Internet Service Providers and Broadband

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I was pleased to read that BT have launched a much cheaper Basic phone and broadband scheme for people who qualify (on benefits). It is only 9.95 a month including line rental and is quite adequate for most users. See HERE

The Post Office is advertising totally unlimited broadband for 19 a month (up to 17Mb) with free setup. The router is sent free of charge. The contract is 18 months with a promise of no increases.  You would then be free to stay at a higher fee or move. n.b. this includes line rental. If you don't take one of their call packages the connection charge for a phone call is 18p. then there are charges per minute for UK and mobile numbers. Get the leaflet at a Post Office

Good article on the Cloud and Superfast Broadband and whether you need it HERE.

Broadband speeds get ever faster as BT connects more street boxes to exchanges using fibre instead of copper cables. Some areas have been left out because of distance from the exchanges and consequent cost. But connections via the mobile phone systems are also improving the speed. While 4G connections were very must faster than 3G, already 5G is planned with speeds expected to 200 times the speed of 4G. As these connections are from transmitters, one does wonder whether they will eventually overtake the need for digging up roads. Unfortunately Britain is dragging its feet, even with the installation of 4G and are ranked 29th in the world. This is blamed on planning regulations. And the speeds attained with 4G, at around 15Mbps, are much slower than those in places like Singapore and New Zealand. 

Virgin promised me that they would boost my broadband speed for no additional cost.  I do find it quite expensive and often wonder if I should change, especially now other providers are increasing their claimed speeds. For a while there seemed to be little difference.  But I checked in March '16 and found it HAD increased. It was around 50mbs via a wireless 'dongle' on a desktop. Then I tried it with a direct connection by cable to my router and obtained a reading of nearly 100Mb!  And this was despite having DOWNgraded to 30Mb some while back to save cash. Although I don't need such a riproaring speed very often, perhaps I will stick with them after all. And I am leaving my desktop connected to the router via a cable.

Sky recently launched a wireless booster to improve the connection for its customers who experience poor wireless signals in areas of their home. Although initially free at launch, it now costs 20. This wireless booster is designed specifically for Sky routers but Virgin Media and BT also offer wireless boosters to work with their own routers.What exactly does a booster do? Usually a wireless booster extends your wi-fi range. It's designed for folks with big houses or those with signal blackspots where the signal isn’t strong enough.However the gadget just extends the wireless signal – it won't improve your broadband speed or bandwidth. How to grab one if you're a Sky, BT (45) or Virgin Media  (35) customer:- all plus post.

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Wonder what speed your broadband runs ?  It is a good idea to do a test now and then.  There are numerous test sites that will do this free.  But it is a good idea to use one that is NOT a comparison site, which makes its money by getting you to change. They are almost bound to underestimate and make you dissatisfied. I quite like using, which is consistent.  N.B. if you are testing via your wireless router it is important to realise that the distance between your PC/Laptop/tablet and the router makes a BIG difference, especially through thick walls and ceilings.  The example below is NOT using wireless but has the PC directly connected to the router via cable. 
Note, also that ALL broadband is very much slower UPloading than DOWNloading

But today, instead of Ookla I used the test offered by Which.  This is the surprising result with Virgin Cable, considering that I only pay for 30mb downloads !

Virgin cable speed using the Which speed test

BT's continuing program of making fibre connections between their exchanges and street cabinets is making a dramatic difference to the average speed of broadband, although people in rural areas and those still connected to distant cabinets are still dogged by slow speeds. But Virgin cable is still proving to be faster - for now.

Find wifi hotspots BT have thousands of Hotspots in the UK and Ireland.  Free to their broadband customers and phone contacts.  For others there is a charge e. g. 4 a day. If you search for Wifi on your wireless device you may see these with the FON word in the address. Some hotels are depending on this.

But by 2018 most pubs and restaurants have wifi. Just ask for the password.  And, more frequently, there are free wifi connections in towns and resurants. Just click on the System of you wireless computer and search for the name of the nearest/strongest connection.

September 2014.  BT have been upping the ante with broadband via copper phone lines.  Experimentally, they have been getting speeds up to 700 Mb/s over shortish lengths. They hope that, by connecting to telephone poles by fibre optics they will be able to deliver much faster speeds, especially to rural customers, without having to dig up more Tarmac.

More than a million properties in the UK now have superfast broadband speeds  (35Meg) following a government-backed rollout, says the culture secretary. On track for 95% of the country getting 25Mb downloads

How low can they go?  Sounds like a Limbo Dance. 2 a month and free weekend and evening calls Unlimited and 15 cashback ! Higher speeds if fibre is available.

Having difficulty accessing broadband ?  (Donated to our charity!) will arrange a satellite connection from 25 a month plus hardware. This service is also available for Spain and France.

