/ 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.

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?


the main issue with broadband is the connection not dropping out and of course the speed ,i think most people know what they need it,s can the provider supply the honest as you say speeds and service being honest .

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Philip Bellinger says:
22 December 2018

Have been with Plusnet for a while now and had speed of between 11-15 Mbps on my connection.
It is on high use that things slow. The Roku stick used on TV has a problem all the time. Hand controller selection goes to TV but is an age before actual operation takes place. In fact so long that invariably I press again and that leads to freezing. Most irritating is on speed through a programme. Select stop and play and a short start happens (sometimes twice) in grey and then stops and starts again from the same stop point. Can last up to a minute or more before starting to show picture and sound properly. Irritating and time consuming if needing to find a particular section.
Have contacted Plusnet and they say all is well with test they have done on my connection. Still have these grey clips of the programme I am watching if I try to forward to a point.

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I have been with TalkTalk for internet & landline for a good time & had no problem with services. Each time contract ends negotiate a good new one. They also guarantee no increase during contract period. Downside is just found a good deal with NowTV but found out it would cost be £120 to terminate my TalkTalk contract early! Will look again when contract ending or when government stop these exit charges.

I run a small business and have found that my broadband costs have doubled in the last 2 years and intend to look for a better price in the new year.

Richard says:
22 December 2018

We live 6 miles as the crow flies from the centre of Norwich. The best broadband download speed we can expect is 1.2 mbps and often it is significantly less than that. Furthermore, whenever it rains, we experience further degradation of the service with our broadband repeatedly dropping altogether, making even the simplest on-line activity such as sending an email or logging into online banking nigh on impossible. Of course, the problem is that we are too far away from a fibre optic cabinet. However, that’s only part of the story. The fact is that whilst BT, Virgin and other providers make a point point of connecting to the various new housing estates around us, there’s no pressure on them to get Openreach to fill in the gaps in the fibre optic network. Don’t mention the regulator to me – from personal experience of trying to get OFCOM interested, I remain unconvinced they are on the side of the consumer. Similarly, I would not recommend anyone using the telecom ombudsmen to assist in resolving issues. Again, my personal experience is of an organisation too sympathetic to the provider and with limited understanding of UK contract law. Sorry to be so negative but I keep hearing about these campaigns and none of them seem to offer the slightest improvement for those of us in rural communities.

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Just to be clear – BT has not “used pensioners money” to fund the broadband roll-out, although I accept that its actions can be interpreted in that way. What BT did was what many businesses have done: they took a ‘pension contribution holiday’ and reduced the level of employer contributions the company was making into their employee pension funds, but no current pensioners have suffered any loss of income or benefits as a result.

It is well-known that the BT pension funds are seriously underfunded on an actuarial basis [a ‘pension fund deficit’] to meet their long-term pension commitments. That is arguably an irresponsible position and has been widely criticised because making up any shortfalls will impact on nett profits and on capital investment, but the company has a plan in place to progressively build up the funds to meet their actuarial requirements by making additional payments of £500 million a year into the legacy funds. There is no suggestion that the company’s pensioners will see their pensions fall below the guaranteed levels in the respective schemes. That does not stop the company from altering the basis of pension arrangements for new entrants and it has already done so by introducing a defined contribution scheme instead of a defined benefit scheme in line with most other commercial organisations these days. It is also planning to cap the continued accrual of benefits in the original schemes to align them more closely with those payable under the new schemes. BT has paid heavily in commercial competitiveness terms for hanging on to the inherited public service defined benefit pension arrangements for longer than it should have done in its newly competitive market place.

Getting back to broadband and the use of pension funds, the company responsibly considered whether it could put up assets as collateral to give pensioners a safety net and reduce the demands for further pension fund top-ups. BT planned to pledge assets such as new ultra-fast broadband networks to the pension scheme so that, if the company collapsed with its retirement fund in deficit, trustees would take ownership of an asset worth billions of pounds. It was considered that allowing BT to invest in the future by replacing copper telephone lines with new fibre optic cables was a smarter decision for pensioners than demanding cash now, as infrastructure with a growing income stream would yield better returns than investments in bonds and shares.

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So far as I am aware there are over 300,000 pensioners in the BT pension scheme but I do not know the number in the old defined benefit scheme and those in the new defined contribution scheme.

