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Uswitch Claims 11 Million UK People Hit by Major Broadband Outages

Wednesday, June 29th, 2022 (12:01 am) - Score 2,904
disconnected internet broadband

A new Opinium survey of 4,000 UK adults, which was commissioned by Uswitch, has claimed that almost 11 million consumers experienced “broadband outages” of 3 or more hours over the last year – stopping 16% of respondents from doing their work at home. As a result, the economy took a £1.28bn hit due to outages.

The survey found that half of UK workers (51%) continued to work from home, yet across the year many UK workers were effectively forced to spend a total of almost two days offline as a result of broadband outages – hence the aforementioned cost. But this does overlook the fact that home workers may have more flexibility, enabling them to do other things during an outage and to catch-up later (not all tasks require a live internet connection).

However, the number of people affected by outages fell compared with last year (last year it was 14.8m), yet those who did suffer breaks in service were more motivated to complain. Some 52% who suffered a long outage contacted their ISP, but just 23% received compensation for their trouble (possibly because compensation is often only given for major outages that go on for a couple of days or so, which is rare).

Meanwhile, 14% say they have noticed their service getting worse in the past year and, of those who suffered an outage, just 12% were considering switching to a different broadband ISP as a result, down from a third (37%) in 2021 – this may or may not make life better (depending upon the network involved and cause of the outages).

Summary of Additional Survey Results

➤ 10% of respondents admitted they had faced questions or comments regarding the quality of their broadband connection

➤ 13% said the cost-of-living crisis means they’re having to work from home more often – regardless of their broadband reliability – to save money.

➤ 10% said they were more likely to go into the office due to problems with their home internet connectivity.

➤ 8% said they’d missed out on jobs or promotions due to unreliable broadband.

Interestingly, the city of Nottingham was found to be the UK’s “outage capital“, with residents who experienced service disruptions spending the longest time offline over the course of a year and losing 9.2 million hours of broadband annually. The city was followed by Southampton and Manchester, although such a small sample won’t be able to provide enough feedback for a reliable study of this.

Average downtime 2021-22
70.2 hours
45.8 hours
38.8 hours
38.7 hours
27.3 hours
22.4 hours
17.2 hours
15.3 hours

The fact that many people have now returned to the office, instead of working from home, probably helps to explain why fewer people reported experiencing outages over the past year (i.e. they weren’t at home to spot when they occur). But the rapid rise in “full fibre” (FTTP) broadband coverage, which is much more reliable, could be another factor.

However, we don’t think it’s necessarily fair to broadly describe something as a “broadband outage” when “power cuts” are also listed in the survey’s small print as one of the options for the cause – a power bank with AC sockets or mini-UPS can often bring your connection back to life (see here), even if the domestic mains supply goes down.

In addition, internet outages can also be linked back to more than the broadband connection itself, such as a problem caused by your home router (e.g. slow WiFi or the unit being overloaded with too many active devices), as well as viruses / hackers, faults with a remote internet server or an issue with the wider local network setup etc. Figuring out which aspect is to blame isn’t always easy, especially for non-IT folk.

Furthermore, modern broadband networks are complex and can be disrupted in all sorts of different ways, such as via weather damage (flooding, fallen trees etc.), third-party street works cutting through cables, fires, power cuts and deeper faults within an ISP’s network (e.g. hardware failure, routing / peering or DNS mistakes etc.). Most of these are resolved within minutes or a few hours, but others can take days or even longer (complex incidents in remote rural areas are usually slower to resolve).

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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.
Leave a Comment
8 Responses
  1. Matthew Morgan says:

    Most of this is people using the terrible routers from their ISP and than also using overcrowded WI-FI rather than Ethernet.

    But what do you expect ISPs to include for free with a £20 to £30 per month connection.

    1. RobertPayne556 says:

      Agreed, get better internet, stop using rubbish routers and go premium if need be. People love wasting money on the bare minimum and complain when the service isn’t the greatest.

    2. simon says:

      Agreed, My neighbours laughed when I said CF was £40 a month got a good internet – they said it was too much for them so they would stay on cheapo FTTC.. But they are happy to spend money have 3 (yes 3) takeaaways a night. (I often get knocked as they can’t be arsed to put a number on their house)

  2. Rupert Walker says:

    I would have said 4000 is such a small sample you can’t take anything from it

    1. An Engineer says:

      As long as it’s just a reasonably representative sample margin of error is 1-2%.

    2. Rupert Walker says:

      Not if the survey person stood in the high street in Nottingham for most of the questions lol

  3. Gary Mackenzie says:

    If the powercut takes out the telephone exchange then nothing the client can do.
    A upc would need to power everything for the length of power outage.
    Our last one was 72 hours.
    When everyone gets moved to voip phones this will be a bigger problem.

  4. Oggy says:

    I wonder how many of these people working from home have a business broadband connection as opposed to a residential one?

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