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Which? is supporting Ofcom’s Boost Your Broadband campaign

We’re supporting Ofcom’s new campaign to help consumers get the best broadband deal possible – and we want to know your broadband horror stories… 

At Which? we have long been talking about the problem of bad broadband. It’s now an essential service, yet many people continue to be blighted by slow speeds and connection drop outs.

That’s why we’re happy to support Ofcom’s new Boost Your Broadband campaign, which helps consumers get the connection that best suits their needs.

The trouble with broadband

In my view the problem with broadband is two-fold; firstly that consumers aren’t able to access adequate connections.

Compare: broadband, phone and TV packages

This is a problem due to the lack of infrastructure, which tends to disproportionately affect people living in rural areas. We won’t stop campaigning on that.

The second issue is that consumers often aren’t on the right connections for them – it’s difficult navigating a complex market filled with jargon to get the right deal.

There have been significant efforts from government and communication providers to roll out superfast broadband across the UK – by upgrading some standard connections to fibre cables.

Yet Ofcom figures show that whilst 94% of UK homes and offices can now get superfast broadband, less than half have taken it up.

Paying more for less

Our latest research showed that most customers have been with their broadband providers for at least three years, meaning their introductory deal has probably ended.

Our analysis of broadband deals found this could leave consumers paying an average of 15% more than a new customer – but it some cases the price increase could be as great as 89%.

If customers don’t negotiate with their provider for a better deal, they could end up paying more for the same connection over time (no thanks to the price rises we’ve seen from some providers) – a quarter of the 7,000 broadband customers we surveyed had experienced a price rise in the past 12 months.

The irony here is that consumers can be left paying more money for a connection that’s inferior to what is available in their area.

I don’t blame consumers. They’ve been left jaded by a confusing advertising landscape that included “up to” speeds until earlier this year, plus an array of different words and messages that makes it hard to know what you need.

Get informed

We are pleased to see the regulator helping to get consumers informed – we are supporting their information campaign alongside consumer champion Gloria Hunniford OBE and the Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

The Boost Your Broadband campaign aims to demystify the broadband market, particularly for people who might be daunted by the choice on offer. You can find out key information to help you make the right decision for you and your home on their website.

Are you aware of the type of connection you’re on? And would you know how to find out if a better one is available? Do you have any broadband horror stories?

Comments

We are with Plusnet for basic broadband and phone. They provide a reasonable service but operate what I regard as an unfair “lock in” arrangement with unreasonable exit fees if you leave the “contract” early. It is time for the regulator to stop exit fees after a set period, say 2 years.
My other grouse about broadband “contracts” in general is that they are not true contracts in the legal sense as prices can be increased during the ” contract” period. A proper legal contract is about a fixed price over a fixed period of time. I think the regulator should be enforcing proper legal contracts to make matters fair for consumers.

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As someone who spent much of their working life dealing with contracts of one sort or another I would just like to mention that a contract is not about a fixed price or any other general matter it is an agreement to what amounts to a set of terms and conditions between two parties. You need to read the contract and ind out what you are agreeing to. If you find any areas you don’t understand, or don’t wish to fully read the contract, ask questions of a confirmed agent of the other party, about any areas that are particularly important to you, note down the answers and get them to sign this. It will then form part of the contract and clarify your position as well as give you contemporaneous notes taken at the time.
You as an individual also have a lot of further protection against what are deemed unfair terms which may be buried in small print it would be unreasonable to expect the man on the Clapham omnibus to read or understand.
I suspect that the ‘proper legal contract’ actually allows the other party to do exactly what they have done and you really wouldn’t want any regulator to enforce it as you’d then lose some of your rights as a typical member of the public.

Believe it or not, there are customers who cannot get the fastest broadband speeds and have no future improvement prospects. These are the forgotten folk who live so close to the exchange, (in my case 300mtrs.) whose phone line is connected directly to the telephone exchange and not through the technology in the high-speed green cabinets you see in the streets. We receive 10-17mb when no one is using the connections, but really slow speeds when everyone is using the net the street. I live 12 miles from Trafalgar Sq. and get no sympathy from BT, the local authority or government. Can someone help, please.

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That’s simple to sort out, but it’s typical DFM reporting. We have no fibre access, despite there being no need to cross land or dig trenches. It’s simply that BT can’t be bothered to spend the cash.

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Duncan said ““Simple to sort out” Ian ?
and you would do what to that stubborn pensioner –shoot him ?”

How interesting that you chose to make an extreme suggestion rather than seek clarification of my point, Duncan. By suggesting that I might wish to murder a defenceless human being I believe that – once again – you’re crossing a line in here.

The clarification you chose not to seek is straightforward, by the way. I was referring to the prevailing issue of the article – that access can seemingly be prevented by absentee (or present) landlords. Legislation can be put in place that would require compulsory access to be afforded for the purposes of FO cable installation.

