband contracts getting longer has been evident for some time, but the advent of 24-month contracts is particularly interesting.

Internet service providers (ISPs) refer to them in this way because ’24 months’ sounds like less of a commitment than ‘two years’.

(Similar psychology underpins items being priced at £9.99, rather than £10).

But why are broadband contracts getting longer? And does this phenomenon offer any benefits to consumers?

As long as it’s short

Back when home internet access was a luxury rather than a necessity, one-year contracts were the norm.

The phenomenon of broadband contracts getting longer dovetailed with the rollout of consumer broadband services.

Nowadays, from Sky to Shell Energy, almost every company offers 18-month broadband contracts.

From the ISP’s perspective, longer contracts reduce the risk of consumers defecting, as well as helping to justify the cost of sending out broadband routers and microfilters.

Having guaranteed income so far in the future also helps with the considerable up-front costs incurred through infrastructure investment.

The latest company to extend the minimum contract term of their broadband packages is Vodafone.

In March, they announced new customers would have to sign up for 24 months, following a trend championed by BT but also adopted by smaller ISPs like italk.

A third of the deals listed on BroadbandDeals.co.uk are for 24 months, outnumbering each of the other standard minimum contract lengths (1, 12 and 18 months.)

Are these contracts worth considering?

They are, which is why our site currently lists over 150 two-year broadband deals.

For one thing, a two-year deal locks introductory savings in over a longer period of time. You won’t be quietly transferred onto an inferior ‘standard’ package next summer.

For another, lengthier minimum contract periods mean you don’t have to renegotiate with your existing ISP every year, or go through the process of switching provider too often.

It helps with long-term financial planning, too. A contract signed today should involve the same monthly payments being made until summer 2022.

However, it’s important to consider at the outset whether your circumstances may have changed by then.

If you’re renting an apartment with flatmates, preparing to enter your final year of uni or dreaming of a bigger house, a two-year contract is inadvisable.

It’s also crucial to research the small print surrounding both the package and its provider – average line speed, customer service, additional usage charges, etc – before signing up.

Two years is a long time to spend dealing with a company you regret giving your custom to…

Neil Cumins author picture


Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!