Later this month, Isleham gets broadband. Like many rural villages in the depths of the English countryside, it's had to wait its turn -- but it's nearly time. Which means that today I get a phone call I've been fearing for years -- "Beloved son, to which broadband service should your mother and I subscribe?"
Oh dear. I lost touch with the broadband retail scene last year, when the technical side of things finally faded away into a welter of industry politics and BT-flavoured posturing. So I have to go online and do my research. Friends are asked, comparative Web sites scoured, support forums mined for signs of goodness and badness. "What sort of usage pattern will they have?" one chap asks. How do I know -- they've never used broadband before.
One by one, recommendations and observations are tried out for size. Tesco Broadband sounds promising and affordable -- but oh, the number of complaints online. And there's no technical detail about the supplied modem -- USB or Ethernet. Another supplier has an unbelievable £9.99 a month deal -- but with an £85 connection fee that puts the annual rate back up to the same price as everyone else. There are capped deals, pay as you go options, mixtures of monthly and yearly prices, free thisses and optional thats. With more than a hundred UK ISPs all putting their own spin on what is basically the same service, it's close to impossible to come to a sensible conclusion.
My own supplier, Telewest, isn't much cop for the Fens (which is a shame, as it's just announced the second free speed upgrade for its customers, so I'm feeling very well disposed towards it at the moment). So I can't even go with what I know -- always a wise move.
Heaven knows, it's bad enough choosing a supplier for yourself without having to oversee the business at a distance of seventy miles on behalf of enthusiastic but untechnical silver surfers. As I've also got to sort out a wireless router, remote administration and my mother's first encounter with the Open University's online conferencing system, this all promises to be a joyous encounter with reality.
Watch this space…