I’m not going to divulge information about my precise geographical location but I can tell you that a BT technician with whom I’ve talked at length has confirmed that it would be relatively simple and cost little to use the existing infrastructure to bring FO cable to our house. The same technician also confirmed that despite Openreach being awarded billions to cable rural Wales they remain committed only to cabling those areas that will provide the greatest financial return in the first instance, despite the desperate need for FO cabling by the hill farming community and others.

Oh – and we don’t have streets, by the way.

DFM reporting? you dont need strategic engineering analysis to see the obvious that’s just trying to complicate matters to the financial gain of business corporations .

Sorry, Duncan, ,but I cannot understand what you’re saying, there. But for clarity, I should add that it is typical of the DFM to sensationalise aspects of a story it feels with enrage its readers.

You obviously dont know all the professionals that work for BT in every field .

Er, no, Duncan. Do you?

Finally, you clearly felt my using the phrase “BT can’t be bothered” was a slight on this bastion of democratic service. In fact, I simply quoted what a BT technician had told me. Living where we do it’s impossible not to detect a certain irony in the way Openreach operates. Granted, we have extreme weather, are very exposed, have a lot of agricultural machinery adept at digging through cables or just pulling them down but we do have landlines – all on poles, of course – and the simple fact is that Openreach attends and deals with issues with the landline provision almost every other day, as it does with the two cabinets that exist between us and the exchange. The cost of having at least two vans plus the inevitable cherry picker on at at least a weekly basis must be little sort of eye watering, and it seems to me that they’re playing an accounting game, whereby they fund repairs and maintenance ad infinitum yet it would, perhaps, pay them to install new lines with FO cabling in one go.

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Duncan, I don’t think DFM stands for Design For Manufacturing (or any other engineering) term here 😉

duncan lucas says:Today 11:03

Stop being so pompous Ian you know perfectly well I said that with a touch of sarcasm.

Ah, so now insults are fine in here? Let’s examine this.

I simply observed that the issue with land access was simple to resolve. Your retort was

you would do what to that stubborn pensioner –shoot him ?

I don’t believe my querying that was out of order. You backed down by claiming it was “a touch of sarcasm.” but you used the suggestion of murdering someone – because that’s what it was, no matter how you try to backtrack – deliberately to ridicule my observation. You compounded this by saying

Stop being so pompous Ian

which I find offensive. But then I’m sure nothing will be done about it, as the moderation policies in here seem somewhat selective.

The remark “BT can’t be bothered” wasn’t mine, as I’ve already said; it was a quote from a BT technician, although I used it in the first person.

The records pertaining to Welsh Assembly contracts with OpenReach are well documented – the most recent being here. And if you Google “Welsh payments to BT and openreach” you will also see the horrendous tales of prevarication, obfuscation and lack of committent by BT – one major reason why they were forced to split into separate legal entities.

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Duncan, I must refer you to the very last word of my previous post, and beg you to make due allowances for Ian’s shortcomings, that is to say that, as a non-engineer, he doesn’t use DFM to mean what you seem to be saying it must stand for.

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Duncan, I’m sure the D stands for Daily and the M for Mail, but I’m not quite sure what the F stands for….

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Hi all. That’s enough on this, please. We don’t want to see arguments or accusations here. We’re all aware of the community guidelines:

https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines/

I don’t like having to intervene (especially at this time of year!), so let’s continue to be polite and respectful, please. Thank you.

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I live in a rural area that does not have a good broadband connection because I am at the end of the line (2.5 miles from the nearest exchange). Kent County Council has been paying BT to improve local speeds, but BT has said that it is not able at present to deal with lines so far from the exchange. I would hope that the Goverment is actually still trying to do something about this problem.

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Erm, I was going to comment on my Virgin fibre broadband…. but seeing how the conversation has deteriorated so between Duncan, Ian and Derek- I don’t think I want to get involved! Am new to this site- not what I expected from a ‘Which’ site. Good luck guys.

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Hi Junglejan – apologies if you’ve been put off by the above arguments. We do aim to keep our debates reasonably friendly here, but, as seen above, we don’t always succeed 🙁

Some friends of mine have Virgin fibre and, these days, get a very good service from them. Longer ago, they used to get a much lower speed than they were paying for, but that got better over time.

When discussing a new contract with the Virgin Media representative today I was distressed to discover that there was no flexibility on the cost their service despite indicating that I have recently retired from full time work and the current cost of £64/month in no longer affordable to myself. (my current agreement expires on 11/02/2019)
I indicated to VM that to lower costs I no longer require BT Sport or the Land Line, the response was that the cost would go up to £68/month, this is clearly ridiculous as the phone line is valued at approx £16/month and the BT Sport £12/month hence a saving of £28/month, are they seriously suggesting that I pay more for less, hence I have written a notice of cancellation of account.

