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Poor Broadband Among Homeworkers Costs UK £60bn UPDATE

Monday, Nov 14th, 2022 (7:44 am) - Score 2,088
home working

A new report from Actual Experience, which has a vested interest in that it operates a hybrid workplace management system, has claimed homes that suffer from a “poor broadband” ISP connection have led to the loss of £1,000 per average worker – or £60bn across the whole UK economy – per year.

According to a short summary in the Telegraph (paywall), a Savanta ComRes poll of 1,006 UK people who work from home found that 89% experienced “IT problems” and 27% of those said that such difficulties occurred “very” or “fairly” often, although such generalisations could have a multitude of potential causes (i.e. they’re unlikely to all be broadband related).

However, so-called “data delays” during homeworking are said to have caused “chaos” for City traders (e.g. pricing errors in fast-move assets), but without more detail it’s unclear whether this relates to connection latency, issues with the connection speeds (downloads / uploads) or stability.

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Some other examples of wasted time included delays to online training, slow downloading of vital documents, disruption to video calls and so forth. In fairness, we can easily see how such things might add up to become quite a costly annoyance, particularly in light of the recent Pandemic and ongoing tendency toward greater homeworking.

On the other hand, we couldn’t find a copy of the aforementioned report itself, and it’s unclear from the summary whether all the associated issues could be fairly interpreted as being the fault of “poor broadband“. Sadly, it’s not uncommon for local computer / device faults, software issues, network setup and remote servers to also be the cause of many issues.

The article mentions that companies and customers were also affected by other issues, such as slow systems for call centres operated remotely leading to delays, as well as logistics firms being hit by outages that created long queues of customers. But some of these issues go beyond home broadband connectivity.

UPDATE 11:22am

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We’ve managed to get our hands on the full survey, which speaks more of “Internet flaws” (i.e. “poor broadband” seems to be the Telegraph’s own interpretation of the language) and highlights how most homes have consumer broadband connectivity, which they say is not comparable to “business quality broadband, which costs £500 to £1,000 a year.”

However, outside the price, they don’t actually define what a business quality broadband connection should represent (note: leased lines often cost more than the figure they’ve given). But they do highlight some useful points, such as with respect to how 68% of workers say their employer does not provide any financial or logistical assistance with their broadband.

Naturally, 65% feel that employers should pay to install business quality broadband in their homes and 72% say the tax man should stop taxing it as a perk.

Dave Page, the co-founder of the firm, said:

“Like it or not – and some people don’t – home working is here to stay. But the problem is that the average British home is not equipped to handle routine use of computers for commercial purposes. The vast majority of homes have consumer broadband. This is not designed for business purposes and is quite inadequate for it. It explains why many home workers are frustrated and demoralised by chronic system failures.

Right now, it is as if we are trying to run a Rolls Royce on two-star petrol.

What they need is business quality broadband, which costs £500 to £1,000 a year. This would transform their lives and make them more productive and a lot happier. But few firms provide it for their staff and, even worse, HMRC taxes it as a benefit in kind.”

Getting a leased line installed at home would of course be hugely expensive for a lot of people (thousands of pounds), and it’s difficult to see any company wanting to subsidise that at scale for home workers. On the other hand, a good quality business focused FTTP broadband ISP package with an SLA agreement would be much cheaper and get quite close to what a leased line can deliver (coverage allowing).

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The other thing to remember here is that, in order to be fully secure, homeworkers also need to think about purchasing an additional connection from a different type of network for redundancy. But the reality is that a good quality consumer broadband line should be more than capable of tackling almost all business tasks, except a very few particular ones that may benefit from a private circuit (large server hosting, high frequency trading etc.).

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Mark-Jackson
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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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24 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Martin says:

    Another alleged cause of “poor” broadband is that users do not understand typical domestic broadband has slow upload speeds, not suitable for uploading large uncompressed PowerPoint presentations etc.

    Maybe “work from home” employees should be made to sign up for a business package with appropriate upload speeds as well as fault response times.

    1. Avatar photo GG says:

      Have this with my team. Explain to them they can’t hit ‘semd’ and shutdown their laptop when they’ve just put a 30MB powerpoint as an attachment on a mail 10 seconds before.

  2. Avatar photo John says:

    If you’re day trading then you should not be on potato internet

    It’s also incredibly misleading to associate traders with the rest of the population. No, the vast majority of the population do not lose “economy money” on a 6 digit Ethereum margin trade because of a lag spike, only a tiny minority do

  3. Avatar photo Meadmodj says:

    I hate these sales-oriented reports that extrapolate to nonsense, in this case to £60bn when problem is more likely to be the IT solutions selected by their customer companies. As always, a strategy should provide for truly flexible working often encompassing a mixture of access methods including thin client and remote desktop.

    Both my daughter and her boyfriend work at home some days and also in remote locations using whatever WIFI is available. They have well specified laptops. They work for totally different companies and industries, but both have IT systems that are simply poor in performance. They were surviving on 25Mbps FTTC but now have 400Mbps (Hey! B). Yes, it’s better but it hasn’t resolved the IT issues.

    Are Actual Experience saying their software is the same. Will work wonderfully on the Office network during the demo but will disappoint when it is actually rolled out to the workforce.

  4. Avatar photo Jonny says:

    This link should get round the paywall https://12ft.io/proxy?q=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.telegraph.co.uk%2Fnews%2F2022%2F11%2F12%2Fworking-home-poor-broadband-costs-uk-economy-billions-pounds%2F – as with most Telegraph articles it seems primarily concerned with the impact on house prices.

    And are there really companies trying to have their traders working from home without putting a leased line in?

  5. Avatar photo John says:

    Well as said above by others, I wouldn’t work from home if I had poor broadband. Those people should go back to the office or invest in better internet connection really. From my experience having stable reliable 80/20 FTTC is enough for two people working from home.

