/ Technology

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.

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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?

Rennard Carter says:
21 December 2018

How do I know if my earlier comment was received

roger b says:
22 December 2018

Whilst Talk Talk state that they will give basic customers speeds up to 17mps customers will only get about 7mps but be within the range.

Louise says:
21 December 2018

I think ISP’S are correct saying “up to” speeds, as it depends how many people are online at the same time using the same cables. Also how far away the exchange is from your property and also the time of day you go online. I don’t find it confusing one bit.

HarryAdney Internet Services says:
22 December 2018

You’re right, but the problem is that there’s no lower limit indicated; by definition, “up to” can mean from 0 to whatever the stated speed is.

Minima and maxima should be stated.

Violet says:
21 December 2018

I am with BT and get broadband, because I have my phone bill with them too and get free calls to other landlines for £60.99; with the exception of numbers starting with 0845, 01, 02,03 and mobile numbers. I get a special discount of £19 per month. BT is the only firm where I can get a reception, so I have no alternative choice. I would add that I live in a rural area

Tarbet Balfour says:
21 December 2018

how can one get fiber broadband down 20 year old copper BT Cables impossible. Yet we are fooled into being sold it. I am at the end of the exchange also so double problem I get what is left . Speed down to zero at peak times

Ian M says:
21 December 2018

I have been with Zen for donkeys years, they are reliable, have excellent support, and fair value for money. I recently switched my phone to them because BT’s service was inconsistent.
I occasionally look at reviews of Broadband providers, but see no reason to change.

There is no option for anything other than copper access as the exchange is cabled for fibre but has not been available for a year to other providers than BT. It is not due to confusion more suffering lack of viable alternatives with BT dearer and poor choice of other options than sky.

I have been with BT for 2years. In my rural area the speed is very slow with the previous supplier only managing 1.7. We are at the end of the copper cable from the exchange. Our Smart. TV was constantly buffering. BT control the speed for all suppliers and have guaranteed a minimum 29. In general they achieve this speed. This ‘control’ was confirmed by other suppliers who were honest enough to do so.

Thats something I will check into Eric but I can assure you as a BT customer on their top service I am not “controlled ” , I just tested the speed again and its what I expected.
You say you live in a rural area and are at the end of a copper cable so 2.9Mbps is not bad in your case .
BT is not allowed to “control ” other ISP,s Eric if you think so contact OFCOM – FYI- every ISP has their OWN exchange equipment in BT,s exchanges and BT has no access to it legally so they cant “control ” other peoples exchange equipment.
Read up on”unbundling in BT exchanges ” .
Personally I think they are spinning you a yarn as every other ISP would sue BT and WIN !

Martin says:
22 December 2018

You should pay based on the speed that you actually obtain not a theoretical one that way some value for money would be automatic and there would be an incentive for the ISP to improve speeds.
A sliding scale should be provided that you sign up to and would allow comparison.

Too many human as well as engineering variables Martin .
It sounds simple in theory but is near impossible in practice , get back and I will list the flaws.

Dean Stockton says:
22 December 2018

I moved from BT to plusnet 2 years ago and got similar speeds to BT, well PN are owned by BT so no surprise there then a couple of months ago I moved to Origin and the speed dropped to 32 Mbps with their basic router, it wasn’t powerful enough to give the speeds for their Max service. I bought my own Modem/Router and after complaining the speed went up to 41 Mbps still 10 Mbps slower than the other two providers. I intend moving again as soon as the minimum period is up as there are constant dropped, or outages that last overnight mostly from 17:45 to the next morning and it takes me turning off the router and back on again 30 seconds later to get a connection. If this continues I will be moving early and recalling all direct debits they try to take as they are not fit to provide a service.

This is the first time I have heard of this Yorkshire based company Dean , they seem to think a lot of the Asus Router ,as I dont know the model I cant comment on it .

You are a typical example of the continual high pressure from most of the media to —
change your telecom company
change your power supplier etc
and you do
You like others have been drawn to the flashy advertising promising the Universe and –cheap at that compared to- xyz.
It shows me how easily the public are influenced by the advertising media .