I was not aware that any current BT pensioner had their monthly pension payments reduced. I thought the position was that the actual benefits under the old scheme were not being reduced but the accrual of further benefits by people who have not yet retired was being capped because the treatment of the two classes of pensioner was becoming increasingly unequal. Pension regulations require pension fund trustees to consider whether future accruals and deficit repayment plans could threaten a company’s financial health.

Current pensioners’ payouts under the old scheme should not be reduced because they are directly related [so far as I understand] to a percentage of the final salary in the best of the last three years of service multiplied by the number of contributory years. This is a mathematical formula applying to those beneficiaries which, so far as I am aware, has not been changed. The amount of money in the fund does not affect the amount paid out in pensions under a defined benefit scheme [so long as the company remains solvent and trading viably].

Newer entrants will not enjoy the same level of benefits as those enrolled in the former, more generous, schemes and the trade union is probably concerned mostly about those current members. Existing employees under the old scheme would be affected by a cap on the accrual of further benefits and might not get so much as colleagues who had already retired before such a cap was introduced but they would probably receive a better pension [inflation adjusted] than those who have entered the new schemes.

Lots of other major corporations have undertaken similar reviews and made changes to their pension schemes to prevent financial instability owing to an overburden of accrued pension obligations. They have usually acted more prudently and in a more timely manner than BT which has been stoking up trouble for its own future and, by implication, for those of the next generation of its pensioners. It was right for the CWU trade union to object to BT’s proposals because they are paid by their members to protect their interests.

Please note that I have made no judgment on BT’s actions and I have not expressed any support for BT. It is subject to the law and will do what the law requires. The BT pension fund trustees have compelled the company to act to bring the fund into balance with its commitments and paying an extra £500 million a year over the next decade is calculated to clear the deficit in parallel with increases in its annual pensions outgoings.

The question here is whether investing in fibre broadband and improving the company’s long terms revenues is better for present and future pensioners over time, at the expense of some impairment of the pension scheme for remaining employees under the old scheme and for more recent entrants under the new scheme. Again, I make no judgment on that although I would say that I would rather be a prospective pensioner under a profitable company that can stand on its own feet and carry on investing in its business than under a company that is crippled by unaffordable financial obligations and falls prey to a take-over that would leave its pension scheme unfunded.

Norman Naylor says:
22 December 2018

The kind of savings we are encouraged to make by Which? through changing our broadband provider, would in many cases mean accepting a provider with an inferior customer service record / rating. Based on my own experiences I’ve had to ask for help from my ISP customer service team at times, whereas for my energy supplier(s) not at all. Obviously I’m in no position to argue that that’s typical but I suspect in fact that it is – I think broadband speeds, dropouts, wifi issues and so on are very often in the news for the wrong reasons.

With that in mind, customer service levels (and experience of the same) feature strongly in my choice of broadband provider and I wouldn’t compromise on that for a reduced monthly charge. It limits my choices but I have a very go

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G A Horton says:
22 December 2018

I live at the end of approximately 4 miles of copper cable so do not expect a fast service, but think that regularly getting download speeds of 0.2mbps and less is extortionate on BT’s standard charge.

John palmer says:
22 December 2018

I never trust “up to” on anything it can be completely meaningless.

Roger Sivieri says:
22 December 2018

I have been with BT for many years and updated my service to Fast fibre broadband a couple of years ago, since then I have battled to get a better service or reduced rate. I live in a small village with one relay box. My broad band constantly drops out or I experience slow running. I have repeated complained to BT, written to my MP and had on site meetings. The many service engineers that have visited me and checked the line ALL say the lines need updating due to old cabling. It also requires a relay box adding to support more users in the village. New houses go up and the lines are the same. I am paying champagne fees for a lemonade service. Not good Not happy. Moving suppliers would be fruitless as the lines are the same so if BT cant solve the problem how could a 3rd party?

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Totally agree, I too have been with BT for many years and pay for the 5 star treatment but get slow download speeds most of the time. When is the government going to force these companies into providing what they advertise. I thought we had such a thing as a “Trades description act” dont we??

Oh No we don’t!

Oh, yes we do!

