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Getting online for less

To get started online, you'll need a connection to the internet and a computer device that can connect to the internet (such as a laptop, tablet or smartphone).

If you are struggling to afford to buy a computer or tablet, or to cover the costs of broadband then please see the details below for suggestions, information and help available.

Finding low cost computers and tablets

Computers and tablets can cost a lot less than you might think. Shop around, talk to family and friends and find the right device for you. Digital Unite provides free guides such as understanding the essentials of computers and tablets.

Examples of low cost computers and tablets include:

  • Refurbished laptops and PCs cost from around £100.  Suppliers such as Tier 1 Online (Tel: 0161 777 1007) and RePC (Tel: 0121 557 6439) provide a wide range of PCs and laptops at various prices and specifications.
  • The Money Saving Expert website and Tech Advisor offer guides to low cost tablets, starting from less than £50. 
  • If you are a college or university student, it may be worth asking your institution if they offer laptop loans or similar schemes.

Getting connected

There are lots of ways to connect to the internet with different pros and cons. Home broadband (via your telephone landline) is usually the best value for money option and is most secure for activities such as online banking and shopping. We've outlined home broadband and other options below.

If you are struggling financially, you may be able to apply for a grant from Orbit to help you get online and purchase a device. For more information about eligibility and how to apply, visit the Super Surfer grants page.

Home broadband

  • Pros: usually best value for money if you and your family are using the internet regularly. Consumer offers start from around £5 a month
  • Cons: requires a telephone landline which will be subject to line rental (currently around £17 per month plus your broadband cost). Be wary of introductory offers (eg. 'half price for X months') and make sure you understand how much the monthly costs will go up by after the introductory offer.

You can find information about broadband offers and packages from the Money Saving Expert website and through comparison services such as Simplify Digital (you can also ring them on 0800 542 4704.

If you are struggling to afford broadband costs, take a look at BT Basic + Broadband. This is a low-cost line rental and broadband packages for people on eligible benefits and it reduce the total cost (including line rental) to less than £10 per month. Usage limits and terms apply and you can find out more by contacting BT on 0800 800 864 or visiting the BT website.

Mobile broadband

Although mobile coverage isn't universal yet, mobile broadband can be a useful option in many places. You can get connected either by using a mobile WiFi hub or your smartphone may have options to turn it into a mobile WiFi hotspot (just remember to keep it secure and turn the hotspot off when it isn't needed).

  • Pros: mobile WiFi is available on pay monthly and pay as you go (PAYG) packages. Using PAYG can help to avoid 'bill shock' - you can only use the credit you've put onto the SIM card. Mobile WiFi is...mobile! Take it with you when you move home, on holiday and so on. There is no delay with installation - turn on your phone hotspot and you can connect - useful when you're not able to get home broadband.
  • Cons: overall costs are often higher on mobile networks than for equivalent usage on home broadband. Most mobile WiFi packages have data usage limits and activities like watching iPlayer and other video content will use up data credit quickly. Speed and stability of connection is dependent on the strength of the mobile phone signal.

Orbit has teamed up with EE to offer a 20% discount to our customers for a mobile WiFi hub and 6GB data package. Find out more about how to get your discount voucher.

You can find more information about mobile internet access deals and tips for minimising data usage on the Money Saving Expert website.

Many smartphones include options to use a phone as a mobile ‘hotspot’ which allows other devices (such as a laptop) to connect wirelessly to the phone and use the phone’s connection to the internet. PC Adviser provides more details about how to do this for different types of phone.

You can also use your phone’s settings to warn you about data usage. The Geek Squad website provides advice about how to do this on iOS (for apple devices), Android and Windows Phone 8.

Using public WiFi

Whether you need to find free and low cost ways of getting online or if you just want to find places where you can use WiFi internet access when you’re out and about, there is a growing range of providers of public WiFi.

The Choose website provides a guide to using public WiFi and information about widely available providers.

If you live in a sheltered or supported scheme managed by Orbit, WiFi may also be available in communal areas – ask local Orbit staff if it is available at your scheme and how you can access it.

If you already have a home broadband or mobile network contract, it’s also worth checking with your provider if access to public WiFi is included in your package. Customers of providers such as BT and Sky can also use public WiFi hotspots, for example via BT FON or The Cloud.

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