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Which? Survey Claims 12.5 Million UK Homes Frustrated by Poor Broadband

Wednesday, April 5th, 2017 (12:01 am) - Score 1,130

Consumer magazine Which? has conducted a new Populus survey of 2,084 UK households, which claims that 16 million people (59% of respondents) have suffered a problem with their broadband connection during the past year and 12.5 million households were left frustrated as a result.

The “nationally representative online survey“, which was conducted between 21st and 22nd December 2016, also found that 38% of households who suffered internet connection issues have been completely stopped from carrying out one or more online activities as a result. On top of that 31% said that such issues had either completely prevented or delayed their ability to pay bills and conduct online banking.

In addition, 18-24 year olds were found to be “significantly more frustrated” by poor broadband than any other age group, although Which? didn’t provide any solid figures to support that.

Alex Neill, Which? Managing Director of Home Services, said:

“With millions of us frustrated by bad broadband and stopped from doing the simplest of online tasks, we have launched a new, free tool to help people improve their connection.

There is nothing more annoying than your internet cutting out when you’re streaming your favourite programme, or when you’ve spent ages filling your online shopping basket but your connection is too slow to get you to the checkout.

Far too many people are experiencing problems with their broadband across the country and we want to help people to fix it.”

The Which? Speed Test and advice page is much like nearly every other speed testing service on the Internet (such as our own TBB powered one) in that it checks your latency, download and upload performance. However after running a few tests we noted that it tended to report slightly faster speeds than were possible for our line and also reported significantly slower latency than is correct, so take the output with a pinch of salt.

On top of that they also provide a few basic performance tips that highlight the usual suspects of router positioning and different network types (wired, powerline, wifi etc.), plus some information on how to complain about your provider (we also have this). We also have a few useful guides for tweaking WiFi, switching providers and so forth (here).

Naturally any news about crappy broadband usually attracts a comment from Hyperoptic, which are keen to push the strengths of their ultrafast FTTP/B broadband network.

Steve Holford, Hyperoptic’s Chief Customer Officer, told ISPreview.co.uk:

“Broadband remains a postcode lottery. Even in some of our biggest cities there are broadband ‘not spots’ where connectivity can be under 1Mbps. The simple fact is that much of our broadband infrastructure depends on copper telephone wires – some of which are 140 years old. Even a large proportion of so called ‘fibre’ services still depend on copper to deliver the last stage of connectivity.

This outdated technology is limited in speed and capacity and isn’t fit for today’s digital world. The onus needs to be on investing and supporting fibre to the premises rollouts that will give consumers the Internet experience that they deserve, as well as preparing the UK economy for the future.”

It should be said that no internet connection is perfect and even the best ones can suffer outages, such as during major power / hardware failures or as a result of damage caused by third-party contractors (cutting cables etc.). Likewise problems with local (home) network hardware and/or software can also create problems of their own (it’s not always the fault of ISPs).

In this case the survey doesn’t go into a lot of detail about the type of problems and time-scales involved, so we’re hesitant to draw any firm conclusions without more data. As usual there’s always room for improvement and hopefully some of the changes being pushed through by Ofcom (here) and the rising adoption of more reliable (vs ADSL) superfast and ultrafast broadband networks should help.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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24 Responses
  1. TheManStan says:

    How many people are prepared to admit the problem was between keyboard and chair?

  2. NGA for all says:

    We do appear to be deluding ourselves a bit. Ofcom in the WLA in the reference to the ‘fair’ bet reference a system size of 25m for calculating BT’s 66%, Ofcom for the most part use a system size of 28.5m while at EFRA select committee BDUK reference 1% at 300k or 30m.
    While every cabinet creates a new but smaller gap to fill, the system size for calculating subsidy has added 2m to the final third.
    BDUK 4.3m superfast to DEC 2016 is between 14% and 17% coverage depending which system size you use.
    Much of how BT’s numbers are treated by Gov and Ofcom depend on how they count passing Virginmedia customers, while ignoring the gaps left by a cabinet based solution.
    Even with this the 12.5m appears very high.
    The budgets are there to do a great deal of in-fill, but this will need a change in approach to supporting demand led in-fill fibre extensions.
    Ofcom’s belief that 10Mbps is enough is part of the problem. Even if it is enough there is no reason not to actively encourage a flip between PSTN investment (£300m) a year to more fibre access and build on the 2m plan.

