Free internet access at local libraries
All local and mobile libraries have computers with free internet access - you can book half hour or hourly sessions. Contact your local library for more information about this free service. Use the following link to get contact details for your local library or to book a computer session through Libraries NI website.
Helping someone get started online
Many people are still missing out on the benefits the internet has to offer – because they lack the know-how or the confidence, or they don't have access to a computer or an internet connection.
If you have a friend or family member who needs support getting started with the internet, follow the link below.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
If you want to access the internet at home, you'll need an Internet Service Provider (ISP) and a router to connect to the ISP. ISPs often provide a router with their service. This means more than one computer or device in your house can use the broadband connection at the same time. Some devices can also use Wi-Fi to connect to the router.
As ISPs often improve their services, it is useful to have updated information about what they can offer. Go to your ISP's website and see if they use an online checker where you can find out what services are available in your area. You might need to use your postcode or telephone number in the online checker.
It is helpful to get recommendations from a reliable source, or from friends who have an ISP. When you are researching the ISP on your own, get accurate, detailed information about their services.
Tips on choosing an ISP
Check your equipment
Make sure you have the right computer and software to work with any chosen ISP as some ISPs require specific browsers and some services don't work with AppleMac hardware or software. To get some connection speeds you'll need a specific modem.
What the ISP offers you
Find out what your ISP offers and decide what you actually need. Consider how long you expect to be online, the size of the files you will be transferring and when you are most likely to be online. It is not recommended to select an ISP by price alone.
If you want to use the phone whilst you are online, you can choose a broadband connection or get a second line installed specifically for internet access. A broadband connection allows online access all day:
- to receive instant emails
- to surf the internet
- to exchange large files
More information on broadband is available below.
Building your own website
If you are thinking of building your own website, choose an ISP that offers hosting space as part of the package.
Find out what technical support is available and how much the ISP charges for this service. Ask what the ISP does to prevent or manage system failures.
Internet access can be provided using different broadband technologies including satellite, cable, telephone wires, wireless or mobile connections. Available broadband services can vary across Northern Ireland.
What is broadband?
Broadband internet services are usually provided over a standard telephone line. However, the phone and internet signals are separated - so you can use your phone at the same time as the internet.
Broadband gives you much faster access to the internet, allowing you to download large files quickly, such as video and music. Broadband is constantly connected, so you don't have to wait for a connection to be made when you want to use the internet.
You might also decide to go for wireless or mobile broadband. For wireless broadband you need to buy a router - or you might get one from your ISP as part of your service package. Remember, your computer or laptop must also be wireless enabled.
A mobile broadband connection can be used anywhere that you get a mobile phone signal, but you need to arrange the service through a mobile broadband provider.
If Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) broadband is not available in your area via your phone line, there are alternatives. These include cable and satellite.
Cable companies offer high bandwidth services over existing cable networks. A cable modem can offer a similar speed to ADSL services.
Broadband internet access can be brought into your home via satellite. Currently, there are two types of satellite broadband available:
- one way
- two way access
One way access provides a very fast connection, but you can only receive information. For example, you can download internet pages and files, but you can't upload email attachments. If you need to send information back, you will need to use a cable modem, or dial-up service.
Two way allows information to be sent both ways. You can send data files back, as well as receive them, via your satellite. However, sending information back via this service is slow and expensive.
The advantage of using satellite broadband services is that it can be used anywhere.
There are also Wi-Fi hotspots which can give you access to fixed-line broadband at different locations. You don't have to pay for equipment but you may have to pay for your time online. Usually, there are no usage limits. Hotspots are normally quicker than mobile broadband for browsing and downloading. You can get free Wi-Fi but for the best coverage you'll have to pay.