  6. Avatar photo GNewton says:

    Most Openreach-based VDSL lines, or even some FTTP lines, are not suitable for professional home office workers because of the asymmetric nature of these lines (upload speed much lower than download speed).

    1. Avatar photo XGS Is On says:

      What do you do for a living, GNewton? You speak on this with authority, curious where that claim comes from.

    2. Avatar photo Darc says:

      I’ve found Openreach’s VDSL and G.Fast lines rather excellent for building up a small business to 12 employees. Run all the company web sites over the lines too. Google ranks our website as the No. 1 site when searching for our services. The lines have been great and very stable.

    3. Avatar photo The Facts says:

      @GN. Many uploads eg. emails are not time critical so upload speed is not an issue.

    4. Avatar photo GNewton says:

      @Darc: Good for you, well done.

      However, this is quite rare, I have seen quite a few businesses of that small size struggling to do the hosting in their own office using VDSL only (with its limited 20Mbps upload) and would always advise them to use a good webhosting company with at least a VPN server, or a cloud hosting server package, and possibly also using a CDN.

      Or use a leased line.

    5. Avatar photo XGS Is On says:

      More advice. Again what’s your background and experience that allows you to authoritatively give this advice?

      You’ve clearly seen the question as you’ve responded. What’s the problem with giving the information. Want me to go first?

      22 years in networking. First 6 with ISPs including 2 of the 3 largest in the UK, some time directly working with enterprises, mostly web-based companies, and the last 14 with networking vendors.

      Not that hard and zero personal information given.

  7. Avatar photo John F says:

    I periodically worked from home some years ago on what was then a 40/10 FTTC service. The main IT issues were the company VPN into what were essentially not particularly good servers. The connection speeds over this VPN were never even close to my general line speed so were self inflicted. The VPN itself also had a tendency to fail and need reconfiguring at my end by me. Maybe this aspect has improved but one must also remember all domestic services from ISP’s share contended junctions whether FTTP or FTTC or ADSL and the throughput is calculated by the network providers (Openreach and alt-nets) for expected averages. This is why companies and civil services have offices!

    1. Avatar photo DHCPv6 says:

      This is why companies and civil services have offices… with either a leased line or some other more specialised broadband package

    2. Avatar photo XGS Is On says:

      Leased lines share those contended junctions too. They just, within the ISP’s own network, get priority. Most of the time.

  8. Avatar photo MilesT says:

    The sweet spot in the middle is probably 80/20 FTTC or low end FTTP/DOCSIS, but with a “business grade” WiFi router/Mesh network/VPN enablement replacing the cr*p most ISPs give you (and some internal hardwiring), ideally with automatic backup connection included in the capability/price (4G, 5G, or a second FTTC line with a different ISP). That eliminates a lot of the variables and failure points. Extra points for including business VoIP handsets and Network enabling USB printers (supported in the corporate laptop image) in the price.

    This needs to be able as an easy to buy “package”, which is maybe what Actual Experience offers (including uptime/speed monitoring similar to SamKnows).

    Personally at the moment with 2x at home (one slinging a certain amount of video) 80/20 FTTC is ok with a few tweaks to the WiFi (and a refreshed drop line with NTE5 mk4 Iplate), and my office is fairly close if I get an outright failure, with other person swapping to 4G and deferring video work (which isn’t time sensitive)

    Around where I live I see a lot of complaints on nextdoor about Virgin’s ageing DOCSIS infrastructure, but that may vary in other parts of the UK so maybe not ruling them/DOCSIS out totally from business use.

    1. Avatar photo Alex E says:

      Spot on. Don’t use a consumer grade router/WiFi for business purposes.

    2. Avatar photo Roger_Gooner says:

      I have rock-solid reliability using Virgin Media’s HFC network. Not everyone has this, of course, and VM should certainly be doing better in providing customer service.

      Residential broadband should be suitable for most people when WFH, but inadequate WiFi is sometimes a problem which is exacerbated by the fact that most people have no clue how to troubleshoot it.

  9. Avatar photo keeper says:

    I think unless you have a whole office even a leased line is overkill. I trade, i also run a few companies. I have to connect to a VPN to get access to some Government systems. I get just over 150 down and 140 up on their VPN ( I only need 30 each way according to the tech team) – so for most of the day unless I am downloading something else 70% of the line is not being utilised. I go on a mad upload/download bender once a month as I update courses and large video files.. But hey a LL is only around £4500 a year for majority of business it’s not a lot and is great for knocking the old tax bill down.

    1. Avatar photo Dead says:

      Didnt you say you had a 1Gbps LL a few weeks ago? or maybe in another post it was a 10Gbps LL or in another it was a Sky ADSL connection, it changes with ever post.

    2. Avatar photo Buggs8 says:

      Didn’t realise Doncaster Council employees had so much going on on the side.

    3. Avatar photo Buggs8 Deleted says:

      My old man’s a dustman
      He wears a dustman’s hat
      He wears cor blimey trousers
      And he lives in a council flat.

  10. Avatar photo Glenn Peacey says:

    At the last quarter ONS reported there were 32.8mn people employed in the UK, if all of them work from home (which they don’t). Using the report’s claimed loss of £1000 per worker this would equal £32.8bn loss to the economy, where does the £60bn figure come from?

  11. Avatar photo James says:

    There’s no reason for a connection provided solely for business use to be treated as benefit in kind. Householder keeps their own internet for household general use, and business puts in a leased line with SLA, no contention etc solely for business use. householder is no worse off (other than power consumption of second router) and there is no benefit in kind in such a setup. Of course, if said business is trying to get staff back to the office, where there is a perfectly good connection, they may well not want to be paying for such things.

Comments are closed

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