How to know if that super-fast, super-cheap home internet offer is too good to be true

We’ve all seen those flyers in the mail from start-up companies offering super-fast internet service at amazing low prices. But the trick is knowing if they really do deliver all that they offer, or if it’s just another too-good-to-be-true gimmick that just doesn’t add up. As long-time providers of high-speed internet service in our area, we hear from our customers from time to time asking about new offers and how they compare to our services. So we thought it would useful to share what you need to know to determine the true value of any internet provider’s offer.

Contract details

The devil is in the details, so the saying goes, and the fine print is often where you’ll find the answers to understand the real value of an internet service provider’s offer. One of the first things to do is check out the Terms of Service or Contract.

Is the offer good only for a limited amount of time? How and when will it renew? And how much will the renewal rate be? Often the super-low startup price is offset by higher than normal fees in the following years. For example, one pop-up internet service provider’s offer included renewing the customer’s contract after 1 year for another year automatically. Customers are expected to call within the last 30 days of the year to stop this auto-renewal. If they don’t, there are locked in for another year.

(For more details about pop-up internet service providers see: The Hidden Dangers of Pop-Up Internet Service Providers.)

Customer service

Some offers are a classic bait-and-switch, making fantastic offers to draw you into the application and setup process, but then unable to provide the exact offer due to extenuating circumstances. For example, some companies put in the fine print that a credit check can affect services, or that startup/activation fees will need to be added to the offer making it even more expensive than you thought it would be. When you try to call in and ask for details, you’re routed to a help desk out of the state or country that can’t provide the answers you need. Clear communication and excellent customer service should be a priority for all companies, but unfortunately that’s not the norm.

Unlimited data (no data caps)

When it comes to “unlimited” plans, there are a lot of limitations not shared up front. Data may be unlimited, but speeds are not guaranteed. If you look at the fine print of your agreement, you might see that only a certain amount of data per month is guaranteed to be delivered at 4G LTE speeds. After you go over your 4G LTE cap, you are eligible to be downgraded for the remainder of your billing cycle with connections reduced to 3G speeds.

{For more details about this subject, see: The Hidden Limitations of Unlimited Plans}

Equipment costs / fees

Additional fees not outlined in the original offer can also turn that great deal into a dud very quickly. Ask up front if you are required to purchase or rent equipment and what the costs and contract details are. Some companies will add on line-by-line charges for every single piece of equipment that can double or triple the original offer amount.

Flexibility

Another contract detail to look for: Does this company offer a satisfaction guarantee, and will they refund your service and allow you to leave without penalty if the service isn’t compatible with what you need? See if you have the flexibility to upgrade or downgrade your service as needed, or leave the contract with penalty.

Below the line fees

What are below the line fees? They are the sneaky charges that are typically tacked on to your bills which can significantly increase the amount you owe each month. Things like “Regulatory Recovery Fee,” “Property Tax Allotment Surcharge,” and so on. These can add $15 or more per month to your bill on top of what you’re already paying.

Customer service

While other internet service providers try to save money by outsourcing support operations overseas, Softcom doesn’t do that. All our employees live here in the Sacramento area and work out of our Galt facility. Whether you call us, drop by the offices, or are visited by our techs on-site, you’ll work with people who know you and know the community. Today, tomorrow and into the future, we remain focused on our commitment to provide you the best service at the best price for the high-speed internet you deserve.

If you want to know more about Softcom, or are a current customer and have questions about new local providers and how they compare, we are happy to help. Call our customer service experts at (800) 982-7675 or 1-(888)-4-SOFTCOM. Our technicians and support staff are people from our own community here in Galt, California and the surrounding area. We won’t subject you to long waits on hold listening to mind-numbing elevator tunes. Just real people who live and work in the same community as you and who will take the time to listen, identify, and find the best solutions for what you need.

Kristy CooperHow to know if that super-fast, super-cheap home internet offer is too good to be true