How to live without home broadband (temporarily)

The prospect of living without home broadband may seem daunting, but it’s surprisingly easy to manage short-term with advanced planning

Tuesday, 8 September, 2020

The prospect of living without home broadband might be enough to make you hyperventilate, but it’s a scenario many of us will face at one time or another.

From ISP outages to storm damage and router failure, there are many reasons why your broadband ceases to work.

When it does, it’s surprising how many things in a typical home suddenly stop working.

Alexas flash red, Hives report error messages and Rings cease to inform you that a delivery driver spent five seconds at your door before dumping your parcel in a neighbour’s hedge.

Smart TVs stop acting smart, streaming services are prevented from working, and desktop computers display a pixelated picture of a dinosaur instead of webpage content.

However, a temporary outage doesn’t have to represent a catastrophe.

Neither does a short-term loss of service, which could be due to anything from direct debit issues to errors transferring between ISPs.

(Although this process is meant to happen relatively seamlessly, there are sometimes problems switching from Openreach-based connections to full fibre cable services, or vice versa.)

With a little foresight and planning, living without home broadband doesn’t have to cause major disruption – providing it’s only for a short while…

Buy a 4G mobile dongle. This plugs into the USB port of a desktop or laptop computer (or even a docking station), delivering rapid mobile internet.

Dongles tend to come pre-loaded with a certain amount of data, which can be replenished at a fairly high cost. Speeds aren’t great, though they’re fine for office work and web browsing.

Invest in a MiFi hub. These also use the 4G mobile network, but they generate their own modest WiFi network within a room (or two) of your home.

These portable home broadband hubs offer the same speeds as 4G dongles, while supporting multiple connections and bringing connectivity to devices which only go online wirelessly.

Tether your smartphone. A third way to get 4G (or even 5G) connectivity onto a computer is to piggyback on its connection via your phone.

There are limitations on the practicality of tethering, which may be done across USB or Bluetooth. You can also pair it using a USB cable, which is clunky but delivers good speeds.

Log onto a neighbour’s network. If you live in a flat or terraced house, certain devices will probably pick up neighbouring WiFi networks when they conduct a scan.

Sympathetic neighbours might share their WiFi password with you. If they do, go online sparingly, don’t use their connection for more than a week, and buy them a nice present afterwards.

Use public WiFi. This is harder than it was pre-lockdown, but cafés and restaurants tend to provide free WiFi, and you don’t need to wear a mask if you’re sitting in.

Take care not to distribute sensitive information across insecure connections, as it could be spied on. These networks tend to run slowly, though you’ll stay connected for hours at a time.

Work offline. This is a nuclear option, but if an outage is likely to last for less than a day, living without home broadband may be mitigated by using devices offline.

You can prepare emails in Outlook for sending later, edit OneDrive documents locally and save files to internal storage, ready to send/upload/share once connectivity is restored.

Neil Cumins author picture


Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!