Broadband in the UK

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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 main way that we access the Internet nowadays is by piggy-backing off our phone line or by a dedicated cable service. There are other ways to get broadband internet in the home, however, and I have put together a summary of alternatives to landline broadband.

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Compare and win!

The best place to look for a comparative review of ADSL end-user internet access providers[1] in the UK is thinkbroadband.com, 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.

An important point is that more expensive suppliers aren't necessarily better. They may also offer a higher quality service at the expense of a cap on your monthly usage: this won't matter if you are an occasional or "light" consumer of Internet applications, but most households will be shocked at how much data allowance they might need each month.

Technology

This is the part that is most likely to put people off doing anything about broadband. If you don't have broadband at all, or if you have had the same broadband supplier for a while, you may not want to do anything because of the fear that new hardware will make things go wrong. Well, things can indeed go wrong, but it is overwhelmingly likely that you will have a pain-free experience.

In almost all cases your broadband provider will provide you with everything you need to get connected, and will in some circumstances arrange for an engineer to set things up for you. Even if you have to do it all yourself, though, don't panic! Just follow the instructions, be patient, and you should be up and running without a hitch.

In case you get stuck, I've put together a working guide to using ADSL to help you along.

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Into the future!

Right now there is patchy availability of broadband in the UK. The vast majority homes can get some level of broadband service (at least 2Mb/s), but most people should expect to get up to 8Mb/s. Speeds of up to 40Mb/s are becoming increasingly available, but far better is yet to come: BT (the main supplier of Internet infrastructure for the home) has announced that it has a vision of running hundreds of megabits per second by 2020, using existing telephone lines! Watch this space to see how trials work out later in the year.

Residential Internet speeds over the years

  •  2400
  •  14.4k
  •  56k
  •  512kb
  • 2Mb
  • 8Mb
  • 20Mb

The speed of internet access in the home has followed an exponential curve since it first became possible in the late 20th century. The early years were based on very slow and intermittent dial-up technology, and it took the appearance of cable and DSL (digital subscriber line) services for consumers to enjoy always-on connections at much higher speeds. And the speeds just keep getting higher!


[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


Related Reading

Broadband First Hand
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