The most confusing broadband terms and how to negotiate a better wifi deal

Amid reports that 35% of internet users in the UK feel they lack the broadband knowledge required to switch broadband providers, two-thirds (63%) have admitted they find the language used by broadband providers ‘confusing’ and ‘baffling’.1,2

To address this issue, experts at Independent Advisor Broadband Deals have identified the most commonly searched broadband terms, provided clear definitions to help reduce confusion, and provided some top tips for negotiating a better broadband deal.


The results: The most confusing broadband terms 


Broadband term

Monthly average searches for the definition, globally 

Annual average searches for the definition, globally 


























Proxy (Server)








IP Address







Please find the full data set and definitions of all terms used in this study in methodology.

‘VPN’ is the most confusing broadband term

VPN is the most confusing broadband term, with an average of 90,300 monthly searches and over 1 million annual searches (1,083,600) for its meaning. As many as 15% of these searches come from the UK (13,500). Overall, the number of searches for the meaning of VPN is 6% higher than for the term ‘Latency’ in second place, with 85,000 monthly searches around the world. 

Gemma Ryles, Home Tech Expert expert at Independent Advisor Broadband Deals comments

VPN stands for virtual private network and is a service that creates a secure, encrypted connection between your device and the internet. It allows you to send and receive data over shared or public networks as if your device were directly connected to a private network. Understanding VPNs can be confusing, as the jargon can be difficult to grasp without a technical background. 

VPNs protect your privacy by masking your IP address, encrypting your internet traffic, and routing your data through a secure server. By hiding your IP address, VPNs prevent websites and online services from tracking your location and online activities. Encryption converts your data into code, ensuring that even if it is intercepted, it remains unreadable. Routing your data through a secure server adds an extra layer of protection, especially when using unsecured public Wi-Fi networks.”

‘Latency’ is the second most confusing broadband term, with an average of 85,000 monthly searches for its definition around the globe. This is almost 84% more searches than ISP in tenth place, with 34,750 monthly searches. In total, the meaning of latency is searched over 1 million times each year (1,020,000). 

Gemma Ryles, Home Tech Expert expert at Independent Advisor Broadband Deals comments

“Latency is the time it takes for data to travel from one point to another in a network. It’s critical for responsive applications but can be complex due to factors like distance, network conditions, and hardware. Lower latency means faster communication, while higher latency means a noticeable lag. High latency affects gaming and streaming, impacting user experience differently based on needs and tolerance. 

To improve your internet experience and reduce delays, consider using a wired Ethernet connection instead of Wi-Fi, as it provides a more stable connection with lower latency. Upgrading to a modern router that supports the latest Wi-Fi standards can also help improve performance by handling data more efficiently. Additionally, closing background applications can further reduce latency and ensure a smoother online experience.”

Malware’ is the third most widely misunderstood broadband term, with its definition queried 82,000 times each month on average. This is 48% more monthly searches than the term ‘Firewall’ in eighth position (49,900). The meaning of ‘Malware’ is searched nearly 1 million times each year (984,000).

Gemma Ryles, Home Tech Expert expert at Independent Advisor Broadband Deals comments

Malware, or malicious software, is software that is specifically designed to disrupt, damage, or gain unauthorised access to a computer system. Understanding malware can be confusing because it comes in various forms and is constantly evolving to evade detection. 

It can infect computers through sources like email attachments and malicious websites. Understanding malware is essential for protecting digital assets and privacy. This allows us to prevent infections, recognize threats early, and implement effective cybersecurity measures to safeguard sensitive information. Make sure to regularly update software, use reputable antivirus programs, and exercise caution when clicking on links or downloading attachments from unfamiliar sources. If you are ever unsure about a link, ask someone or research the source to ensure they are trustworthy.

Why it’s key to understand broadband jargon

Understanding broadband jargon is crucial in today’s climate for several reasons. First and foremost, it allows consumers to make informed decisions about their internet service. Terms like “download speed,” “upload speed,” “bandwidth,” and “data cap” directly impact the performance and limitations of your internet connection. Knowing these terms helps you choose a broadband plan that meets your specific needs for activities like streaming, gaming, or remote work. 

Tips for negotiating a better deal

Navigating the world of broadband services can be complex, whether you’re renegotiating with your current provider or exploring options with a new one. Start by researching competitors’ offers to understand current pricing trends and promotional incentives available. Assess your usage needs thoroughly, including considerations for speed, reliability, and any additional services like TV or phone bundles that might enhance your package choice.

When negotiating, leverage your history with your current provider by contacting their customer retention department. Highlight your loyalty and excellent payment history to negotiate from a position of strength and point out any more affordable deals you may have found from competitor providers. Bundling services such as TV or phone can often unlock additional discounts, so it’s beneficial to explore these options during negotiations. Don’t hesitate to inquire about current promotions or unadvertised discounts that could potentially improve your deal further.

If negotiations with your current provider don’t yield satisfactory results, keep in mind that switching providers is a viable option. Check your contract expiration date to understand when you might be eligible for renewal offers or better terms. Additionally, consider upfront payment options, as some providers offer discounts for paying several months in advance. Make sure to document any agreements reached in writing to avoid misunderstandings down the line.

Visit Independent Advisor Broadband for more insights from our expert editorial team.

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