/ Technology

Is compensation the key to better broadband?


Our speed checker tool has been used over a quarter of a million times since it launched six weeks ago, but what other proactive action can you take to put pressure on the broadband companies?

We’ve collected a whole load of bad broadband stories from our supporters. These range from experiences with slow, unstable broadband and conversations with service providers to knowledgeable breakdowns as to what companies can do to improve the service they offer. But the question is; what can you do to make a real difference now? Is seeking compensation the answer? And does that provide enough incentive for providers to sort out the problems?

In my experience, a decision to pursue a claim from a broadband provider is never about whether it’s reasonable, it’s whether a person can manage the hassle. I once had a terrible experience with broadband and on two occasions I claimed for terrible service, but the process was so difficult that when problems persisted I just gave up and accepted it.

Campaign wins

Luckily, there’s good news. Through our Broadband Speed Guaranteed campaign we made the case for automatic compensation to be introduced and successfully had it written into recent legislation. We’re now working with the regulator Ofcom to ensure they make it happen.

Meanwhile, our Fix Bad Broadband campaign continues to tackle the root cause of this. Better redress for when things go wrong is important to us, but ultimately we want to stop consumer detriment once and for all.

This morning, our Head of Campaigns Pete Moorey appeared on Rip Off Britain to talk to Gloria Hunniford about our Fix Bad Broadband campaign. Angela Rippon and Julia Somerville cited Steve West who wrote in to say he could only get 2.7Mbps from his provider despite his home having the ability to reach 79Mbps.

Your compensation stories

While we continue to gather a UK-wide picture of the most urgent problems and how to tackle them, we’re keen to hear from you. Have you successfully complained to your provider and gained compensation? What would put you off from doing so? Perhaps you’ve had difficulty claiming? Please share with the community.

We also want to hear your thoughts on how to fix the root causes. We’re glad automatic compensation is likely to be introduced but do you think that will be enough to tackle customer service, provision and infrastructure?


Do you mean everybody ( the 5 % of Britain ) have the legal right to sue BT , because thats who we are talking about because VM et al refuse to provide FTTP for them as it costs too much ? I think thats bonkers and only a totally biased government who want rid of BT by any means , want to build up a case to cripple BT while American companies take over via the back-door . The insanity levels are reaching heights I never thought possible . Continue winding up the British population against -“evil BT ” where is the down to earth logic of engineering here , oh right it went out the window with Maggie who said -quote – I dont understand engineering while implementing City policies and making Yuppies very rich when selling off UK utilities at rock bottom prices , enough already ! Tell me how are you going to achieve this if HMG is not going to pay for it . Tell me if the railway line to John,o, Groats is snowed under do all the railway customers have the right to sue the railway ? We have a “fait acompli” in the existence of long distances from the cabinet so HMG do a “body swerve ” and say sue BT ??? because of existing conditions . IF you live on the top of Ben Nevis and get 0.00005 Mbps will that mean you sue BT just because you like living in a house with a panoramic view of half of Scotland ? This is so ridiculous I can guess who,s idea it is , a certain outspoken blond-haired individual of Cabinet ranking who seems to live in an alternate world from everybody else . For those disagreeing please present an feasible engineering solution that will not cost more than VM is providing for its REAL FTTP for £3 billion (Project Lightning ) not even far right neo-cons in the Home of Capitalism have , intent , or are willing to do this to the US telephone network providers . Utter madness ( unless there is a sly ulterior motive ) BT no more eh ? branch of some US conglomerate / global investment company , what next ? sell the British population into slavery , because there is very little else British in this country ? As this is a direct government idea why dont you get the tax payers to pay for it like Scotland is doing ? Is VM paying for it nope/ Vodaphone nope how about Sky he is never out of 10 Downing Street – eh no not enough profit just hit BT with it ,bring em down and – takeover time Yuppies MK11 . Britain subsidiarity of US .inc.


The world of telecoms certainly seems to make a drama out of extending the network and increasing capacity and speed. The electricity industry doesn’t seem to make such a fuss and create an argument every time there is a need to supply a new location. The regional grid operator installs the cables and lives off the proceeds from the energy carried. Surely, that is what Openreach should be doing – installing the fibre and providing new cabinets closer to where the demand is and then charging the telecom service providers – BT, TalkTalk, Virgin Media, Vodafone, and any others – for the data bits carried to and from their customers.

Nobody said the roll-out of faster broadband would be free of charge for future users; access costs for higher speed and capacity must reflect the expense of providing it although the government rightly accepts the case for providing the basic trunk infrastructure as a public good. I don’t know the technicalities, but I assume that where services are supplied to remote locations, traffic contention will not be the issue that it is in busy urban areas.

As I have said elsewhere, I endorse the proposal that the generators of heavy broadband traffic, primarily in the entertainment, games, and gambling industries, must be required to contribute to capacity upgrades to offset the higher volumes and speeds that their sites and services require and which deplete capacity for other users.

