For many people, home broadband (your internet connection) will be one of the biggest monthly utility bills for which you can choose your supplier.
The market is dominated by four big providers, (90% of market share is with Virgin, BT, Sky and TalkTalk), unfortunately all these market leaders appear in the bottom half of the table above.
All four have been marked down for lobbying, excessive remuneration of directors, and having no policy to reduce the toxic chemicals they used.
Luckily for ethical consumers, there are also three good ethical alternatives which come at the top of our table above.
Score table highlights
Sky is one of the lowest scoring companies on the table and is connected to The Sun newspaper, a target of the Stop Funding Hate campaign.
BT fared slightly better in some respects, as it had good environmental reporting, and, along with TalkTalk, 100% of the electricity it purchased in the UK was from renewable sources, as well as 95% of the electricity it used worldwide. However, it was the only company on the table to be marked down for supplying equipment to the military, for its contract to provide communications between an RAF base in Northamptonshire and America’s headquarters for drone attacks in Africa.
Virgin, BT and Sky were the only companies marked down for likely tax avoidance.
In the middle of the table are Zen Internet and SSE.
SSE is a UK Living Wage employer, and Fair Tax Mark business, and it started offering broadband in 2015. However, it does also own coal and oil power stations, although it is shifting away from coal and more towards renewable energy, alongside gas.
Despite having Fair Tax Mark status, SSE lost marks in the Anti-Social Finance column for several reasons including criticisms of inflated prices and profiteering levelled at all the ‘big six’ energy providers, from Ofgem, the government regulator for gas and electricity markets.
As a relatively small provider, Zen Internet was not in the league of the likely tax avoiders and members of free trade lobbying groups.
Update: The Phone Coop has now become part of the Midcounties Coop. Midcounties Coop span a range of businesses, and so the Phone Coop score is now affected by a range of marks in our ranking system lost by Midcounties, such as the sale of animal products in its supermarkets.
Note that they now score the same as several other brands, but appear lower simply due to the alphabetical order. They are still a consumer cooperative and we would still recommend them above the four big providers.
Top of the table
At the top of the table are two not-for-profit organisations, Green ISP and GreenNet, which are both Ethical Consumer Best Buy label companies. Both run their offices on renewable energy from Good Energy. All the servers used by GreenNet are also powered by renewable energy, and Green ISP offers either solar-powered hosting based in the US, or UK-based hosting which is carbon-offset by working with Treesponsibility, a community-based climate action group based in Yorkshire.
All of the companies on the broadband table use BT’s infrastructure except Virgin which uses its own cables. Although only Virgin is able to widely offer home broadband without a phoneline, it is not necessarily cheaper, even if you don’t really need a landline.
With GreenNet and Green ISP you need an existing phoneline. All other providers include the phoneline in their package. New rules from the Advertising Standards Agency mean that, from October 2016, deals advertised must include the cost of line rental, rather than listing it as a separate charge which was misleading.