For a price comparison site of broadband suppliers see

BT are no longer to provide dialup connections to the internet. For the few remaining on dialup they are suggesting that they move to their dialup subsidiary company (PlusNet) 

Compare Broadband offers (home or mobile) at Also see smartphone, tablet and iPad deals (donated to my charity!)

3072 x 2304 June 2013  Broadband speeds in urban areas continue to improve.  The average is now said to be a surprising 10Mb. In addition EE (Everything Everywhere/Orange) are increasing the speed of their mobile 4G broadband from 40mb to 80. They started in Cardiff and are working through the other major centres in the UK.In the City I gather it can be up to 300Mb !

Feb 2013 BT is spending 2.5m rolling out fibreoptic connections around the country.  Latest to benefit are large parts of Norfolk, Wiltshire, South Gloucestershire, Devon and Cornwall. Some villages are so keen to get linked up that they are doing deals with BT

July 2012 After getting slow broadband speeds reported by the Uswitch speed test site I complained to Virgin as I was paying for 20Meg. They came along and, after installing a new router they demonstrated that I was now getting 60Mb! They used a different speed test at After the technician left I used the Uswitch program again and it showed a miserable 8Mb speed, so I called him back and showed him.  He said it was probably because I was testing an older PC, which wasn't up to the latest technology (it is about 5 years old). Later I used HIS speed tester on the same machine and got 60 Mb. Another test program showed 23Mb. CONCLUSION : Not all speed testers are equal.  Could it be that Uswitch use one that gives poor results in the hope that you will switch (which is how they make their money) ?  I will investigate this issue further.

Although it was good, I do not require 60Mb speed, so opted to return to the 30Mb version. Along with other downgrades and a one year loyalty bonus from I managed to HAVE my monthly costs !

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I went on to use on the 'old' PC several times.  The first time I got 29Mb.  Moments later I got an unbelievable 69Mb ! These things are not reliable.  If they built speed cameras this way we would be getting tickets all the time. I have now changed to a cheaper 30Mb and appear to be getting (at least) that regularly

For more information about cable broadband and speed tests see

Virgin's latest offers (April 2012): 's cheapest package is the 'Starter bundle' which, for 20 per month, offers up to 30Mb broadband, unlimited weekend calls to landlines and Mobile numbers, and 75 television channels. However, customers do not receive a TiVo box and are instead supplied with a standard High Definition (V HD) box, which means that there is no scope to take advantage of the integrated television services. However, for an extra 5 per month, the 'Essential Collection' offers all of the above plus a 500GB TiVo box.
The 'Premiere Collection' comes in at 45 per month and provides broadband with speeds of up to 60Mb, a 500GB TiVo box with 175 channels, an extra HD box to receive channels in another room and unlimited weekend calls to UK landlines and Mobile numbers.
's top package (90) is the 'VIP Collection' which offers fibre optic broadband with download speeds of up to 100Mb, a free three month subscription to Spotify Premium, a 1TB (that's a terabyte, which equates to 1,000 gigabytes) TiVo box with 205 channels, including Sky Sports and Sky Movies, and an extra HD box for another room.

BT broadband customers who subscribe to the company's Infinity 2 package saw their fibre download speeds nearly double from 12th April 2012.  BT has promised.those punters will see current downstream speeds boosted from 38Mbit/s to "up to" 76Mbps. It is beginning to make my VirginMedia speed look poor (and expensive) They did, however, reduce my package for a couple of years.

Mobile Broadband.  If you don't even have a telephone line you can still access the net this way.  Click on Mobile Broadband for an explanation.  Compare prices and claimed speeds But bear in mind that speed depends on your proximity to the transmitting masts and also whether you have access to 3G and 4G facilities.  In the City of London there is talk that they can get as much as 300 Mb by 4G !

23 Feb 2012 4g mobile communications is going to create chaos for many TV users. Interference from 4G phones is likely to upset TV reception to a million homes, requiring a filter on many houses.  Bidders for the network license in the UK are being warned that they will have to compensate householders whose TV signal is seriously impaired.  

If your broadband comes to you via a normal (BT) telephone line you MAY be3072 x 2304 able to speed it by installing a BT iPlate.  This requires not more technical skill than using a screwdriver and they only cost around 9.  For instructions take a look at  It really is that easy and it may increase your speed by 1 - 2 Meg, which in, some cases, can be vital. Looking at the encouraging reviews at, what is there to lose ?

The "Up to" story.  Many broadband providers advertise speeds one can expect are 'Up To' a certain level of download. Ofcom insists that at least 10% of customers should be able to actually get that speed but the story is often very different, especially in rural areas. In November 2011 one organisation was offering speeds up to 24Mb but the average which customers were getting was 7.2Mb. Overall the average speed has improved quite rapidly, with those companies offering 20Mb averaging about the same (6 - 8mb). But the average figures are skewed by the fact that cable speeds are very nearly the advertised maximum and BT's new fibre optic to street system is improving speeds considerably.  In fact the latest claim from BT is that they will offer customers already in fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) areas the chance to upgrade to 300Mbits/sec fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) from next year.

