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Broadband for older people

By Claire Nottage | Monday, December 12th 2022

The internet offers a wealth of opportunities, from online entertainment, reading and research to the comfort of staying in touch with loved ones using email or video-calling software such as Zoom and FaceTime.

With so many services now available online, broadband has become something of a fourth utility, so we’re here to help you find a package that’s right for those of us of a certain age, whether you are looking for your first ever broadband package or thinking about changing to a new provider.

Choosing a broadband deal suited to an older person

Choosing a broadband deal can seem intimidating for many, with so many choices available, but it really comes down to thinking about a few key points before you buy. For many, price is a major factor, but it’s also worth taking time to consider things such as customer service and inclusive phone calls since not all broadband providers are created equal.

How you will use the internet

If the answer is to use email and stay in touch using Zoom or other video calling software, then a standard broadband connection should be sufficient. Most broadband packages are now unlimited – in other words you can do as much as you like on the internet without being charged extra, which offers peace of mind when it comes to finances.

How much you are prepared to pay

The cheapest option is a standard broadband deal, which is ideal for doing the basics online but might struggle a bit if you want to use streaming services such as iPlayer, depending on exactly what speed you get where you live.

An entry-level fibre broadband package will give you a bit more speed and flexibility to do more online and usually only costs slightly more than a standard broadband package. Unless you do a lot of streaming and downloading you are unlikely to need anything much faster.

Good customer service

The reassurance of good customer service is always important. Every year, Ofcom surveys all the UK broadband providers and rates them according to customer service. The latest survey ranked BT as having the most satisfied customers, closely followed by EE and Sky.

Contract length

Most broadband packages come on an 18-month contract, meaning you are committed to paying a monthly fee for that length of time. Although it ties you in, this does work out as the cheapest option. You can get broadband packages on a one-month contract – also known as no-contract broadband – but they always work out more expensive than a long contract.

Adding a calls package

Most broadband packages come with a phone line included in the price, and you then have to pay for any calls you make on top. However, you can choose to pay a bit more and get free evening and weekend calls or anytime calls included. If you make a lot of calls during the day, this will work out far cheaper than paying for calls as you make them.

It’s worth remembering that although these inclusive packages will include free calls to mobile numbers and landlines, they usually don’t include calls to premium numbers used by businesses, which will incur an additional charge.

Adding a TV package

It may be that you are happy watching TV through your aerial, but if you would like a bit more choice, along with the option to record or catch up on your favourite shows, then it might be worth getting a broadband package with TV included.

A fairly basic package will give you the same channels as you get through an aerial, but with the facility to pause live TV (if the phone rings or someone is at the door, for example) as well as recording anything you would like to watch later. The more expensive packages will offer more channels offering exclusive TV shows and a greater array of films.

Finding the right provider

Once you’ve decided how you intend to use your broadband connection, you can start to look for a provider and package. The best place to do this is by using a comparison site that is clear and simple to use, and gives you the ability to sort by provider, speed, price and all the other things you may want to consider. You will then be presented with a list of all the deals currently available that fit your criteria and you can easily make a selection.

If you prefer to order your broadband package over the phone rather than doing it online, most providers have a phone number that you can call to do this. This way you can ask any questions you may have and get the assurances you need before signing up.

Choosing a provider

For many people who remember the British Telecom of old, BT may feel like the most comfortable choice when it comes to getting their broadband, but it’s worth bearing in mind that all providers – apart from Virgin Media – actually use the same network of cables as BT, which is independently owned and run by Openreach. BT is also one of the more expensive broadband providers so if you are looking to minimise expense, it’s definitely worth shopping around.

Products and services for older people

With more and more older people now needing an internet connection, a number of broadband providers have special products and services available exclusively for the older generation. Most providers will offer support to the elderly in the form of alternative formats and help with bills.

BT Basic

If you receive Pension Credit, you are eligible for BT Basic (just a landline and calls) and BT Home Essentials broadband (broadband and phone). BT Basic includes line rental and £1.50 of calls for just £5.10 per month. Additional calls are charged, but capped at £10 per month.

If you are looking for broadband and phone, then you can choose BT Home Essentials broadband instead, which comes with 36Mbps fibre broadband and 700 minutes of calls for £15 per month or 67Mbps and unlimited calls for £20 per month.

BT can also provide bills and service information in different formats, should you need them. This includes audio CDs and MP3 files for the hard of hearing, and large print or Braille formats for the visually impaired.

Virgin Media Talk Protected

For elderly customers just wanting a phone service only, Virgin Media offer Talk Protected. It is automatically offered to customers over the age of 65 who also suffer from limited mobility, limited speech and language, limited dexterity, cognitive or learning disabilities, blindness or poor sight, or deafness or hard of hearing.

The monthly price is fixed at £17.99 and includes free calls to UK landlines and mobiles, as well as 0845 and 0870 numbers in the evenings and weekends.

Virgin also offers its Essential Broadband with a download speed of 15Mbps for £15 per month for anyone receiving Universal Credit.

The broadband installation process

As long as you have an active phone line, you may not even need a visit from an engineer unless you decide to get your broadband with Virgin Media. Because Virgin operates on a network separate from all other providers, it will need to send an engineer to install the cable into your home. This will involve drilling a small hole in your external wall.

In most cases however, you will simply be sent a router through the post, usually within 10-14 days of signing up. All you will need to do is plug it into both a power socket and your phone socket and turn it on. Hey presto, you have internet access, which you can then enjoy on a computer, tablet, laptop or smartphone.

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Frequently asked questions

What equipment do I need to get online?

You will need a router, which will be provided by your provider, and either a computer, laptop, tablet, such as an iPad or smartphone in order to use the internet.

Can I cancel or change my broadband service?

You can cancel but unless you have reached the end of your contract, you will be charged for terminating early – how much depends on how long is left on your contract. This is not the case however if you are on a special service, such as BT Home Essentials which can be cancelled at any time without penalty.

Do I need some online security?

Yes, security software will protect you and your connection from being attacked by criminals. Most good providers offer security software with their broadband packages for free or for a small monthly fee.

Is it worth getting a TV package?

If you would like to be able to pause the TV when you are interrupted, or if you would like to record or catch up on programmes you like, or even if you would like to have a greater choice of things to watch, then it may be worth signing up for a TV package. Otherwise, if you are happy to watch freeview TV via an aerial then it’s probably not worth it.

Will broadband work if I have a Telecare alarm?

If you have an alert system like Telecare which uses your phone line, check with your provider that the broadband service is compatible before you sign up. In most cases, an ADSL filter will need to be fitted to ensure any emergency calls you need to make can get through.

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