OnPoint by Keith Ng

The Good, the Bad and the 256k

Now is a good time to upgrade your internet connection if you're not already suckling from the sweet bosom of a 3.5Mbs line. I'm not - and I'm pissed about it. I put in the order weeks ago, and Orcon tells me that "Telecom are only able to provision a set amount of orders from [Orcon] each day" and that I was just going to have to wait.

Anyway, I've been shopping around, and here's the low-down:

[Note: All except Iconz offer a $10 discount if you sign up with them for toll calls, too. They do cheap international calls, but they don't have the capped national deals that Telecom do, so our flat's ended up going back to Telecom for toll calls, even though it means we lose the $10 discount with Orcon - one or two $3 Weekend calls more than makes up for it.]

Low-end users

Iconz offer the best overall plan, with a speed of 2Mbs and a 1GB traffic allowance. That's only enough to peck at multimedia material, but if that's what you do, then this is probably the best deal. $40/month. Excess usage at $20/GB.

ihug has the fastest plan, at 3.5Mbs, but has a much smaller traffic allowance (250MB, or 500MB if you have toll calls with ihug as well). This poses a problem, since they charge additional traffic at 6c/MB (=$60/GB). This is okay if you know you're really not going to download much, but if you're not going to download much, then the 3.5Mbs connection is redundant, anyway. $40/month, or $30 if you have toll calls with them.

Xtra has two plans aimed at low-end users. One is identical to the Iconz plan, except it's $10 more - but you get a $10 discount if you get calls with Telecom. Sure, you're encouraging anti-competitive behaviour, but you don't have to worry about dealing with Telecom *and* a separate ISP. $50/month, or $40 with tolls. Drops you down to 64Kbs once you reach your traffic limit.

Xtra also offers the worst plan in the country. Their Xtra Broadband Basic gets you a 256Kbs connection with 200MB of data. For a 4/5th of the price, you get 1/8th of the speed and 1/5th of the traffic. Go figure. $40/month, or $30 with tolls. Excess usage at $20/GB.

Mid-range users

All 5 ISPs I looked at (Iconz, ihug, Orcon, Slingshot, Xtra) offer a near-identical 3.5Mbs plan with 10GB traffic allowance for the same price. ihug's stands out (a little) for offering an additional 5GB allowance on top of the $10 discount if you do toll calls through them.

At the mid-range plan, ihug doesn't charge for excess usage, it just slows down your connection to 64k once you reach the traffic allowance limit. At 10 or 15GB, that should take a while. Unless, of course, you're one of the...

Users who may or may not be engaging in illegal and immoral infringements of intellectual property

For users who use 20GB a month, downloading what is certainly education and legal non-proprietary material, ihug's high-end plan (at $90) is $10 cheaper than anyone else. At 40GB of traffic each month, ihug still comes first-equal with Slingshot ($110), while Xtra, Iconz and Orcon costs around $150.

But Slingshot's got flexibility - Xtra and Iconz charge $20 for each gigabyte over the traffic allowance, ihug charges $5, Orcon charges $2, but Slingshot charges a mere $1.67 for the first 3GB, all the way down to 60c/GB if you're getting 50GB's worth. This means an ability to download as much as you please without having the high fixed costs. Perfect for downloading, um, Scientology DVDs and stuff.