What Is Line Rental and Can I Get Broadband Without It?

Ever wondered what that fee for “line rental” is on your phone bill? And is it possible to get broadband without line rental?

Assuming you’re one of many Britons who’s dramatically cut the use of their landline (collectively, we spend half as much time on our landlines as we did five years ago), you may be asking: is there any way to reduce this cost?

In this article we explain what line rental is, why you still have to pay it and look at whether the fee will ever go away.

Do I have to pay line rental?

What Is Line Rental?

Your “line”, in this context, refers to the physical cable that connects your house to international communications networks – that includes both the internet and the PSTN (the traditional telephone service). Because your line can carry voice data as well as all the data that you need to use the internet (text, images, videos, songs, etc.), most people’s broadband and phone services are delivered over the same line.

Because of this, line rental is not really a cost on your home phone; it is the cost of maintaining the line itself. This means, whether you’re streaming television shows and films, chatting to your parents over Skype, listening to songs and podcasts, scrolling through Buzzfeed or making landline calls, it is your line that allows you to do this. The regular line rental fee you pay allows you to avoid the one-off costs you would otherwise incur when there’s a fault – allowing providers to repair network faults quickly.

Since 2016, broadband companies are not allowed to advertise broadband and line-rental costs separately. Rather, they must show the complete figure, which will include the cost of your broadband contract as well as your line-rental fee. However, some providers still separate out fees in this way on their bills – which explains the line rental cost.

 

Can I Avoid Paying for Line Rental?

Yes, you can. If you opt to use mobile or satellite broadband to connect to the internet at home, then you will not be charged line rental. However, mobile and satellite broadband do not currently offer anywhere near the same internet speeds as broadband does.

Satellite broadband is fantastic for those who live in very rural places where fixed-line broadband services aren’t available. Though improving, satellite broadband only offers speeds between 2—30Mbps. And, compared to traditional broadband, you will often pay more per Mbps with satellite services, which offsets the money you would save by avoiding the line rental fee.

A second alternative is to use mobile broadband or 4G to connect devices at home. Although it’s possible to use a 4G connection at home, for most of us doing so is not a practical solution. To connect home devices to the internet via 4G, you can:

  • Use a router from a wireless broadband provider
  • Use a mobile broadband hotspot device (a device that you can use to connect your devices to mobile broadband)
  • Tether your smartphone (essentially turn it into a Wi-Fi hotspot)

Usually, mobile broadband often has far stricter download limits than fixed line connections, does not cover extras such as the additional internet security technologies that come with most fixed line services and, because many things can interfere with a wireless signal, will be much less reliable than a standard line.

These issues mean that mobile broadband is not yet a truly viable alternative to fixed line connections. However, when 5G finally arrives – bringing with it speeds of up to 100Mbps – some are predicting that this could change.

The only other way to stop paying for line rental is if companies chose to stop charging you for it.

 

Will the Internet Ever Be Free?

The UN considers access to the internet to be a human right. This point of view has led some to the conclusion that the internet should never be preventively priced or should be completely free.

Although free internet sounds like a pretty wonderful thing, is this really feasible?

Not really. At least not yet.

This is because creating and maintaining the infrastructure and hardware that supports the internet costs money. This infrastructure and hardware is owned by all sorts of different people and organisations – including governments, companies and private individuals (if you’re interested, you can learn more in Who Owns The Internet?). With so many different vested interests, a lack of centralised control and huge costs to be paid, it’s very unlikely that the internet will be universally free in our lifetimes.

On the plus side, many organisations and governments recognise that everyone should have an easily-accessible, non-cost prohibitive internet connection. This view, combined with ever more efficient internet technologies and fierce competition between Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to provide the best connection at the best price, means that consumers can expect their internet connection to get cheaper and/or faster as time goes by.

Still, that line rental charge isn’t going anywhere.

Elite Group is the leading unified communications provider. We supply businesses with a range of connectivity solutions – from business broadband and ethernet to leased lines and MPLS.