    1. Perhaps you should explore rounding issues and the dynamic nature of the base line figures, e.g. new build, uncertainties over number of business (overlap with residential) and the list goes on.

      Ofcom gets coverage data from providers so if providers give wrong data Ofcom will get wrong data, if given good data then…

      Its not rocket science just standard big data issues

    2. CarlT says:

      The data is not worthwhile; you’re looking too deeply into it I think. The data is about ‘feels’ not testable facts.

      I’m sure many people who complain about their broadband are either not aware they can purchase better or refuse to pay more.

      I imagine others blame their provider for issues with their equipment.

      Yet others have unrealistic expectations and complain about relatively brief outages and relatively minor fluctuations.

      This is a campaign from a ‘consumer champion’ not a fact-based exercise.

    3. NGA for all says:

      Andrew, CarlT – It is difficult to disagree with you chaps, but we should be able to do better. Ofcom working system size for Openreach is less than 26m so there ought to be a better way to report actual numbers.
      BT reporting 22m passed and BDUK 4.3m superfast which is more than OR working system size, yet we have Anlysis Mason reporting 1.4m (finals 5%) plus 200k SME who cannot get a reason service.
      Huge budgets remain to do the fixes, although it may now be difficult to convert those funds into coverage without a change to a demand led approach.
      Think Broadbands constituency data is very helpful in defining the remaining challenge, although the lack of status of fibre access in regulatory terms means SME’s can be mis-sold private circuits as a substitute for fixing broadband.

    4. Why do you think Ofcom is right? Remember their data is built on data from all the providers? So if providers have it wrong, then so does Ofcom. Also it currently takes 5 to 6 months to publish, but they are apparently aiming for quarter updates now – perhaps better for them to employ someone who has got it down to near real time for the bulk of the data.

  3. Billy says:

    broadbandtest.which.co.uk is a fantasy site, the figures returned are absolute tripe.

    1. Tim says:

      Yes, the stats from the Which speed checker are pretty bad – for me the latency is at least 10 times that of any other test, the download is optimistic but the upload is 20% above the theoretical maximum of my line.

  4. dragoneast says:

    There are a couple of things I’ve always found help, like not leaving things to the last minute; and being aware of alternatives (like telephone banking or even the bricks and mortar shop or the post office); and we can always do more with less than we think. As life gets more complex we have to get smarter too. There are 24 hours in a day (with a couple of exceptions), and none of us have yet discovered how to use them to best effect.

    Name me the one piece of technology, ever, that has never, ever, left us frustrated. Even when the first wheel fell off the cart. The next thing that happened when it was invented, probably.

  5. 125uS says:

    There is of course the question of what SLA people are paying for. High reliability services are available widely, but the engineering of such things is more expensive than a standard connection which is reflected in the price.

  6. MikeW says:

    I’d like to see Steve Holford’s example of 140-year of copper infrastructure. The days when the wires were made or iron or steel, were bare, and run overhead on separate insulators.

    Not a lot of that will still be in use at all, never mind for carrying consumer broadband.

    In 1965, just over 50 year ago, there were only 0.4 million homes with a telephone. With 23 million broadband users today, you’d be pretty unlucky to be in a house that even had a telephone in 1965. Just 2%.

    Even worse, Hyperoptic only target large MDUs – the vast majority of which will not have even been built before the sixties.

    It seems any bandwagon will do for Hyperoptic’s PR.

