Internet access in the UK

What are your options?

There are lots of ISPs (Internet Service Providers) in the UK market and now most phone companies offer combined packages for telephone calls and mobile internet access. Nowadays, most broadband packages are unlimited, offer a wireless connection and a tech support 24/7.

It’s pretty easy to get connected pretty much everywhere in the UK, and there is a good range of services on offer. Options include: dial-up, ISDN, ADSL, cable, and fibre optic connections. Statistics show 42% of households had access to fibre optic broadband in 2013, the majority in cities and large towns.

Bear in mind that it may take a while to get high-speed access, such as ADSL, installed. In large cities there are also some wireless operators offering localised services, and more and more internet WiFi hot spots are becoming available.

Dial-up access

The majority of dial-up ISPs (Internet Service Providers) offer three types of access:

  • a pay-as-you-go service
  • a flat rate service which means you pay a fixed amount per month for unlimited access
  • a combination of the two. This usually involves a flat fee for access after peak business hours and a per-minute charge during them.

Dial-up connections are rarely used in the UK now, having been virtually completely replaced with modern broadband options.

High speed access (Broadband e.g. ADSL, cable, fibre optic)

ADSL and cable connections are widely available, and fibre optic broadband has reached the major cities, urban areas and even smaller towns.

Basically, the more you pay the faster your connection speed will be. The market is very competitive, so again it is definitely worth shopping around for the best offer. There are almost always offers deals where you will not be charged set-up fees or modem costs.

ISPs offer different types of contracts, depending on your needs. If you are a student for instance, you can opt for a nine-month contract offer, which runs through the academic year. This offer means that you won’t have to pay during the summer if you are away, and will also save you the cancellation fees. Be careful though, as some of these short-term contracts may be more expensive than the usual, yearly, ones.

There are several large comparison websites which help you to choose between broadband offers, as well as student broadband offers.

You can also chose mobile broadband plans, if you need the internet to follow your laptop/tablet wherever you take it. Mifi and dongles (between 1GB to 10GB), which you can chose to pay as you go, or pay monthly, can be very useful.

Getting an Internet connection

To subscribe for an Internet connection, most ISPs ask that you be at least 18 years old. You are also required to:

  • live in the UK of the Republic of Ireland, in an area where broadband is accessible.
  • have a telephone line compatible with your ISP provider.
  • pay a termination charge if you cancel your contract early (or transfer your contract to a third party).

If you do not pay your Internet bill, you will receive a reminder call or email informing you of your payment delays, and urging you to deal with it. After a couple of weeks, you may be asked for a compensation for the delay, or see your connection suspended.

There are several methods of payment to choose from – usually direct debit, credit card or cheque.