originally posted 27th April 2020
Many people do not have access to broadband internet. Broadband installation generally requires you
- to be in a place of your own (ie renting/owning a place)
- to have a bank account (to set up a Direct Debit)
- to be creditworthy (successfully complete a credit check)
- to buy it for at least 12 months at a time
The cheapest deals are around £18-£20 a month, and can be found here. Plusnet and Talk Talk are the best deals at the moment. These provide unlimited data, meaning you can stream Youtube or other data intensive content to your hearts content.
The 4 conditions of domestic broadband also rule out many of the people we know, so what can these folks do to get online, and how can you help them?
Topping up existing mobile phone contracts.
Most people have a mobile phone, and their PAYGO SIM will usually include a small amount of Data. To increase the amount of data available to them, they will need to spend more money, or “Top Up.” There are several ways of making sure this happens.
- Send cash. Your finance manager will hate this idea, but it’s the simplest and easiest way of transferring money. The downside is the possibility of post going missing (especially in shared houses) and the need for people to leave the house to spend it. They also might not spend the money on phone credit. They might buy food or medicines instead. Or drugs, or fags, or booze, or an improving book. This is why your finance manager hates this option.
- Buy a top up voucher from a supermarket or local shop and then text the person the voucher number. This is the next best way – although it will involve you leaving the house. To do this you need to know the person’s network (to buy the voucher for the right network) and their phone number – so you can text them the voucher number. Go into a store that sells phone top ups – all the supermarkets do this (usually at the newsagent concession) as well as most convenience/corner shops (inc those on the PayPoint Network). When you buy a voucher, they will give you a print out. You then text this voucher number to the person, and tell them to use it as a top up. Some places (like my local Tesco) have a minimum spend of £10 or more.
- Top up someone’s phone up on their behalf. To do this will require you to know someone’s phone number, their mobile phone network, as well as to have a payment card. Different networks do this in different ways. Some require you to have an account with the network yourself. Some do not. Some networks will send you free SIM cards so you can set up an account (in order to load up someone elses’s card). Some do not. It’s a confusing and inconsistent state of affairs, and very labour intensive. I previously included links for all the main networks at the end of this article.
Once someone has additional data on their smartphone, they can use it, and allow others to use it by turning their phone into a Wifi Hotspot
Providing an additional data SIM
This is where things get a bit complicated. Most people only have room for one SIM in their phones at a time and swapping SIMs can be fiddly and tricky.
- MiFi or portable broadband: these are sometimes called dongles. You can buy a new 4g dongles for about £50 or pick up old 3g version off Ebay for between £12 and £20. The old 3g ones will still deliver downloads of 20Mb a second, so easily good enough for Zoom/Youtube. Beware – some of the old 3g ones are locked to particular networks. They can be unlocked, but you either need to know what you’re doing, or bung someone a few quid online to unlock it for you.
- Two phones: supply someone with an additional phone, which they then use as a hotspot. This is a great use for old smartphones that you have donated, especially if their battery life is rubbish (you can run it plugged in remember) or if the screens are a bit damaged.
- Dual SIM phones: this is a great option for people who want to keep their original number, but also want additional data from another network. I have a phone with 2 SIMS for just this reason, (and it was probably cheaper than you paid for your phone) but this is not an option for everyone