Internet Access

Vigor ADSL router

Vigor ADSL router


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What do we need to get access to the Internet nowadays? The hardest part is choosing an access provider (otherwise known as an ISP), but it certainly isn't hard to get cheap internet access any more. Once upon a time your may you may have found that that dial-up access (or access dial up) was sufficient, but those days are long gone: welcome to broadband internet!

The best place to look for a comparative review of ADSL end-user internet access providers[1] in the UK is, as it seems to have a healthy supply of feedback from end-users and up-to-date package and price information. The comparison and search pages are pretty useful, but the site doesn't actually offer a list of providers in 'reliability' order or 'customer service' order. To make up for this, I've put together an ADSL League Table.

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An interesting revelation is that plusnet's 2Mb service is provisioned at 20:1 contention ratio, normally only offered at the business level. Residential users will normally only get 50:1 (ie, you could potentially share your 512kb or 1Mb bandwidth with 50 others), and basically plusnet's reason is that they can't actually get 2Mb at 50:1 from BT. This might be true for other ISPs, and plusnet certainly hasn't made this ratio public knowledge at the point of sale. Furthermore, plusnet has now dropped the metered monthly price to £14.99, regardless of connection speed - 512kb, 1Mb or 2Mb. What a deal!

Now even Faster! Here's a quote from PlusNet on 17 Feb 2005: PlusNet's Broadband PAYG products (formerly known as "Lite") will also be extended to include 4Mb and 8Mb speeds from April. At £14.99 per month, and £1.50 per GB thereafter, speeds of up to 8Mb will be a fantastic value product option for light and infrequent Broadband users. This is something to look forward to!

  • Some people might like their low prices on "unlimited" (within reason, presumably) package - called Premier.
  • More prudent users, like me, may prefer the Lite package that limits the amount of bandwidth that you've paid for, and any extra is chargable per gigabyte used. On this plan the 1Mb option is only £15/month with 1GB of bandwidth thrown in; I would recommend this option, possibly with the 2GB bandwidth option at an extra £1.75/month.
  • Remember that Lite users can always buy more bandwidth if they need it, and will be automatically charged if they exceed their bandwidth usage. That charge is slightly higher than the amount charged if the bandwidth is prepaid.
  • More importantly, note that you will be charged around £15 to switch between 'Lite' and 'Premier' or if you want to change your download speed (ie, you want to go from 512kb/s to 1Mb/s)
It's a bit of a minefield, but first of all you need to have some idea of how much downloading you might do. If you just do 1/2 an hour to an hour of checking email and web browsing per night, the 1GB per month bandwidth limit should be plenty. Also, since the 1Mb/s speed costs the same as the 512kb/s speed, you might as well benefit from the faster download speed of 1MB/s. If you anticipate more intensive downloads, but are still not a heavy user, consider extra monthly bandwidth on the Lite package. The Premier package will only really apply to serious internetters.

I was with NTL for a few years, between 1999 and 2004, on their NTLWorld package. Technically the service was reasonable, but their customer service was highly mediocre. You could not expect much, if any, feedback on the rare connectivity outages, instead relying on frequent attempts to reconnect. It wasn't bad value at the time, though, but nowadays (late 2004) looks decidedly overpriced compared to the ADSL marketplace. Raising the bandwidth amounts has helped to narrow the gap, but it still seems overpriced.

Once you've decided on your ADSL provider and package, you then have all the fun of the hardware. I've put together a working guide to using ADSL to help you along.

broadband uk - Google News
Two UK streets found slowest for broadband in a uSwitch test - The Guardian on 23 April 2014

The Guardian
A street in Wales and another in Essex have been declared the slowest in the UK for broadband speeds in a new report. The research by online comparison site found that Erw Fawr in Henryd in Wales and Wheatley Road in Stanford-le-Hope, ...
Yorkshire Post
Yahoo News UK

Tesco Broadband faces double fault - BBC News on 23 April 2014

BBC News
... department that they seemed to take it all rather more seriously." Tesco said the email hitch was not limited to any specific part of the UK, and it believed "hundreds rather than thousands" had been affected, although it said the tally had yet to ...

UK broadband speeds hit 17.8Mb; Virgin Media is the fastest provider - (Tech) on 17 April 2014 (Tech)
Average UK broadband speeds have soared to 17.8Mb, according to the latest figures from Ofcom. The communications regulator says the average fixed-line residential broadband connection is five times faster than five years ago. Back in November 2008, ...
BBC News
 - -
UK broadband speeds ramp up - Financial Times on 15 April 2014

Financial Times
The average residential broadband speed in the UK has reached almost 18 Mbps, five times faster in just five years, as competition between internet providers intensifies. But while the overall average has increased rapidly, helping to meet the ...
 - -
Need for speed: One in four UK households has 'superfast' broadband - but ... - This is Money on 18 April 2014

This is Money
One in four UK residential fixed broadband connections is 'superfast', according to the latest research conducted by the communications regulator Ofcom. The report, based on 735 million test results from over 2,000 UK homes, shows that between November ...
The FA Daily

[1] Internet Access Providers or IAPs are otherwise known as Internet Service Providers or ISPs. The two are technically different, as an access provider merely 'plugs you in' to the internet, whereas a service provider gives you lots of online services (such as email, webspace and the like). Almost every internet access package comes with such online services anyway.

Further Reading

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We found companies: There is one company match: Sorry! There are no results for . Believe it or not, all these years after ...

Dodgy connection? Don't just blame your ISP

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Your wireless router may be vulnerable!

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The State of UK Broadband

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As part of the Digital Economy Act 2010, Ofcom has a duty to report on the state of the UK's telecoms infrastructure every three years. Consequently ...

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Use For Broadband Speed

12 Jan 2011

To see what broadband speed you're getting, go to and click "Begin Test" to check your connection's latency (network delay ...

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05 Jan 2011

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Support the Campaign for Broadband Honesty

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A Virgin Media campaign is gaining momentum: broadband providers need to be more honest about their service speed. "You should be getting what ...

First Click for Internet Advice

16 Oct 2010

You might imagine that everyone is online nowadays, at some point in their waking day. Well, it just isn't true, and for those people without ...

Gadget Show Broadband Speed Test - Not Good Enough!

29 Sep 2010

How ironic. As part of their 'Gadget Show Truth' campaign, the Gadget Show on Five ran a piece this evening (20:45, 12 November 2007) on how ...

What has your broadband experience been like?

07 Sep 2010

Here are some people's experiences of their broadband provision. Some are quite vocal about how good or bad it is, and others are more candid ...

Building a safer cyberspace

14 Aug 2010

Westminster eForum Keynote Seminar "Taming the wild web 2010 - building a safer cyberspace" on 12 October 2010 in Central London. Speakers ...

The Net Neutrality Debate

23 Jul 2010

What is net neutrality, and what does it mean to you? Can we possibly have a level playing field when it comes to service provision, and yet ...

Virgin Media 50Meg product - is it a revolution?

03 Jan 2009 Broadband has come a long way in eight years, from ...

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