    1. Steve Jones says:

      It’s simple. Steve Holford is either knowingly lying or doesn’t know what he’s talking about. There are no 140 year old copper lines in use. It’s difficult to imagine any in use which pre-date plastic insulation.

  7. Kits says:

    I have a friend who lives in Buxton she has access to FTTC that is all you can say really she should be able to get 13Mbps but never gets over 5Mbps. This is where BT is winning as her line shows between 4.8Mbps and 13.7Mbps they will do nothing to help her get to the 13Mbps even though her neighbour gets 13Mbps. Now that is frustraiting expecially with teenagers in the home wanting to use the connection at the same time. OFCOM needs to make BT reduce the goal posts so that if the line is that low they get the copper line replaced with new to get to the 13Mbps.
    Her range from BT checker Range B (Impacted) 13.7 4.8 2.2 0.7 3.3 Available — — Yes

    1. TheFacts says:

      Home wiring?

    2. dragoneast says:

      Or try a wired connection rather than wifi – lots of stone and maybe granite around, presumably? Try a different router? Quiet Line Test? Who is the ISP? What about AAISP’s “guarantee” if all else fails and you are absolutely certain it is the local loop at fault, at least perhaps discuss options with them, and whether they think they can help.

      We’re just not going to go around slinging new wire everywhere just on the off-chance. No utility does that. In ADSL days I had a speed nearly twice that of my neighbours for some time, and previously BT had damaged my wiring when repairing the line to my neighbours property and we had dreadful trouble for years locating the fault. These things can happen.

    3. Cecil Ward says:

      Definitely try Andrews and Arnold, as the earlier poster said. http://www.aaisp.net.uk/broadband-trial.html

    4. MikeW says:

      With that range, there is no “should be able to get 13 Mbps”. There is ” Should be able to get 4.8Mbps, and might get as much as 13.7Mbps”.

      The range represents similar lines – of which, 20% get more than 13.7Mbps, and 80% get more than 4.7Mbps.

      If the other suggestions don’t help, and a forum like TBB’s can’t help, then you should maybe consider an ISP that will use the A range as a threshold, not the B range.

      That tends to map to an engineer install (like BT or Plusnet), rather than self-install (like TT)

  8. Kits says:

    No nome wiring it is direct into the NTe5 only one phone socket in her home in living room. That is where the router is they have laptops so connect wireless. I made sure she connected the laptop via ethernet to do speedtests that was the fastest she gets. The problem is unless her speed drops below the 4.8Mbps then there is no fault so BT will do nothing the range needs to be changed the gap between highest and lowest is to large. All ISPs use the B range as none of BT’s copper can fall in the A range. Even my FTTC is based on B range but luckily BT replaced the copper between the poles on the whole street about 10 years ago and I had new line from pole just after. Her ISP is BT retail using Homehub he FTTC was installed by an engineer who said that is all her line can manage, had he replaced the copper from pole and drop she might have stood a chance of better speed.

    1. TheFacts says:

      I have the A range speed over copper.

    2. CarlT says:

      Both my lines are in the A range.

    3. MikeW says:

      My line was quoted with the A range, and achieves above that. My previous line ran faster than the A range too.

      I can start the sales process to order a new line, and (with the right ISP) I get offered the A range speed.

      It still only helps in getting an appointment. If the engineer can’t improve speeds, it doesn’t help.

    4. GNewton says:

      @TheFacts: Who is your ISP and network provider? You said in another forum thread that your line has been stable for years, which is quite unusual for a DSL line.

    5. MikeW says:

      Is it unusual for DSL to be stable?

      Or is it that you just don’t hear anything from people with stable DSL lines?

      I’ve had DSL on 4 lines, over the last 17 years. In all manner of forms: ADSL, ADSLmax, ADSL2+, FTTC 40/10 and FTTC 80/20. All stable.

      Some outages, of course, but they’ve been core issues, not access network.

    6. FibreFred says:

      Same here Mike.

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