The renters’ guide to broadband

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Finding a broadband plan that fits the rental lifestyle isn't always easy. We've broken down the key factors that you'll want to consider.



Broadband and renting

For many, renting is simply a fact of life. While the old adage "rent money is dead money" is hard to dispute, it's equally difficult to save up enough money for a deposit for your own home before your parents decide you're too old to be living under their roof anymore.

While there are plenty of guides on how to survive the renting life, one factor that often gets overlooked is finding the right broadband plan. Where price, speed and data caps are the primary concerns for the typical homeowner, renting introduces a number of additional considerations to the mix. What if your rent suddenly goes up and you need to downsize your broadband plan to compensate? What if your landlord goes bust and you find yourself unceremoniously kicked to the curb? What if you simply can't stand where you're living anymore and want to move somewhere new?

As stressful as these situations can be on their own, they only get worse once you tack on a $200 early termination fee from your broadband provider. That's why it's important to choose a broadband plan that matches the malleability of the renting lifestyle. To help you find that plan, let's go over the key factors to consider for a rent-friendly broadband plan.

Key considerations

No-lock-in contract

This is far and away the most important element to focus on when choosing a rent-compatible broadband plan. Signing up for a no-lock-in contract – also commonly referred to as a month-to-month contract – means you're not tying yourself down to 12+ months on the same plan at the same address, giving you the freedom to change pricing tiers and providers as you need to.

Paying for more data than you need? Found a better deal elsewhere? Not using the Internet enough to justify its cost? No worries. With a no-lock-in contract, you can cancel your service at any time without penalty, whatever the reason may be.

Even if you intend to live at the same place for a year or more, you can never be sure what might happen down the road. Signing up for a no-lock-in contract gives you the peace of mind that you won't be slugged with hundreds of dollars in cancellation fees should your renting situation go all topsy-turvy.

Minimal set-up fees

One of the caveats of choosing a no-lock-in contract over a fixed-term contract is that most providers slap on a hefty installation or activation fee to offset the short-term commitment. These fees range from around $80 all the way up to $200 or more, and they get even dearer if you need to purchase a new modem as part of the package, too.

Be sure to take these fees into consideration when you compare broadband plans, as some are far more expensive than others. You may also want to consider purchasing a modem separately, as the modems that come bundled with a broadband plan are often budget models that occasionally run custom software preventing you from changing their settings – a potential problem if you want to use that same modem with a different provider down the track.

Minimal installation required

As any renter who's discovered a sagging ceiling or a leaking faucet will know, it can be painfully difficult to get structural work done on a place that you don't own. For this reason, you'll want to make sure that the necessary broadband infrastructure has already been installed on the premises before signing up for any Internet plan. You don't want to fork out hundreds in activation fees only to discover that your entire front yard is going to have to be dug up to lay down cables. Your landlord certainly won't be happy about that one either.

Researching installation costs is especially relevant as the NBN continues to roll out, as you may find that a new NBN installation is your only option for fixed-line Internet at your current residence. If that's the case, discussing the issue with your landlord prior to signing any contracts is the best idea.

Low cost

Looking for the cheapest broadband plan that meets your needs isn't exclusively a renter's concern, but it is something that can prove especially beneficial if you've got home ownership in your sights. Stockpiling enough money for a deposit on a new home isn't easy, so every dollar you save on your broadband bill puts you one step closer to signing the deed for your very own property. Do you really need that 1,000GB data cap? Is a 50Mbps connection that important, or could you get by with a 25Mbps or even a 12Mbps connection instead? Think about it: every sacrifice could get you into your own place that much quicker.

Standard speed/data cap considerations

Along with all the tenant-specific considerations, you'll also need to weigh up general concerns like Internet speeds and data caps. To figure out how fast a broadband connection you'll need, check out our guide to the NBN speed tiers. To determine how much data you're likely to use, take a look at our data usage guides for streaming Netflix and Stan.

What about mobile broadband?

Depending on your data needs, you might find that, rather than springing for a traditional home broadband connection, you prefer the versatility of a mobile broadband plan. Whether it be using your phone as a wireless hotspot for browsing the web on your larger laptop screen or picking up a dedicated Wi-Fi modem for sharing a 4G connection with more than a dozen devices at once, a mobile broadband solution offers a lot more flexibility than a regular fixed-line connection.

The big advantage of mobile broadband for renters is that you can take it with you from one residence to another, no installation or relocation fees to worry about. The catch is that mobile reception can differ drastically from suburb to suburb and you could find yourself moving into a place where the wireless Internet speeds are slower than a woozy wombat

You'll also want to carefully consider the cost of mobile broadband, as the price per MB is magnitudes higher than it is for a fixed-line connection. Data caps on mobile broadband are also significantly lower, making it awfully easy to rack up hundreds of dollars' worth of excess usage charges without realising it.

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Matt Sayer

Matt is a writer covering the latest tech, telco and video game news at finder.com.au. In his downtime from helping Aussies make informed decisions on their broadband, mobile phone, and streaming video plans, he likes exploring rich video game worlds and kicking back with a good book.

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