Read more: BT to offer 300Mbits/sec fibre "on demand" | Broadband | News | PC Pro

BT have a help page with a number of points to ensure that your broadband speed is maximised

What if you want to get 'Roving Broadband ?'  It is certainly possible in many areas to get a reasonable broadband speed to your laptop or netbook (or other mobile device) via the mobile telephone network. One can buy a 3G 'dongle' from many places including WHSmith, which will fit into the USB port of your PC and sets itself up simply. This can be on a PAYG basis or can be on a monthly contract.  Typical of the latter is "3"s two year contract which costs 16/month and allows 15Gb of downloads/month. But compared with home broadband it will be more expensive.  e.g. T-Mobile charges 2 a day for Pay as you Go. To check on charges go to BroadbandGenie

If you want to know when BT's faster broadband might come you way put your postcode in at

Ofcom has a BB speed map at  Click on your area or check out the best broadband for your area. Enter your post code at

A friend who has had Infinity broadband installed (Milton Keynes) is now pleased (nay, amazed) to be getting 37 Mb downloads!  So it really works if you can get it. I would be tempted to move from Size M (20Mb) if I could. He pays just 27.45 a month plus some phone calls.  My all-in rate including calls (not to mobiles or 0845) and TV is around 40 a month.  But there is always a catch.  My downloads are unlimited but he is limited to 10Gb a month.  This is fine for average use but no good for the video viewers or music downloaders.  For that you have to pay extra at BT.

BT have also introduced a Mobile Broadband facility with access to its free wireless network. You just need a 'dongle' for you laptop or netbook with a one off cost of 40.90.   If you then want to contact them go to

Computer Active says that Fujitsu has applied to Broadband Delivery UK for funding towards installing fibre optic cable to remote areas to enable broadband speeds up to 100 Mb ! Let us hope they get on with it. See

If you are stuck with a really slow broadband connection you may find that a site you would like to view has a 'mobile' version of web pages, designed for mobile phones. e.g. The BBC has one.  To view it change www. to m.  So that is

are promising 100Meg speeds to their whole network by 2012. Their 100Mbits/sec package costs 45 per month when bought as a sole product, and also boasts 10Mbits/sec upload speeds. It has already been rolled out to 1 million homes.

Studies show that people using wi-fi get 30% slower speed than people who get it via a direct connection  So, if you want to get the fastest connection, connect via a cable to the router.

Discussions are going on as to whether ISPs should 'manage' broadband speeds according to the type of files being downloaded - and whether they should inform users about what they are doing. i.e. game players may get precedence over people just downloading files

To get information about the situation at your local exchange enter your post code at

An Oftel report showed that the level of broadband taken up in rural parts of Wales was higher than in urban parts, with rural take up standing at sixty nine percent and urban take up at sixty two percent. This is despite the fact that rural areas often struggle to get access and availability when it comes to broadband services. Many users in rural Wales use mobile connections, such as O2.

If you are tired of waiting for decent broadband have a look at what a small Lincolnshire village did.

Good article on broadband choices at

There is a comparison site at

Slow ADSL broadband speed ?  The first thing to do is use a broadband speed checker on the net.  Be aware that ALL broadband connections DOWNLOAD much faster than they UPLOAD.  You will get two readings and the one may be an eighth of the other. If you are not getting the speed you are paying for, there may be factors beyond your control such as the distance you are from the nearest digital exchange.

Some of the filter/internal cabling problems can be tested by a 'trial and error' process using other pieces of equipment. It might even be worth checking by attaching the modem directly to the main BT socket. If your modem connects to the USB socket (especially the older type one socket, speed may be improved by connecting the PC by an RJ45 (Ethernet) cable.  But this needs an Ethernet socket on the PC and on the modem and router

An 'iPlate' is a 10 device from BT that could save your broadband. BT Wholesale have been trialling a new device that could radically improve the speed of ADSL broadband connections, allowing customers to finally enjoy speeds close to the advertised limit. Fixing an Interstitial Plate to the master telephone socket helps to improve connections by eliminating exterior interference. Broadband connections can be seriously affected by electronic noise from basic household appliances with faulty power supplies. Bad power supplies from electrical equipment interferes with the so-called 'Bell Wire' which runs throughout households, and creates noise on the line.  In a test a basic ADSL connection running at 3.8Mbps was throttled down to 700Kbps when a nearby fluorescent tube with a faulty power supply was switched on; when an iPlate was fitted to the master socket, the connection returned to its normal speed. The iPlate is installed by unscrewing the face plate in the master socket and slotting iPlate into place. It is easiest fitted to sockets which are split into two halves. It is expected that iPlates will become part of the regular installation feature for new customers. Ashley Pickering from BT Wholesale said ;We've seen huge increases in speed, stating that on average, it makes one and a half megs of difference.

