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Why do big broadband providers keep failing on service?  

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Our latest broadband satisfaction survey shows the biggest providers are consistently failing their customers on service. Why do these providers rank lowest and why do consumers continue to stand for it?

Today, we’ve released our latest results on customer satisfaction with broadband providers. The fact that it paints the same story as so many of our previous surveys is very telling; the bigger providers fall down on customer service.

For the fifth consecutive survey running, TalkTalk customers have given them the lowest customer score of 40% and Sky experienced the biggest drop of all of the providers since our last survey in April.

Best and worst broadband providers

Choosing provider

Why then, do consumers continue to choose these providers?

I would suggest they go with bigger providers for a number of reasons; reliability, convenience and choice.

On reliability, I think people can be prone to conflate a ‘well-known’ brand with a ‘trusted’ brand. Research like our surveys can hopefully dispel that.

On convenience, bundling packages could have more of an influence in your choice of provider than the broadband service itself.

A third reason is that there can be a lack of choice. In some areas where there is little or no infrastructure deployment, bigger providers may be the only option on offer.

Change needed

If providers continue to recruit and retain customers then there is little incentive for them to change their practice.

We have long argued that the switching process should be easier – both assisting consumers in moving to a new provider but applying pressure to providers to step up in order to retain their customers.

We’d like to hear from you. Why do you think the biggest providers continually come bottom of our satisfaction tables? And what do you think needs to happen to for them to step up and deliver?

Update: 20 October 2017

According to our latest research, more than half of households are still experiencing problems with their broadband.

Our latest customer satisfaction survey reveals that 53% of 1,700 surveyed had a problem with their broadband last year. Six out of 10 customers of Virgin Media (61%) and Talk Talk (60%) and over half of Sky (56%) and BT (54%) customers said their broadband had failed them at least once in that time.

Far too many people suffer poor service from their broadband provider. Problems range from slow speeds to lengthy losses in connection. This isn’t good enough. We continue to advise those dissatisfied with their service to switch.

We’ve campaigned for an end to confusing broadband ads that promise speeds many customers will never get. We think as many customers as possible, if not all, should get the speeds promised by providers. Currently, if these companies achieve just 10% they are deemed to have satisfied advertising rules and regulations.

Test your broadband speed using our free tool and help us build a better picture of the nation’s broadband health in the process.

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I see Zen gets top marks but take into account Zen has nowhere near the same customer base than BT/SKY/Virgin etc therefore that skews the figures and that their customers arent those with long country runs of copper as they use BT lines not their own and their own literature say that it depends on distance as to speed etc the same as BT et al- what they do offer seems to be better service /fixed IP /UK customer help base and other benefits . On that score yes I have to admit they are better but just to say they provide an actual better speed/ reliability when they use BT lines doesn’t hold water as all external lines , except VM and some small companies usually London based , use BT lines so unless they use some magic of some sort distance and reliability is still in Openreach,s hands . I am afraid if they are being advertised as “God,s answer ” to rural customers well it isn’t the case . I am not condemning them only saying statistics can lie if not judged in perspective . That small shop in the village can offer excellent service but only to a relatively small area . The only way they can really be judged if their customer base takes in all the negative aspects of the rural phone dwellers .

Bill Kerr-Smith says:
23 September 2017

I absolutely agree with Duncan Lewis. I switched to Zen, after seeing the recommendation in Which?, in January. Since then, I have been constantly disappointed with the service, which fails completely at least once a week, usually at peak times, and at other times drops off badly, with serious latency issues. As the (BT) local distribution network has been upgraded to Fibre-to-the-Cabinet, I assumed the problems were with the router (which I bought from Zen) or with their backhaul provision. Two weeks ago, they finally agreed to replace the router. There is some improvement in service, but still the peak time problems. I cannot fault the helpfulness or courtesy of the tech support people, but I have spent hours on the phone to them, trying all manner of re-configurations of the router, factory re-setting and throttling my upload speeds (one suggestion was that my upload was preventing speedy downloads – there was no noticeable change after I put the brakes on).
We’re not exactly rural here, being in Dalkeith, the largest town in the fastest growing county in Scotland, so my conclusion is that Zen simply hasn’t engineered it’s backbone network to cope with demand outside major cities.

keirfree says:
23 September 2017

I too joined ZEN, on the Basis of the Which Recommendation, I had many problems with a continuous broadband service for months, only after hours of , phoning their support desk, ( in my opinion) not knowledgeable, visit from a B T Engineer, a router swop out, did they, accept the fact that their bad service, was nothing to do with my internal wiring, distances from my local telephone exchange etc, or any of the other <> !!
P S they did admit they are no longer using ZyXEL Router, as it takes to long to reboot, appx 1 minute in my experience. After the long awaited intervention of a Zen ( expert ) was my problem reduced to an acceptable level of service. Value for money ? not in my opinion!