For a down to earth verdict on this company UK wide click on this reliable website on web matters for a TWO star out of 5 report from hundreds of customers
actually one star if you base it on satisfaction.
All that glitters is not gold.-

J B Scullion says:
22 December 2018

I have been with BT for a few years but I am finding that they spend £millions on advertising, offering great deals to new customers. However, current users get nothing,no reductions or other benefits. Also, existing customers are tied into long term contracts and, have to pay a hefty fee, running into £hundreds, if they want to leave BT. It is time they treated existing customers more fairly and sorted the difficulties people in some areas experience, with poor reception and service.

JB – every company binds you to a contract otherwise they could ditch you when they pleased so BT is far from alone in this .
I was out of contract for years and got offered their new Plus version which I took up -saved me a few ££.
Have you seen Sky,s advertising ? it tops BT,s yet it doesn’t get the same targeting, it must be RB,s “adventurism ” that gets the customers rolling in.

Morris Munns says:
22 December 2018

My beef with Virgin is not the provision, which I find satisfactory, it’s the lack of accessible customer service when you need it and the continual price-hikes. There’s no available local alternative that is as good technically, so we just have to ‘pay-up and look big.’

Jim Whittaker says:
22 December 2018

I dream of 2.9mbps, mine is usually 0.25mbps as I am 4 miles from the exchange, am the end of the line and some of the cabling en route is aluminium! Nobody mentions aluminium yet BT do still use it. Aluminium kills the broadband speed because it can’t handle the frequencies, plus where copper and aluminium cables are connected the connections corrode. This increases the resistance, slows the speed even more and the engineers are constantly having to remake the connections. We were told by iNorthumberland that superfast broadband would be available by the end of 2018, now they can’t say when we’ll get it – most frustrating! The Good news is that whenever it does arrive it will be FTTP, so at least the speed should be both good and consistent.

I have mentioned Aluminium Jim, many times in the past .
You have my upmost sympathy,
In my area I watched it being put in and 6 months later I watched it being taken out , yet some BT areas “swear ” by it . A whole street cabinet was connected to it but vehicle vibration broke the connections at the cabinet , I listened to the UG squad “cursing off ” at the stuff and wondering where BT engineering got their brains . Weeks of work were involved.
Sadly it was during the copper shortage and high prices so profit came before joined up engineering thinking .

David REYNOLDS says:
22 December 2018

Its about time this subject was looked into ~ Not only what speed you get but the claims that you can get TV and/or TV Catch UP and other servicess with Standard Speeds or Faster Speed is not correct – well unless you are prepared to accept buffering and/or the connection dropping regularly.

The problem here in Gosport is that suppliers of broadband have oversold their systems particularly Virgin and there are times when too many people are online at the same time thus limiting the speed and availability of the system. There is no answer to this except to have a limit on subscribers for the system installed I am supposed to have 70 Mbits/sec speed there are times when I have no internet and times when it is so slow i dont get even 2 or 3 Mbits. Complaints to virgin elicit absolutly nothing its just tuff so get on with it.

Cramming too many customers onto a single cable is a well known VM fault , complained about even on their own forums Saltydog .
What they should be doing is what BT does install a new underground fibre cable when the old one has reached near saturation point .
Thats what happened at my cabinet .

Alan Roberts says:
22 December 2018

I have been with Virgin for some years now, my computer is connected to the modem by an ethernet cable, I test my internet speed fairly regularly and it always gives a download speed of around 220 Mbps and an upload speed of 12 Mbps. Although it is relatively expensive it is consistent, reliable and has been problem free for several years.

Antonio Lallo says:
22 December 2018

I have been with my present broadband servicefor the whole period of the contract, it has ended on the 08/12/2018.
I am now in the process of moving home and asked the provider for the transfere of my broadband, apart of having been told there would be a charge for resetting it up (which I could live with that) but was told I would need a new contract to which i would be tied up for another 18 months.
I cannot agree to such an arrangment and have therefore cancelled the contract. Is it normal with such a procedure? Apart from poor service I was paying more than most other providers, and was contemplating of leaving in cancelling their service.

If you are with Talk -Talk that applies on moving house as they charge you for the outstanding time on the original contract , BT dont hold you to that.
But yes its normal as most people move out of the Telephone area code area they were in, so its a “new ” installation .
But if you give me the name of your company I will check the T & C,s for you Antonio.

mrs carol ann larkin says:
22 December 2018

I have been with B.T for a good many years now all seems to run beautifully for a couple of years until B.T decide to slow down my connections when I get in touch with them it is the same old story I need to upgrade I upgrade at extra cost to myself all o.k for another 2 or 3 years then the same old story again, I truly have had enough now must find better company when this contract runs out.

