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.

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Uncertainty over £410m broadband rollout if Scotland votes 'Yes' on independence - on 17 September 2014
The UK government has not considered the future of Scotland's £410m broadband rollout in the event of a “Yes” vote on the country's independence. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which is responsible for the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) ...

broadband group Gigaclear targets Aim - Financial Times on 14 September 2014

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BT has secured the £530m of funds on offer under the government's Broadband UK programme that aims to deliver superfast broadband connections to 90 per cent of the UK by 2015. However, Gigaclear has also secured some public funds, with a grant of up ...
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[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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Gadget Show Broadband Speed Test - Not Good Enough!

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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

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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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