FOR MANY CONSUMERS the prospect of a broadband connection raises seemingly unanswerable questions. What plan do I need? Which provider can I trust? Do I really need to upgrade? How long will it take, and what will it involve?
Gavin Male, founder and chief executive of comparison website Broadband Compare once faced similar questions. Back in 2014, fresh off the plane from the UK, he found himself in the same predicament. For most people in the 21st century, being digitally connected is vitally important. Even more so when everything familiar to you is half a globe away.
Male remembers entering the morass that is the world of ISPs and ﬁnding only one familiar name: Vodafone. 2Degrees and Spark were of little meaning to him, having no global presence. And the latter had recently rebranded, though he recalls people still referring to “Telecom”. This didn’t help an already confused newcomer.
“It was hard to know who was what,” Male says. And, unlike in the UK, New Zealand did not have a major player in the comparison market who could help him out. “Consumer empowerment websites are very embedded in the UK and that was the sector I was in.”
The UK is dominated by big comparison websites like Compare The Market and uSwitch. There are also broadband-speciﬁc comparison sites such as cable.co.uk. In fact, the UK government’s 2017 report on Digital Comparison Tools (DCTs) found 85 percent of UK consumers with access to the internet had used a DCT.
Male looked for something similar here. What he found was outdated or incorrect information. And so Broadband Compare was born.
Launched in June 2016, Broadband Compare now lists 122 ISPs and over 2000 plans from across the country. When asked why the service is important, Male says: “It empowers the consumer.”
The site has had over 430,000 visits since it was launched. In July 2016, just one month after starting, the site saw 16,000 visits. Today, this has increased by nearly 140 percent.
Having been in the country just shy of four years now, Male says he loves New Zealand’s innate entrepreneurial and innovative spirit and admires its ability to be the best-connected nation on the planet. This, combined with a desire to “educate, save people some money and shout for the little guys”, is the impetus behind Male’s company.
In a nutshell, Male says “We compare and list every single ISP and plan that we know of, whether someone has partnered with us as a paying partner or not.”
This touches on rumours Broadband Compare curries favour with certain ISPs. “We’re straight up. We explain how things are rated. We push the consumer towards the best connection type, which, in our opinion, is ﬁbre. So, if ﬁbre is available, we will push them towards that over any ADSL or VDSL plan.
“The ideal plan for everyone would be ﬁbre, gigabit, free connection, free router, no contract, dirt cheap,” he says. But, given this is a long shot, Broadband Compare aims to tailor its recommendations as much as possible to individual requirements. For instance, some people really only care about price, whereas others value add-ons such as Lightbox or Sky’s Neon TV.
Broadband Compare's website trafﬁc is driven primarily by people moving house, secondly by those looking for the cheapest deal and thirdly, accounting for 12 percent of trafﬁc, by those who have recently had ﬁbre made available and want to upgrade.
Does Male believe New Zealanders are getting value from their broadband plans?
He responds with a story. “We had someone contact us who was on a legacy plan the other day. The provider shall remain nameless, but the person was paying $176 per month for a 300GB capped plan. In no one’s eyes is that value for money.”
Male doesn’t believe this is particularly unusual. However, it does highlight Broadband Compare’s aim: to educate consumers so they can ﬁnd what is right and fair for them.
But, for those who have changed because ﬁbre has become available, well “they’re deﬁnitely getting value for money.”
In addition to not knowing what is available, many consumers are put off upgrading to ﬁbre for fear they will be off the internet for days or more while they are connected to the ﬁbre network.
“People don’t understand it can literally be a two-hour job.”
But poor install stories will have to become a thing of the past as customer service becomes increasingly important in differentiating one ISP from another, says Male.
So, what’s next for Broadband Compare?
“We have soft-launched Power Compare, which we’re developing under the NZ Compare umbrella. This will compare all the major verticals: broadband, power, mobile, travel, money, KiwiSaver etc. “We’re looking to be a full website comparison site, but broadband is still our baby,” he says.
*This article appeared on the print version of Download magazine, Issue 6, 2018.