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Does free broadband exist?

You may have seen adverts for 'free broadband' in the past, but this was never really the case. However, it's still possible to find cheap and reliable broadband deals for those on a small budget.

Last updated: 23 November 2020

Does free broadband exist?
The short answer is no. It’s something we are asked a lot, and we want to debunk any myths you may have heard about these illusive free broadband packages.
Don’t fret, though. This guide gives an overview of so-called free broadband, past and present, and points to some ways you can make a saving on your internet costs. 

Why can’t I find any free broadband deals anymore?

Until quite recently, we were all quite accustomed to seeing adverts from major internet providers like Sky, BT and TalkTalk, promising free broadband as part of a larger package. These companies were hiding extra costs like line rental and installation, which eventually drove up the overall cost.

Thanks to customer reports and investigations from regulatory bodies, this has since been dealt with. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) introduced regulations a few years ago that prevented providers from separating the cost of broadband and line rental. This more transparent advertising method means the price you see for a broadband deal must cover all of the bundled services - what you see now is what you get.

Some companies, such as Orange and TalkTalk, have historically offered free internet services but were overwhelmed by subscribers, which translated into major customer service issues and ultimately damaged brand reputation.

How has this affected broadband pricing?

Even though you cant get free broadband deals anymore, there are several options for those wishing to save money on their internet.

There are lots of cheap broadband deals from providers such as Sky Broadband, Origin and Plusnet that offer phone and broadband at a discount for the first 12-18 months. Even when you include the line rental cost, they often work out as cheap as the free broadband packages of old.

To get the most comprehensive overview, you should check out our broadband comparison tool to find the best deal for you.

Why do I need line rental?

Line rental is a service charge for the maintenance of the phone lines that provide your home with broadband and a landline connection. You need this connection in order to get broadband into your home.

What are some of the alternatives to free broadband?

Now that providers cant reel you in with false promises of free broadband, they are more inclined to offer essential set-up/installation services for free. This will only be the case if you already have an active phone line. They might also reel you in with the promise of shiny free extras.

No Set-Up Fees:

When a deal promises no set-up fees, it means you dont have to pay anything extra to sign up for the service. Its guaranteed to not be a huge saving, but can be an attractive part of a larger deal.

Some companies will also offer free postage and installation of your Wi-Fi router - make sure to look out for this as it can be quite costly if they dont.

Free Gifts:

Given the highly competitive market and the ASA making it more difficult for companies to lie, broadband providers are eager to draw people in with free gifts. Heres a list of some of the most common extras youll find:

  • Gift Vouchers - usually for companies like Amazon and M&S.
  • Prepaid Credit Cards - these are generally better value because you can spend them anywhere
  • Cashback promotions - ISPs provide customers with cashback rewards either in the form of a cheque or bill credit.
  • Electronic Gadgets - this is less common but companies have been known to offer TVs, laptops and bluetooth speakers.

Try not to be fooled by the promise of free things, though. Companies dont actually care about your well-being, so you want to make sure youre selecting the best broadband deal for you. This wont necessarily be the most superficially attractive one.

Can I get free or subsidised broadband if I receive benefits?

Yes. If you are on specific low income benefits in the UK, you may be eligible for BT Basic + Broadband. For £9.95 per month (this includes line rental), you can get broadband with an average speed of 10Mbps, and 15GB of monthly usage. This also includes free access to the nationwide BT Wi-Fi Hotspot network.

This deal is best suited to someone who uses the internet infrequently, and will only really support web browsing, email and social media. It is not suitable for music or TV streaming, as you will very quickly exceed the monthly usage cap. You should also only go for this option if you are the sole internet user.

There are other budget options that provide unlimited broadband, which start at around £15 per month. Use our broadband comparison tool to find out more.

I live in a remote area; can I still find cheap and reliable broadband?

There are some government grants available for improving broadband access in rural areas. It might not result in cheaper monthly fees, but means you will be eligible for faster, better internet packages.

Unfortunately, the UK is way behind on securing nationwide access to a reliable, fast internet connection. According to Labour Party findings, just 7% of UK households have access to full-fibre connections, compared to 71% in Spain, 97% in South Korea, and 99% in Japan.

Full-fibre cables are more effective than standard copper or copper/fibre hybrid cables at providing superfast broadband, and ensuring strong and reliable internet coverage. Most broadband providers will be able to tell you on their website what kind of cable you have running into your house. Your local council should be able to tell you if there are plans to install more reliable cables if you dont already have them.

In Wales, the Access Broadband Cymru scheme provides grants of £400 for 10Mbps+ and £800 for 30Mbps+ for homes and businesses.

In England, the government offers a subsidy of up to £350 for satellite broadband, helping the most remote properties get online. This is not an ideal setup as the technology is limited, but it can still be a useful step up.

Danny Lord

Author: Danny Lord

Danny is our Editor-in-Chief, and has been writing news and guides for comparison sites for the last five years.

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