It’s great if you can shop around for broadband deals. I live in a rural location and our only option was dial-up. About 8 years ago, well before the Faster Broadband was rolled out, we as a village, opted for an offer from a company called Connexin. They would bring fibre optic broadband to the village for a monthly cost of £30. Each household had to dig their own trench from the Connexin trench to their house and Connexin installed the fibre optic cables and necessary equipment. The promised speed was 38mbps. This they achieved, initially. Of course, there are those miserable people that would not let neighbours dig on their land if the neighbour didn’t have direct line to the cable, so Connexin offered a Wi-Fi link from their installation to their house. From the one installation at the back of the village hall, this Wi-Fi link was then extended to outlying farms and other villages, causing a problem with contention and speeds. This has gradually been improved and we are getting 30+mbps most of the time. The monthly cost is still £30. The Faster Broadband has reached the village, but as the cabinet is 5 copper wire miles from the village, the best any provider it willing to offer is around 2mbps. So if you add the cost of line rental for just a land-line, the total cost for broadband and phone is £50.

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I have been battling to get the level of my broadband sorted out for 12 months I got 18mbps which suddenly dropped back to an average of 5Mbps it took 6 months and a change of provider to get back to 9mbps .this is terrible when I know the line can support 18mbps .

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I would take issue with Ofcoms figures saying that 94% of homes could access super fast broadband. We live in a rural area and, whilst fibre has allegedly been installed into a new cabinet, we are too far away to benefit from it. At the same time BT/Openreach have hung fibre cables on the posts leading to our property but have said that it will take them 3 months to ‘test it’. I wonder if this is the figure that Ofcom is quoting when they add that many have not taken up super fast broadband. I have been with Plusnet for some years so I asked them about going fibre and, if I heard correctly, they have said that they will not be providing fibre broadband as BT are charging them too much for access. Who is pulling the wool over who?

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I’ve stayed with Virgin Media for years as I get a reliable connection and work from home. I cut back from TV bundle to broadband only, which has to come with a phone line that nobody uses. But in about 2yrs the price has increased to close what we were paying for a TV bundle?!

I just want a reliable broadband only contract for a reasonable cost. Hard to find though….

My Zen broadband speeds are extremely slow, with frequent drops. I could improve things by upgrading to fibre, but the cost increases a fair bit – I live on a pension, and money is tight. I decided to move my broadband & phone to John Lewis Broadband, where a fibre connection/landline package was going to cost me less than the Zen standard, clonky, slow one. What a disaster that turned out to be. I began the process on 3rd October, but I was given wrong information from the beginning. The staff really didn’t seem to care and made numerous mistakes, which wasn’t what I expected from the John Lewis brand. After much persistence I eventually sorted through the problems, but my promised router still hadn’t arrived on 15th October, the day before the switch was going to take place. I thought I was going to end up with no broadband or landline at all, with Zen cancelled and no service from JL Broadband, so I rang JL Broadband again. I was told that the router hadn’t arrived because on 10th October one of their members of staff had cancelled the switch, for no apparent reason. I put in a complaint, but it wasn’t addressed. However, a week later I received a phone call from JL Broadband pressing me to activate my account – I initially thought the call was about my complaint, but I was wrong. I explained what had happened and that I wasn’t going to activate my account until my complaint had been dealt with, and I was assured no-one else would hassle me in the meantime. However, a couple of hours later I received a text telling me my account had been activated and the switch was going ahead…. I had to keep ringing Zen to find out what they’d been told, and then to cancel the switch that I hadn’t authorised. I eventually received a phone call from JL Broadband regarding my complaint, and I was offered £25 compensation. What an exhausting mess from beginning to end (3rd October to 5th December), and after all that effort I’m back where I started, still with my slow, clonky, Zen connection.

Been a TalkTalk customer for many years even moved to a new address and still with talktalk. I always haggle with them for the best deal as ‘loyal’ customer. They have many deals inc unlimited broadband and free calls local and national inc mobiles now, .which I have now for the last year. Recently boosted my broadband to 40mpbs ..the speed varies on a good day I get up to 35/36mpbs but most days its barely upto 25mpbs. I think it doesn’t matter if you have fibre broadband or just normal 12/15mpbs speed.
We still haven’t improved with so much investment,Think UK has the worst broadbands speed compared to Europe.

I thought that the government strategy in promoting the BT “Openreach” broadband project was a mistake. We already had the NTL fibre broadband system, (Now Virgin), and it would have made more sense to nationalise that, and then put government money into upgrading, and expanding it. As it is we have two competing systems, both of which could be better.