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William, I believe VM offer broadband only for about £29/month, but I don’t know if that’s only available to new customers.

It’s a shame that leaving (or threatening to) is one of the most effective ways of haggling, but we are where we are there. I recently retired too, so I now have little excuse for not finding the time and energy needed for a good haggle.

See also:

youtube.com/watch?v=3n3LL338aGA

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Duncan – you’re nearly, nearly, almost right – for me the advertised VM b/b only price would now be £35/month + £25 setup costs.

With such rip off prices, it looks like VM won’t be getting my custom any time soon.

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John Hoerner says:
6 February 2019

BT internet email service is terrible – there is a problem with their server that limits the number of messages which I can understand if it is 100 or something but the limit comes into play without warning. They then blame it on outlook or something else – it is never their fault – I know they know that it is their fault but their public position is that it is not their fault – I wish someone would start a campaign to take them on publicly and force them to do something about this.

Every month I e-mail out a newsletter to members of a voluntary organisation. If ever there are problems with non-delivery it is a btinternet.com account [or several]. Multiple e-mails get rejected because the server thinks they are junk or spam and I have to resend them one by one. I am not btinternet’s customer but our members are and they are being badly served.

You have my sympathy, John. Service providers try to achieve a balance between protecting their customers and creating problems such as treating email as spam when it is not. It’s common for bulk email to cause problems. Here is some advice from BT: http://bt.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/47055/~/bt-email—best-practices-for-postmasters-and-senders-of-email It’s disappointing that it does not mention GDPR.

For years I have had a problem with sending emails to people working for our town council, irrespective of which email address I use. My emails are often treated as spam and if I don’t receive an acknowledgement I have to send a text or email to inform them I have send an email. Their IT department does not understand the problem. I used to have to send a separate email to a contact in Natural England because if I circulated minutes following a meeting, their server blocked the email. Thankfully that problem has been overcome.

A friend stopped using btinternet because of communication problems.

The problem can be compounded if emails have attachments or contain links.

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Nothing I send or receive has any security implications so I am not bothered about the route it takes. It is just a minor inconvenience. Just as I am thinking I have put the newsletter to bed up pop some ‘undelivered’ notifications and I have to re-send some.

BrianW says:
11 February 2019

I live in Argyll & Bute on the north side of the River Clyde in a community of 12 residents. Our nearest exchange is 1.5 miles away. I get a broadband speed on average of 5.6 Mb/s down, 0.85 Mb/s up based on speednet.com readings over the last 6 months.
If the minimum USO is set at 10Mb/s and only 95% have to reach that value. Anyone making a complaint to a provider that they are not getting USO will be told they are in that 5% so nothing will ever be sorted. If they are in the 5% then the line charge must be dropped by 50%. The loss of income per line will prompt the provider to sort the issue. Maybe!
My line from the pole to the master socket (single) passes through 4 junction boxes and the last 10 meters is 1950s rubber clad cable. I can’t change that cable but I know that low quality cable affects my broadband speed because of the higher bandwidth now required. Hi speed will never be achieved with such poor quality cable. I’ll always be in the 5% not getting USO. Survey required to enable a fix of ancient cable still in the system. BT will still try to charge for their cable fault.

After being fed up with paying a huge price for my BT phone/broadband package I checked my contract – should have done it before, but didn’t. Then discovered that I should have been getting something like 66 mgps – I was getting a glitzy 33! I phoned BT – an engineer was sent to investigate the day after and after visits to my home and to the phone connections unit in the street discovered that there were problems with what he called the fibre port. I’m now getting my 66 mbps. So well worth checking that you are getting what you are paying for. I wondered if BT should do more to check their equipment – the engineer more or less implied that it was badly worn and needed repair.

PeterM says:
28 March 2019

We lost our fibre+voice with TalkTalk for 10 days. Fortunately, I have a mobile and could discuss the problem with TalkTalk operatives. They did not seem to realise that loss of the voice line was catastrophic for us. They had done a line test which was OK. TalkTalk said BT would come but they never did so days slipped by.

TalkTalk had contacted BT who had also done an OK line test. I should stress that we are in a block of flats fed by a multi-pair cable from the BT street cabinet. I managed to get access to a TalkTalk manager and the word “flat” seemed to galvanise him into escalating the problem with the result that a BT engineer came quickly thereafter; he resolved the problem within twenty minutes.

My conclusions are that my reporting loss of dial tone did not register with Level1 TalkTalk operatives but did with the next level up. Also worth mentioning is that so-called line tests do not really address the most likely point of failure – beyond the BT street cabinet. Solution to the problem was not explained.