Access to fast broadband Internet is so taken for granted these days that it’s easy to forgot one simple fact — it doesn’t just appear when you move into a new place. While moving house has long involved the timeless utility checklist — connect power, connect water, connect gas — your broadband connection isn’t quite as straightforward.
So what’s the best way to go about connecting to and setting up broadband for your home? And what about getting access to those all-important emails and Instagram pics when you’re away from home, at work, or on the move?
The good news is that, these days, most of the really technical stuff is almost completely automated, thanks to advances with both the Internet itself and with the various devices that connect to it. But you’ve still got some decisions to make, and those decisions start with one of the most important of them all —your choice of Internet provider.
Picking a Provider and Plan
As you’ve probably noticed, there are a lot of Internet providers out there — much more so now that the NBN has made it easier than ever for smaller companies to jump in and offer broadband as well. And if you’ve been shopping around for the right provider, you’ve probably noticed that most of them have something in common — almost all of them offer plans with “unlimited data.”
Now, you can save a bit of money per month in some cases by going for a plan that isn’t unlimited, but it’s usually worth it to go for the unlimited plan anyway. The extra cost is usually only a few dollars a week, and the peace of mind that you get from not having to keep an eye on your usage (and not having to estimate it in the first place) is well worth it.
Once you contact a provider they’ll be able to tell you what type of connection you can have — ADSL, Cable, NBN — and that directly affects how many potential providers you can put on your short list, with NBN offering the widest range of options (but also costing slightly more).
If one of your uses for broadband is going to be regularly streaming TV, it’s worth checking out some of the bundles available, too. Usually offered by the larger providers — like Telstra with their Foxtel bundles, or Optus, iPrimus, and Dodo with their Fetch TV offerings — these let you pay a flat monthly charge for broadband as well as access to premium TV. A home phone line and a bunch of included calls can also frequently be part of these bundles, and they can save you a ton of money.
One more thing, while it’s tempting to go for the cheapest (and therefore slowest) NBN connection speed, we don’t recommend it. Neither, for that matter, does the NBN itself, which only put those slow (12 Mbps) plans in place to cater to people who just wanted a home phone on the NBN and not broadband for their devices.
Need some more help? Make sure to check out the table below to help you started in choosing the best service provider for your NBN needs!
Getting Plugged In — The Modem
The connection between you and the big wide world of the Internet doesn’t just happen — you need a way to let your devices talk to the world. That’s where the modem comes in — it takes communications from all the connected devices in your home and gets them where they need to go online. There are different types of modems depending on which broadband type you have — and they’re not all interchangeable. Modems for ADSL, Cable, and the various types of NBN, all have differences in the way they connect, so if you’ve got a modem kicking around from your previous place, check with your new provider to make sure it’ll still work.
You can go buy your own modem if you prefer (or have specific features you’re after, like enhanced Wi-Fi coverage or lots and lots of wired Ethernet ports) but for general usage, your provider will almost always have a modem available to you, either for free or for a small fee. This is the easiest way to get set up, since the provider usually sets the modem up for you before sending it — all you need to do is plug it in. There’s usually some basic setup to do on your end, though, including a couple of important security measures; your modem will come with simple instructions for how to access its setup screens.
If you’re lucky enough to have a “Fibre to the Premises” NBN connection meanwhile, you don’t need a modem at all — instead, you’ll use a similar-looking device called a router. This handles the Wi-Fi and wired connections to everything in your home without having to worry about translating all the data to fit down a phone line. With most ISPs though, you’ll still have to set the router up to connect to the right broadband account. There are occasional exceptions to that, such as with Aussie Broadband, where you don’t need to log in at all.
With any new modem, remember to change the password used to get into its setup, and make sure to choose secure Wi-Fi and pick a Wi-Fi password that your neighbours can’t guess! The last thing you want is complete strangers slowing down your broadband by using it behind your back to download gigabytes of random stuff!
As for where to actually set up the modem, try to find a spot that’s central to your living space, away from other electronic devices like microwave ovens, and as high off the ground as possible. That’ll help ensure that Wi-Fi coverage can be relied upon no matter what room of the house or apartment you’re in.
When it comes to your mobile phone, broadband setup is as simple and easy as it gets — most smartphones walk you effortlessly through connecting to new Wi-Fi networks, and the SIM card you get from your mobile provider takes care of all the broadband setup for you. There’s no real unlimited data on mobile, so pick a monthly data allowance that suits your needs and use Wi-Fi wherever possible on the device to save that precious mobile data for when you really need it.
Obviously the first thing to do is connect to your new home Wi-Fi (you did write down that username and password, right?). But you can also get your phone or tablet set up with the email accounts you use at home, so you can check stuff on the go. For big, free email providers such as Gmail and Outlook it’s as simple as downloading that service’s app. But if you use the email account that your Internet provider includes as part of your service, you can also access that from wherever you are, just by setting up an account in your phone’s mail app with the username and password you use for your home Internet.
Connecting at Work
Here’s where things get interesting — and possibly a lot more limiting! Almost all businesses are broadband-connected these days — but the amount of Internet access that you’re able to have while you’re at work will entirely depend on what your employer wants you to have. Some won’t allow you to use your mobile phone during work hours, or they may have strict policies about the use of non-work-related websites during work hours. Others may tolerate or even encourage an amount of freedom with what you access.
Larger companies will have security policies with their Internet access as well, which may limit what you can view or connect to. But regardless, one thing’s very important — if the computer you use at work for Internet access is shared with anyone, make sure you’re signed out of any accounts you might have been using before you walk away for any extended time. This saves running into situations where work colleagues post to Facebook as you (whether accidentally or on purpose!) and also keeps private things like your emails private.
Well, mostly private. You should always assume that anything you do on a work computer or Wi-Fi network can be be monitored by their network security team.
Your best option while at work is to use your own mobile device — running on your phone provider’s data network — for any personal communication. But make sure that your use of your device is okay with your employer first. That fluffy kitten chasing its own tail on Facebook probably isn’t worth losing your job over!
What if I Can’t Get Connected?
As we said earlier, getting set up to connect to broadband is almost always a fairly automatic process, but things don’t always work out as smoothly as that. For example, if you’ve gone out and bought a feature-packed modem to cover all your broadband needs at home, you’ll probably need to spend a bit of time to get it set up and working with your Internet provider. Remember to check with them first to see what modem type you need (these can include ADSL, VDSL, Cable, and others, with some NBN connections having even more specific needs) and then spend some time with your new device’s user guide to learn how to access its setup menus. If anything doesn’t make sense or if it’s just not working, hop on the phone to their tech support — that’s what they’re there for — and they will be able to check your setup and tell you what you need to do to get things working.
Above all, don’t panic! If you’re not used to the terminology and the tech, it can seem a bit daunting, but connecting to broadband is far, far easier than you’d think!