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Survey Claims 21.7 Million UK People Hit by Broadband Outages

Thursday, Sep 7th, 2023 (7:52 am) - Score 1,920
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A new Opinium survey of 2,000 UK adults, which was commissioned by Uswitch, has claimed that over 21.7 million people experienced “broadband outages” of 3 or more hours over the last year – double 2022’s figure of over 11m. This stopped 15% of respondents from working and is estimated to cost the economy £2bn (lost productivity).

The survey noted that 25% of respondents had been left without internet connectivity for almost a full week or more, yet only 22% received compensation from their ISP and 48% weren’t aware that Ofcom’s rules may entitle them to compensation. But we should caveat that the regulator’s Automatic Compensation system is voluntary (only supported by some providers) and only applies in certain conditions (e.g. if the outage lasts longer than 2 working days).

NOTE: Automatic Compensation is supported by BT, Hyperoptic, Sky Broadband (inc. NOW Broadband), TalkTalk (Openreach’s network), Utility Warehouse, Virgin Media, Vodafone (Openreach’s network), EE, Plusnet and Zen Internet.

Elsewhere, some 73% of respondents said they found such service outages frustrating (that’s surely a given) and the issue ranks above roadworks (72%) and delays to public transport (70%) on the table of consumer frustrations. The only issues that came higher were rude customer service (82%) and queue-jumping (82%).

The city of Southampton in Hampshire (England) was found to be the UK’s worst for outages, with residents who experienced service disruptions spending the longest time offline over the course of a year – racking up an average downtime per resident of 63 hours! By comparison, capital city London said that its average “broadband outage” was typically less than 14 hours.

Top UK Cities for Broadband Outages in 2022-23

1. Southampton – 63 hours

2. Newcastle – 57 hours

3. Birmingham 47 hours

4. Liverpool – 44 hours

5. Nottingham – 33 hours

Naturally, we have a few comments on this, not least of which is the fact that we haven’t actually seen any hard evidence from other sources to corroborate that people are suffering double the amount of broadband service outages to a year ago (in fairness, it’s a difficult thing to study with any accuracy). But a change that big is something we’re usually well positioned to notice and, so far, we haven’t.

On top of that, more reliable full fibre (FTTP) networks have grown in both UK coverage and take-up, while more people are now back working from an office than their home (i.e. fewer people were at home to spot when outages occur). So if anything the outage figures should be coming down and not rising sharply.

At the time of writing we still haven’t seen uSwitch’s full results and methodology, although we do recall that last year’s report rather tediously decided to include “power cuts” as one of the options on their survey for causing such outages (it’s still included this time too). We felt that was a bit unfair, as anybody with a fairly small battery backup (AC power bank / UPS) unit would be able to bring their connection back. Mains power cuts are NOT usually the fault of broadband ISPs.

The other issue typically stems from whether a “broadband outage” is actually caused by an internet provider or is instead an issue within the home, such as a local network, viruses / hacker, router, Wi-Fi or end-user device problem. Surveys like this often can’t correctly distinguish the difference, which tends to result in everything being blamed on internet providers, while the wider picture is often far more complex.

However, modern broadband networks themselves can still 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 at the exchange 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 hours, but others can take days or even longer (complex incidents in remote rural areas are usually slower to resolve).

UPDATE 8:35am

We’ve just got access to the full survey, which in the small print does at least ask whether the respondents have “lost your broadband connection or had it drop out for any of the following reasons in the past 12 months?” – 35% of those who had experienced disconnections selected ‘My broadband provider had an outage’, while 22% selected ‘Router was not working’ and 13% selected ‘Routine maintenance to cables external to my property’.

We’ve also noticed that this year’s survey sample of 2,000 adults is half the size of last year’s (4,000). Typically, the bigger the sample size, the more accurate it is.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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8 Responses
  1. Avatar photo GDS says:

    about the last point and power cuts
    I’m on a OFNL supplied site, which has kit hosted in the local BT exchange.
    That kit is only on a UPS (local engineer told me) and twice in the last 3 months there has been a power cut in the village, that’s taken out the OFNL kit, and connectivity, whilst the new estate has still had power!

    apparently not even the OR kit is generator backed in the exchange!.

  2. Avatar photo The Facts says:

    What questions did they ask? Does the 3 hours come from adding up short interruptions?

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Respondents were asked ‘Have you lost your broadband connection or had it drop out in the last 12 months?’ 57% of respondents said that they had experienced an outage of some kind and 72% of these people have experienced an outage for more than 3 hours. So it’s direct questioning of 3 hours+.

  3. Avatar photo JamesP says:

    Myself and the rest of our group of 10 properties had an outage on FTTP for about 24 hours earlier this year. Bit of a pain as initially didn’t know if it was just us! Also have decent EE 5G coverage so not a huge issue.

    Other than that, been perfect since installation in March 22.

  4. Avatar photo XGS says:

    Wonder how many of these outages were actually loss of WiFi signal?

    For this I am not interested in surveys, only availability data from hardware/software.

    1. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      Yep, That is what I thought. A lot of people use Wi-Fi and broadband, meaning the same thing. I see it on Facebook a few times when people don’t know the difference.
      if people on the Zzoomm page say about a problem, I say to check the lights first on the ONT and the router.
      People think that Wi-Fi is the bees knees, and they should be able to get super speed all around the house, sadly it don’t work like that.

      We did have a bit of a problem last week with congestion due to a breakage, not a complete lost, just very slow. The funny thing is, I was on FTTC for 9 years and most of that 9 years was fine, had a problem a few years ago, which was a Openreach fault, anyway, been on FTTP for less than 3 months and had a problem already. 🙂

  5. Avatar photo Ex Telecom Engineer says:

    Anyone who requires critical internet access should pay for a business connection, with a contracted SLA, or put in place some sort of backup. Telecom and Electricity companies wont compensate for business losses, so it’s up to each business customer to ensure they have sufficient resilience in place.
    The Telecom companies could offer much faster SLA’s to everyone, if we were all willing to pay for it; They could employ thousands more Engineers to provide these enhanced SLA’s, but it would make home Broadband too expensive for most.
    Personally I view power outages as far more critical than losing my broadband connection, since my gas boiler wont work when the electricity goes off, whereas I can tether through my mobile for essentials when the router goes down; Clearly there’s much bigger health and safety consequences from a loss of Electricity, but we also pay a lot more for our energy than we do for our broadband.

  6. Avatar photo David Bateman says:

    keep my 4g/5g phone as an emergency backup, i cant work from home unfortunately

Comments are closed

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