Hi @Bill Kerr-Smith and @keirfree,

I just wanted to pick up on your comments regarding Zen Internet. I’m sorry to hear you’ve been experiencing some problems with their service.

I thought it would be useful to explain how we get the results we publish and what our recommendations are based on. The key thing to note is that our recommendation for service providers is based on our survey results which is completed by more than 10,000 customers. Before being considered for a Which? Recommended Provider, providers are required to achieve a minimum customer satisfaction score of 70%. Customer satisfaction score is based on ‘how likely the customer is to recommend the service to a friend or family member’. When this criteria is met, we’ll then review the providers price and tariffs to make sure they are reasonable.

We appreciate that not all customers would experience the same level of service and broadband speed from the providers, however, in our most recent broadband survey results; Zen internet did achieve 92% for their Customer satisfaction score. This was a pretty impressive score that put them at the top of our table. If you’re interested, you can read our survey and the results here – http://www.which.co.uk/reviews/broadband-deals/article/best-broadband-providers.

Interestingly, it sounds like the problems you’re experiencing are symptomatic of being part of Openreach’s network, as opposed to the provider’s service. That’s definitely something that is on our radar at the moment and we’re keen to look into. So thank you for commenting and giving us that insight!



I suspect much of Sky’s low rating is a historical view as there was a time when their customer service was the direst of the dire. We have been a satellite customer for over 20 years, then my o2 broadband was migrated to them.

I do think their customer service has improved a lot in the last few years. You no longer have to go through a bang-your-head-against-a-brick-wall exercise to fight a first line defence to talk to someone who might actually be able to help you.

A recent internet problem was sorted out reasonably well and they did send out an engineer who fixed the problem.

Sky routers do have a problem with Wi-Fi. We still had a connection out in the garden with an o2 router, but it struggles in the same room with the Sky router.

But Sky is let down by greed. They want you to have the whole package: satellite TV, phone and broadband and where they fall down badly is not letting you update any part of your package without updating and having the whole lot. Our phone is with BT.

When we had a problem with the internet I tried to update it to fibre. But I couldn’t have fibre unless I switched the phone to them, and we would be without phone and internet for at least a week which was completely unacceptable.

We enquired about upgrading to Sky Q but we can’t upgrade without switching our phone to them…..grrr

Another problem is the phone and TV is in my husband’s name, and the broadband in my name. They refuse to connect the accounts or put them both in the same name without taking out new contracts. Why should we have to enter new contracts with a company we have been customers of for years? I hate being forced into contracts especially when I have been a customer for so long.

So because of their greed, we have an inferior service that we are paying too much for because we don’t get a discount for having more than one product even though they promised the accounts would be linked when my broadband was migrated to them.

Sky are also losing out because if we could have upgraded the bits we wanted when we wanted, they would be getting more money out of us and we would have been happy customers.

The only reason we have stayed with Sky is their satellite TV which was excellent. But that is no longer the case.

We only have 3 series recording at the moment, Zoo, Colony and The Last Ship. We used to record so many series, we couldn’t keep up and they were queued up for the summer when most of them had a rest. But new series are not making their way to Sky, they are only available via Amazon or Netflix. TV & Satellite Weekly lists all the new series for the week, but most of them are not available on Sky. I was gutted when I found out the new Star Trek series was not going to be shown.

So why would we want to upgrade our broadband and get into a new contract with a company that no longer delivers?

If we do update our broadband, it won’t be with Sky, and if we get fibre we will no longer need satellite TV and that will be a great shame.


You have given me much info into the internal workings of Sky Alfa thanks. They are not alone in that if you want additional services you have to automatically re-contract BT do that as well . If I take out BT TV/their cell-net deal /etc it involves a contract for a year or so , at the moment I am out of contract and BT is shooting emails + snail mails to me nearly daily . Both my phone+broadband are with BT , they were very helpful when FTTC appeared and I was one of the first to get it so I cant complain on that score BT aren’t perfect but —in my view –they are not the worst by a long chalk . They don’t hold you to ransom like some , I have watched posters point bout all the chidden defects of those – “oh so wonderful ” alternatives to BT and then —after some years the penny drops.


We watch the same things, Alfa. Although Zoo seems increasingly riddled with logic issues…

And you’re spot on re: sky. They offered to supply us with two new Q boxes and do the installation for nowt the other day, as I was ringing up to replace a defective Sky HD+ box. Trouble is, they don’t teach their staff too well. Sky Q is 2TB, whereas we have two 2xTB boxes and, as I pointed out, that adds up to 4Tb. Going to Q would be effectively downgrading.