Ways to get online and make the most of it

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Connecting to the internet at home

To connect to the internet you can use one or more of the following:

  • Landline Broadband
  • Mobile Broadband
  • Mobile phone

This page tells you more about the pros and cons of each. It is a basic introduction and there is more detailed information from Digital Unite here

Landline Broadband

This is a fixed link to the internet via a home telephone line or cable connection.

  • Usually faster
  • Choice of packages, including “unlimited use”
  • Better value – especially if you are going to use the internet a lot
  • Anyone in your home can connect to the internet
  • If you want to use the internet to watch films or catch up TV this is probably the only option in many areas (See under deals)

BT Basic for people on certain benefits can be a low-cost option (£10 – the same cost as the cheapest mobile) for those who want a more reliable connection speed, but don’t plan to watch much online video – if you do unlimited deals are normally better.

Other things to  consider:

  • If you don’t have a landline or cable connection, getting one installed can be expensive (some contract offers may reduce or cancel this charge)
  • You will need to commit to a regular contract payment of up to 2 years and there may be a credit check
  • You can only use at home – if you need to use out and about you will just need to find a free Wi-fi connection (easily found in libraries, cafes and some shops)

Mobile broadband

Mifi or dongle – these use a SIM card to pick up a connection wherever there is a signal.

  • Convenient – get online wherever you can find a signal to pick up
  • Easy and light to carry around
  • Can get cheaper options (BUT only for light usage)
  • Pay as you go options as well as contracts
  • No line rental to pay or line installation required

But you also need to consider:

  • Normally slower, especially if the signal is poor
  • Not suitable if you want to watch films, catch up TV
  • You have to watch your use very carefully as you can easily exceed the data allowances (especially on the cheapest deals) and face penalty costs
  • Even one large PC system update can take up most of your smaller allowances for the month

Remember – going over contract data allowances can be costly


Mobile phone/ smartphone

This enables you to be online wherever you can get a signal but is for lighter use.

  • Smartphones are available from around £30 with good options available under £100
  • Some contract or pay as you go deals may already have some data included in your current charges, so then no additional charge. If out of contract, look for SIM Only deals on lesser known ‘virtual networks’ like GiffGaff, PlusNet Mobile or iD Mobile, which can give you basic data from around £5/mnth upwards
  • Some deals may allow you to ‘tether’ your phone to a PC or tablet and use your phone like a Mifi but not all do, so check if you need to do this
  • Great for checking emails, Skyping, and quick checking for information
  • Can use a Wifi connection if available (e.g. at library, supermarket, home, etc.)

But you also need to consider:

  • Data allowances tend to be small, often even smaller than mobile broadband deals
  • If on contract, going over your data limit can be costly – look for deals with a cap to avoid nasty shocks
  • Can be hard for people to know if they are using their data allowance or WiFi
  • Less experienced users may find hard to control apps using “background data” without their knowledge, which can use up allowance or attract excess use charges
  • Small screen makes them fiddly for anything more than casual use – not really suitable for job applications or other more complicated uses