I am with Virgin, and that is mainly because they were, as NTL, the only company providing fibre-optic broadband, when I joined, and are, (or were), the only company providing broadband only. I do not want landline, and TV, just a broadband connection. My broadband speed is supposed to be 100 Mbs though probably the WI-Fi reduces that down, and I use an Ethernet connection to my TV, making for more reliable i-Player, and YouTube viewing. I consider the monthly fee, for a broadband-only connection, to be extortionate, considering all they are supplying me with is little pulses of light.

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I agree with you Andy – in my view both cable broadband and mobile telecoms should have been brought under government control and rationalised to make a satisfactory service for everyone everywhere. After that they could have been privatised again in order to recoup the public investment.

I have read several of the comments relating to slow broadband and am in the same boat as a lot of people in that I live out in the sticks. I am not in an isolated house (there are about 100 local houses in the same predicament as me) but when the roads were dug up and cable laid in the late ’80’s the diggers stopped about a mile away. We are the aforementioned last 10%. One major failing is that Openreach should have been taken awy from BT years ago. BT don’t give a damn about the remaining 10%. Over the years I have read of various locations that have managed to obtain faster BB through an outside company helping create the infrastructure. What is needed to my mind is a body that can assist with advice to people such as us 10% as to how we can bypass BT and get a decent BB speed. It makes me weep when I discuss BB speed with a friend in the village just over a mile away who can get 100Mbps compared to my miserly 6-9Mbps.
If S Korea and other places can install proper BB why can’t the UK. I cannot believe that the UK suffers from a lot more osolated pockets than S Korea.

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Duncan – Your point may well be valid for a house built recently but my house was built c.1971 – and many of those around here predate that date – so what housebuilders decided to do about installing underground cables in 1971 has no bearing, as far as I am aware, other than laying the BT copper cable that was to serve as a conduit for telephone services. As far as I am aware, Broadband at that time wasn’t even a twinkle in anybody’s eye. Doubtless you will correct me if I am wrong. I therefore don’t accept your argument that the “the doer of the dirty deeds is your own builder “.
All that I am trying to say is that Openreach under BT ownership has done virtually nothing to help those of us in remote areas (about 30 miles as the crow flies from Central London !!) . All that they seem to be able to concentrate on is endlessly striving to get faster and faster speeds for those in the metropolises (sp?) whilst studiously ignoring the remote (?) areas. And all the while all that we get is platitudes from BT about how all will be well in the end.
The end is here and now and all is NOT well.

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The unfortunate fact is, Alec, that BT is under no obligation to install fibre in any area unless they have been contracted to do so by the government. Just because they are the biggest telecom company, and are still seen as the national telecoms utility, it does not mean they have to do anything that they judge not to be remunerative and will not pay back the investment. So, unsurprisingly, they have concentrated on the locations that will make quick profits for them and hoping that one day, out of desperation and under pressure from customers, the government will make it worth their while. The other telecom companies will not build out the network because they can see that if BT won’t go there they could never make it pay. Most of their networks were created for them by the former cable TV companies that they took over; they have not invested in much new construction themselves.

We live in North Wales and are about 3km by wire away from the cabinet but 1km as the crow flies. If I try adsl we get limited access less .5Mbps. very intermittent and not usable.

But great news we now have FTTC so i can get the only package that delivers :
“SUPERFAST FIBRE UNLIMITED Average 50Mb download speed”.

Now the good news, somehow I get a connection! weird that !!

But read carefully “You should get download speeds of 9Mbps to 15Mbps” what I actually get is 7Mbps.

Which I think is great. However I think I should be charged for the speed I actually get and not subsidising all the average 50Mb download speed. I do not mind paying for living in the country but I do object to paying for a service that I have no choice over that is no where near the average.

BT are the worst, they hike their price year on year and service gets worse, if you complain they offer you a better deal !, better speed etc for a short period then the price goes up again, when I finally decided to move provider I informed BT and was left ‘shaken’ by the overbearing bully who demanded to know my new provider and said he could ‘guarantee’ me a better deal, needless to say I moved anyway.

I’m with Virginmedia and have been for quite a few years and dont find to have had many problems with then every now and again I ring ask for a better deal, because they raised their price again by £3 a month, so I said that I would look around for something else, As I’m an old age pensioner I cant afford these rises and bingo they reduced my monthly bill by £10 success