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The company started out as a satellite TV provider, merging with British Satellite Broadcasting in 1990 to form British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB), although everything is marketed under the Sky brand. Since then, it has increased its TV offering, with several new channels, but also added Sky broadband and phone services.
If you want to take broadband, you have to be a Sky TV customer and you have to rent your phone line through them or direct from BT. Providing you do this, you can choose a Sky internet package from a range of deals. The website broadband.sky.com shows various levels of internet service, ranging from a base service for light use through to unlimited usage and fast download speeds. However, if you're outside their network coverage area, internet access is limited to Sky Broadband Connect, which has one speed option only.
All options come with a router with inbuilt modem for wireless broadband packages and, if your PC isn't wireless enabled, they'll sell you a USB adaptor (watch out for offers from time to time as many providers throw some free adaptors during quiet periods to boost sales). As with all broadband deals, speeds can vary from those quoted but you can run a speed test through any online broadband checker to see what you might get.
From here, it gets more complicated because you can add in TV and phone packages, with a large number of individual and packaged TV channels to choose from. Everything comes with a minimum contract and the policy seems to be to charge a set-up fee if you get a basic deal which reduces and is sometimes zero if you increase your monthly spend. What you really have to do is decide the internet services you need, the best telephone option and TV channels, then choose the offer that's the best fit. You don't get mobile broadband, which you'll need to source elsewhere.
Technical support is available 24/7 by email and phone (free if you have the phone option) although, as is common for any ISP, its customer service does come in for some criticism in the public review forums. There are also complaints about poor availability, with the connection being lost frequently. Customer service is a regular gripe against any internet provider, with a uSwitch survey in October 2009 reporting long periods on hold often resulting in high phone charges. However, Sky was one of the best rated, with a 60% satisfaction score putting it third.
It was the winner in the BroadbandChoices.co.uk 2009 Customer Satisfaction survey for Bundled Services and was also highly recommended for value for money and fast download performance. This is reflected in customer reviews, which mention fast speeds, reliability and the fact that broadband comes "free" with other products if you buy at the right time (see the now-dubbed adverts about the princess and the pea!).
The company seems to be on a permanent war footing with Virgin, including a famous fall-out in 2007 when it withdrew TV channels previously provided to cable customers. These were eventually restored in 2008. More recently, Virgin complained in October 2009 over a Sky advert that promised to cut broadband and phone bills when switching to it. The company largely got away with it by explaining that the advert only applied to its TV customers who got broadband and phone services from Virgin Media or BT.
A broadband development in October 2009 was the launch of a Sky Songs service that provides music downloads for a monthly subscription. Existing broadband users received a free trial for the first month.
Sky is best known for its satellite TV service and you can get broadband and a phone service for no extra cost if you subscribe to any TV package. However, nothing is really free and taking anything other than the basic offering can really start to stack up the cost. For example, our office as all three services and costs around £80 per month ... a far cry from the £20 number you see around on the adverts. However, we have BT in our other office up north which is always going down whilst our Sky connection here hasn't been off since it was installed a year ago. †