Bay people are spoiled for choice when it comes to internet service providers (ISPs) but finding the best deal can be a struggle.
Internet data usage has skyrocketed in the past two years. Statistics New Zealand figures show 41 per cent of broadband subscribers in 2012 used 20GB to 50GB of data a month - up from only 13 per cent in 2010.
Tauranga's Maria Meredith said the four teenagers in her home chewed through 100GB of data a month with their Xbox, three laptops, two iPhones and one iPod.
She had a two-year contract with Slingshot but said she found it frustrating dealing with the company's call centre.
The Bay of Plenty Times Weekend surveyed six ISPs to discover which had the cheapest plans and which offered the best deals for Tauranga customers. Surveyed were EOL, Orcon, Flip, Telecom, Vodafone and Slingshot.
Tauranga-based EOL offers 50GB of ultra fast broadband (UFB) for $69 or high speed wireless for $99, plus digital home phone lines from $12.95 per month and a seven-day locally based helpdesk. Both fibre and wireless could have either 12- or 24-month contracts, although EOL also had an open wireless contract.
EOL managing director Terry Coles said the company was the only provider to ever achieve a 100 per cent customer satisfaction rating according to a 2010 Consumer NZ poll.
Orcon offers 60GB of data for $89 a month, which includes national landline calls for up to an hour per call, landline, voicemail, caller ID, call waiting, free modem rental, free standard installation and one free house move. There is a 12-month contract.
Orcon head of brand and communications Quentin Reade said they were a Kiwi-owned company and were the first national ISP to offer UFB. He said their modems were fibre ready so Tauranga users could make the change as soon as the service was available in their area.
Flip's 50GB plan costs $74.95 per month, which includes a homeline with free local calls. Flip has no contracts and a New Zealand-based support centre from 10am to 7pm daily. There is a $49.95 installation fee, which doesn't include a modem.
Flip head of marketing Scott Hoogerbrug said they were $10 to $20 cheaper per month than most other providers and were 100 per cent Kiwi owned and operated.
Telecom's 50GB plan costs $95 per month, which includes landline and free local calling, free standard access and broadband connection, free wireless modem, McAfee antivirus, Flickr Pro and 24/7 helpdesk support in the 12-month contracts.
Telecom communications manager Holly Linell said when Telecom launches UFB it will be at the same price. All broadband plans included 'overage', meaning if customers went over their data cap they would pay per gigabyte and not be slowed down.
Slingshot charges $82 per month for 50GB, which includes a homeline and free data rollover. If a customer uses another company for their landline, the broadband component costs $51. Plans include free calling features such as call waiting, voicemail and caller display. Contracts are for 12 months, modems are included and there is a seven-day helpline, which is locally operated.
Slingshot campaign manager Wayne Miller said they were constantly trying to innovate and challenge the larger telcos to bring customers cheap prices and great products.
Vodafone's choice pack costs $85 for Vodafone customers with an On Account mobile calling plan, or $95 per month without.
The choice pack includes 50Gb broadband and home phone line, max download and upload speeds, 24-hour support, unlimited calls from your home phone to five nominated landlines and one of three SKY packages.
To help people choose a provider, Consumer NZ created the TelMe.org.nz website. By entering details of internet usage habits and location, the website brings up a list of the best suited ISPs and plans.
Consumer technology writer Hadyn Green said they had been fielding a large number of calls from the public asking them which were the best plans, so they decided to form the website.
"It's a huge project. There are just so many combinations of what you can get and the issue is keeping it updated, telcos change their plans often."
The fast developing appetite for higher data plans also contributed to the constantly evolving plans.
"People are watching television, watching movies, listening to music and using Skype over the internet and that sort of stuff is going up very quickly."