There might be various reasons as to why you are getting a slow speed and they could be:

If you check with BT you may get the following message :

I have just tested your line (this is worth asking them to do) for your Telephone Number and can confirm your line supports the UK's most complete broadband package, BT Total Broadband and we can confirm that you will be able to reach a maximum download speed of 8.0 (Megabits per second).
(But) BT Total Broadband will always give you the maximum download speed available to your line based on these factors. If the problem persist write back to us we will escalate the issue to the concerned Department. For any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact us or use our BT Broadband Self Help web site"

Sky TV introduced a broadband service in July 2006.. Prices are from free to 10 a month depending on speed, though people living outside its coverage area pay more.

Wireless connections ?  Don't ask me, please !  But there are experts around who will supply the necessary equipment and advise you. For instance of Leicester specialize in Wireless Technology & Home Automation and if you get stuck you can phone them on 0845 058 0504 and will get personal attention. And PCworld will be delighted to sell you the gear and set it up (at a price), as will Ebuyer.

But if you have a wireless set up and you are getting a bad connection to your router you should consider positioning it in the middle of the house and not behind thick walls. Moving it off the floor to a bookcase or shelf should also help. If you only have one wireless computer, then place the router closer to the computer and remember, wifi is a radio signal, so the signals from microwave ovens, cordless phones and even your neighbor's wireless router may interfere. So steer clear of those as well

Free Which ? booklet on Broadband. Phone 0800 389 7259  and quote ref. BROAD183

I now feel that no-one should be paying for Anytime dialup access, as broadband is about the same price. It is not just the speed of access to the net which is so much better but the size of security downloads these days (M'soft and Antivirus) must put off an awful lot of people when they go on for so long.  

Some people will say " Well I only use it for the occasional e-mail". If so, they are not on line long enough to get the security updates that are so essential these days - and are thus prone to virus infection and doomed to face endless trouble just to stay on line (and likely to infect others). e.g. Service Pack 3 for XP was at least 350Mb.  In simple terms, if you are using dialup to the internet you had better leave it all night !

Eventually it is expected that Broadband speeds will increase substantially, allowing rapid download of TV.  NTL, using fibreoptic cable, is delivering up to 100Mb. Currently copper wired  (BT type) landlines have difficulty delivering 8Mb.. Japan, Sweden, Korea and Finland all offer 100Mbps broadband connections (UP as well as DOWNload), as all four countries have switched to fibre optic networks.  

In a recent Which survey Waitrose, better known for its grocery stores, was the only household name to be made a best buy, with 72% of customers saying its 18.99 (8mbps) service was very satisfying. Waitrose's package was highlighted as good for computer novices, as its helpline is free to call if problems occur, unlike some providers who charge up to 75p per minute for assistance. The big-four suppliers were mediocre in the study.

Another useful site is

An advantage with Broadband is the fact that you do not need an extra line in order to use the telephone at the same time as being on line.  This can be quite a saving and should be taken into account when calculating the total cost.

N.B. You may be disappointed that your broadband speed is nothing like what you are paying for.  This can be down to more than one factor. The first is (in the case of BT telephone line based broadband) the distance from the nearest digital exchange.  In the case of cable it can be down to the 'contention level', meaning the number of people in your area competing for the line.  But another factor seems to be rearing its head.  One contact (using cable) had complained he was not getting the very fast speeds he was paying for.  He decided to replace his expensive Norton Internet Security Suite with free software, such as AVG and Zone alarm.  Suddenly the speeds on ALL of his connections (he has four) increased dramatically. So, it does seem likely that security software can slow things up by spending time checking everything that goes on.

Want to change from one ISP to another ?  These days is should be comparatively easy, although you should check the small print to see if you have any 'tie in' with your current provider.  With Broadband, as they often supply equipment and software there is often a 1 year contract.  Having sorted that out what you need from your current ISP is a MAC address.  That is nothing to do with those pretty computer often favoured by designers. It stands for Migration Authorisation Code. Once you have this it should be comparatively easy to change. Internet Providers have an Association. See, especially if you have a complaint against one that you cannot resolve.
You can get useful information from places such as Internet Magazine, which lists ISP's and how well they are doing

SkyDSL provides broadband  (via satellite) anywhere in Europe from  and can provide up to 16 megabits per second.  However, you require a dish and a dialup connection to your own ISP, too, which takes the shine off that rather.

To settle complaints about ISP's you can look at the following sites (Association of ISP's) (Now called Ombudsman Services:communications ),  (Internet Services Adjudication Scheme)

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