Is Tesco broadband really good value?

Tesco logo
Tesco broadband: not as cheap as the adverts suggest

Tesco, the supermarket chain that appears to own everything, has a special offer to beat all special offers: Tesco Value Broadband.

It isn't called that, of course, but at £2.50 per month for a year it clearly isn't aimed at the money's-no-object market.

So is this the Finest deal around? First up, the good news. Tesco Broadband doesn't give you a Tesco Value Internet, making you use WeeBay instead of eBay, Friendster instead of Facebook or Bing instead of Google.

There's no set-up fee on the 12-month contract, you can pay using Clubcard vouchers or earn Clubcard points on your bill, and you'll even get a free router.

The bad news? It's a broadband product, so of course the marketing blurb is FULL OF LIES!

Seeing stars

To be fair, the lies are little fibs of the kind most other broadband ISPs also use. As with most ISPs the promise of unlimited downloads has a wee asterisk next to it, and if you go exploring you'll see there's a traffic management policy that slows things down at peak periods and expects you to use less than 100GB a month.

So that's "unlimited" in the sense of "it has limits", then. Tesco does say that it doesn't want to limit "time-critical transactions" such as iPlayer or Skype, though, so if you sign up do let us know how that pans out.

The main fib, though, is the price: it doesn't include line rental (£13.75 per month). Tesco isn't the only offender here.

ISPs are getting a bit too asterisk-happy for my liking, so for example TalkTalk is currently advertising broadband at £3.25 per month plus "free connection***" and "line rental from £9.50 a month**" or "unlimited*" broadband for £7.25.

It turns out that "unlimited*" means there's a fair usage policy - 40GB a month, fact fans - while "£9.50 a month**" is "the effective line rental price per month when you take Value Line Rental by making a non refundable upfront payment of £114.00 (by debit/credit card)."

Meanwhile "free connection***" means that you'll be charged for connection in the first bill and get a credit in the next one.

I don't know about you, but I'm not thrilled to see ISPs adopt the budget airline approach to price transparency: it's like going to the pub, paying £3-whatever for a pint and then being told that the price didn't include the beer, or like handing over £100-plus for fancy new shoes only to be told that the left shoe isn't included.

Whether it's the price of concert tickets, cheap flights or budget broadband, hiding the real price behind a galaxy of stars is a crappy and anti-consumer thing to do.

* No it isn't
** No it doesn't
*** No we're not

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.