Mrs Larkin , what happens is the cable you are on becomes full, this means more interference on it so lowering speed .
When you upgrade you are put on different electronic equipment software within a range which is higher than your previous one this compensates for additional noise/interference etc .
What you have to bear in mind is that unless its VM or a smaller company who installs their own cable then most likely the rest “piggyback ” BT,s lines , so be careful who you chose .

Frederick Shires says:
22 December 2018

If it goes down a copper cable how can it be called fiber as most do?

Yes Frederick thats a good point .
Most people think -FIBRE = FTTP/H it doesn’t it just means =FTTC .
Adverts should be taken with a pinch of salt.

I agree that, metaphorically, adverts should be taken with a pinch of salt but, in the world of consumer laws and contracts, adverts must be clear and unambiguous. It will all depend on whether there is an asterisk against the word “Fibre” leading to an explanation of what that means.

Telecom companies would have us believe that if there is any length of fibre optic cable between the exchange and the premises, even if a significant length of the line is carried on copper cables, it is fair game to call it a fibre broadband service. To my mind this is misleading and it is time the industry was compelled to use accurate terminology. We got rid of “up to . . .” as an indicator of broadband speeds because it was open to far too much variability of meaning and we need to come clean on fibre and either adopt new terms for the different services or make it compulsory to use and explain the correct abbreviations in all promotional material.

I recently signed up to an upgrade to fibre broadband and at no point was any attempt made to explain the limitations. All the BT rep said was that a new connection would be made to the fibre cable and that a switchover would take place at a time when the line was inactive with no disturbance to my service. I questioned him on how they were going to disconnect the 50 metres of copper cable attached to the house that blew around in the wind, take down the pole in the street, and dig up the front garden to install a new connection, without any disturbance. He then admitted it only meant changing over the connections in the cabinet to put our house on the fibre circuit instead of the copper one. The cabinet must be some distance from the house [I don’t know exactly because I don’t know where the relevant cabinet is]. Judging by the number of old GPO Telephones footway chambers around the area and the ancient poles with ornamental finials on top I think our installation is as old as the houses, 1920’s, and probably still has the original copper cables and joints. So the important part of the service – the last half-mile – will see no improvement in quality until Openreach replace the underground and overhead lines between the cabinet and the homes. I suspect that the contention ratio problems, speed restrictions, and exposure to weather conditions all occur in that last portion of the service. While replacing the copper cables from the exchange to the cabinet with new fibre optic cable will improve the transmission quality over that section, and provide much greater capacity up to that point, the subscriber’s service will only be as good as the final link will permit.

22 December 2018

I have been with BT for ever. The problems I encounter with them
1. You believe you have a contract for a year or 18 months and within a few days the price goes up, you are told it is not a fixed contract but the discount you have been given is.
2. My email address is btinternet .com and I believe if I wanted to change companies I would have to pay a monthly fee to BT.
3. My understanding is every time you change suppliers you need a new Home Hub etc , this seems a waste of money. Why can’t Hubs be universal.

Graham-points -1 & 2 –your right .
Point 3 thats a different matter every ISP has their own equipment in BT,s exchanges except VM ,that means different software interfaces due to different suppliers of the hardware –PCB -printed circuit boards from say-China/USA/EU .
These are optimized for their own routers (no fools the manufacturers ) not another companies ones . You will find stiff opposition by companies to accept third party routers ,although some will work they need much software programming unless compatible.
Its down to digital network signalling.

I am stuck with Virgin media and they know it I would love to have the choice to move. But my BT line is only capable of 1mb which is no good to me, even though the fibre cabinet is actually closer to me than Virgins. Apparently because most of the customers in my road are using Virgin, BT have no intentention of ever upgrading the few customers they may get. Im waiting for 5G and hope I will be able to leave then. Im desperate to leave Virgin who hold me to ransom.

Chris please explain -VM uses its own cable network as far as I know it sold off its old copper stuff years ago but you say “BT line ” .
Question who do you pay rental to -BT or VM ?