Great Longstone Community Website

Wednesday, February 26


Can you get 'Free' Broadband Longstone?

It is only two years ago that Broadband even came to Longstone – now many people already find that it’s indispensable. So if you’re an experienced user, or looking to sign up for the first time, how do you choose between all these services and can you get it for 'Free'?

First a bit of background. Broadband is high speed “always-on” internet connection. You do not pay by the minute for the time that you’re connected in the way that dial-up services often work. All services let you stay connected for as long as you want and “uncapped” packages let you download as much as you want. Some lower cost services will limit the amount of information that you download in a month – but this should not currently be a problem for most domestic users. Checking your emails and looking at some web-sites does not use a lot of your download allowance – but in the longer term when we start using the internet to watch television or regularly swap large files this will become more of an issue.

Anyway broadband is a high speed connection to the internet – but how is that connection made? There are a number of different ways of connecting:
  1. By satellite – but is expensive
  2. By wireless connections – one company in this area provides wireless access – but I don’t think the coverage in Longstone is particularly good. Don’t confuse this with having your own wireless network in your home or office. This is just a way of your computers connecting together or to your broadband access point. New services are coming in this area – for instance you can now get a special card that plugs into a lap-top and which allows you to access the internet through the mobile phone network. Great if you’re in a town with good G3 mobile network - but currently slow or non existent in Longstone.
  3. Cable – not an option in Longstone
  4. Telephone line – this is probably how 99% of people in this area access the internet. Basically you need to arrange for your existing telephone line to be upgraded to broadband (you can still use it to make ordinary telephone calls at the same time). Nothing changes with the line – they just connect it to a different piece of equipment in the exchange. This special equipment is the kit that was installed a couple of years ago. BT Wholesale own and manage this equipment and they sell access to other broadband suppliers such as BT Retail, AOL, Nildram, Pipex, Tiscali etc.. Whichever supplier you use you still need to pay BT about £9 or £10 per month for the phone line – and then the cost of the broadband on top to your supplier of choice. The reason that we are now seeing lots of adverts for “free” broadband is that companies can now install their own equipment into BT exchanges. With this they can then provide you with telephone services and broadband, all in one package, without using BT wholesale. This is a great idea but the kit costs around £40,000 per exchange and each company needs 200+ customers to make it viable. For exchanges with 1,000’s of phone lines this is not a problem – but in reality I don’t think we’ll be seeing Talk-Talk, Orange or Sky making plans to upgrade the Longstone exchange. So for all the promises of “Free” internet the reality, for now, is that we’re stuck with using a BT wholesale product – but remember that you do not have to buy your broadband from BT Retail – you can use any one of dozens of different suppliers.
The broadband market is constantly changing but for now if your telephone line is connected to the 640 exchange you are probably best using one of the regular Internet Service Providers who are reselling the BT Wholesale broadband package. There is a link to the full list of suppliers on the ADSL Guide web-site.

Simon Headington