I live in hope that Ofcom will come back to us and answer the questions that have been raised in a number of Conversations, chiefly the one launched by its Chief Executive on 12 April [Ofcom: Calling for a cultural change in the telecoms industry >> https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/ofcom-sharon-white-broadband-mobile-services/%5D, about progress and financing of the faster broadband project as well as details of the unlucky 5%. I can only assume that as an arm of government, Ofcom is inhibited from making any pronouncements on policy issues during the course of a general election period but I hope that we shall be given more detailed information as soon as normal service can be resumed.


I’m sure there would be a lot of fuss if some homes received 47V when they were expecting 230V or their supply was unreliable.


What you are saying John , is -make BT pay £10,s of £billions to supply the 5% and then try to recoup from companies that dont want to know about the long lines of copper . Openreach-a BT GROUP COMPANY , yes that would please every other telephone company and cripple BT even the government would clap with joy . MY solution get Vodaphone-SKY- and all the other telephone companies pay UPFRONT as its them that will benefit from BT,s downfall. I have posted again and again -who pays , so it seems -make BT pay , not with my blessing. Would the person who marked me down have the moral courage to post a rebuttal and we can argue all the points and prove he/she arent motivated by financial /political gain .


Duncan – The government is paying for the faster broadband roll-out, not Openreach. The government does not intend to reach more than 95% of the potential customers. If the unlucky 5% want faster broadband they will have to make their own arrangements and meet the cost. As I understand it, the faster broadband roll-out is not to the premises, but to the cabinet, and in many instances additional cabinets will have to be installed within reaching distance of subscribers.

I think sometimes you are so close to the interests of BT Group that you do not see the overall picture. No one is trying to make Openreach pay for anything exceptional; it is being paid to deliver a project and it will presumably make a profit on the job, both on the capital installation and on the traffic that will be carried. The fact that no other company was willing to do it is not important, but I agree that they all need to make a proper contribution to Openreach for carrying any of their traffic. The government cannot force BT Group to do anything: it is an independent public limited company and its shareholders would not stand idly by and see it being taken advantage of – I don’t know why you think they would. And why on earth would the government be pleased if BT Group collapsed? You have the right to your controversial or provocative opinions but you should not be surprised if people occasionally disagree with them. It happens to us all from time to time.

The sooner we get a reliable statement from Ofcom on what is actually happening on or under the ground the sooner we can all stop speculating. On this issue I don’t agree with you so I won’t be giving you a thumbs up but I have no financial or political motive whatsoever. If you are going to accuse people who make use of the thumbs down button of having no moral courage then it is highly unlikely that they will come forward and open a dispute with you. I have consistently proposed the removal of the thumbs buttons but they are a feature of the site and give an anonymous [but fairly useless] indication of readers’ reactions. I find it’s best not to get het up about them.


Wavechange- 50V is the standard DC conditions on a telephone line but if you live miles from a cabinet the voltage drops to half that or less quite capable of supporting a landline phone but not an internet connection . Now think- electric pylons carry 100,s of 1000,s of volts -why- because they dont have to have massive diameters for a given current- I=E over R its stepped down to less than 100,000V by local transformers and then to 240V BUT telecommunications cable was originally designed for telephones NOT broadband so copper diameter was designed for that use , so you are not using like for like but apples and oranges .


From what I know HMG has already given BT a certain amount of money for FTTC and BT actually handed some back ,are you saying as of this date HMG has given out a large additional sum ? BT has paid out themselves a very large sum of money for FTTC . Could you supply the latest details of HMG payout to BT ? I dont like injustice when all the others are sitting back ready to reap the profits from BT,s expenditure ask Virgin Media who it allows to piggy back its lines -????? a company called nobody.co.uk. One law for them and another for BT John.


I agree with you, Wavechange. The supply of electricity and telecom services is contractual and customers are entitled to get what they order and pay for and can sue for breach of contract if the supplier defaults. But no one has any contractual right to a broadband service, or even a basic telecom service, except to the extent that that is mandated under the universal service obligation. In return for the licence to operate a regulated telecom service, companies are obliged to offer a connexion to any premises passed or within reasonable reach but if they are outside those limits [which I assume Ofcom adjudicates] there is no contractual default. Once a premises has a connexion the subscriber usually has a choice of service speeds and capacities and it is entirely right that if they order [and pay for] a high speed service that they get it. The debate goes on elsewhere about the vagueness and ambiguity of the current tariff labelling and I support your suggestion for three grades of service reflecting the technical situation in each case:
Level 1, Broadband,
Level 2, Fibre to the cabinet [FTTC], and
Level 3, Fibre to the premises [FTTP].

Reliability is also an important issue. In accordance with a scheme laid down by its Regulator, Ofgem, the electricity supply industry has to compensate customers for service outages that are not restored within set time limits. I see no reason why a similar scheme could not be drawn up for telecom service providers who would claim against Openreach or other relevant infrastructure provider. The technology of telecoms service supply, including by optical fibre, is a mature industry now and there should be no excuse for delay or default. However, it is considered that it needs an incentive to ensure that customers are properly and reliably served and get what they pay for. There are signs that Openreach’s performance is improving in terms of delivering the network capacity ordered by telecom service providers but there is some way to go. Its operational separation from BT [the TSP] is intended to drive that process by removing conflicts of interest.