/ 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?


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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.

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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.

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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.

Duncan – I think Wavechange was referring to power supply voltages in response to my earlier comment comparing and contrasting the way the electricity and telecoms industries go about their businesses.

I don’t think BT has paid for any installations that were not considered commercially viable. The government is paying for the infrastructure that is not commercially viable. Until we get more information from Ofcom, which controls the budget for this programme, I do not know the current financial position and how close the implementation is to its objective and timescale. I believe Openreach have underspent on the allocation but whether that is due to efficiency savings, bad estimates, or shortfall in delivery I do not know.

Openreach remains a massive monopoly and is under an obligation to allow other telecom service providers to use its assets in an attempt to improve competition within the industry. This is deemed to be in the interests of consumers. I hear no squeals from investors in BT Group about the company’s treatment by Ofcom; I am sure they would appreciate a less demanding regulatory regime but the one they have is commensurate with the company’s dominant market position.

Duncan – I was making a rather flippant comment comparing the electricity and telecommunications industries in response to John’s comment. I fully understand the points you make in your recent post and think it’s high time we ditch the copper system in favour of fibre. You have given us some information about why this is expensive (e.g. installation on private land, working in adverse conditions) but maybe there are solutions that don’t mean doing substandard work. I presume that fibre, once installed, has much lower maintenance costs.

John – I know very little about the business aspects and my main concern is about honest marketing. It seems fair to me that we pay for what we use and it might be unpopular with heavy users, but I’m not happy about ‘unlimited’ contracts. The mobile industry has taken action, thanks to the increasing number of heavy users.

I entirely agree with your second paragraph, Wavechange. There is also the question of equality of access; if heavy users consume high percentages of the available local capacity it adversely affects people with moderate needs. Ofcom regards 10 Mbps as “decent broadband” and I believe the government is hoping for 20 Mbps being accessible to 95% of the country. Pushing ‘unlimited’ contracts, and marketing on-line services that demand high speeds that might not be realisable, are essentially dishonest.

“he could only get 2.7Mbps from his provider despite his home having the ability to reach 79Mbps.” I doubt this is at all typical is it? So why introduce such unusual extremes if you want to make a logical case?

When I had a problem with my broadband supplier I asked them nicely and got a free month – more than compensated for the time I had spent on the problem. Otherwise I have good service and no complaints.

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My understanding is that Which? is campaigning for realistic marketing of broadband. Most of customers should receive the advertised speed rather than 10%, which is the current requirement of the Advertising Standards Authority. I’m not sure that this is good enough, but I support the campaign.

The broadband industry has focused marketing on the need for speed and what their customers can do with fast broadband, so it’s hardly surprising that many feel cheated. I suggested recently that services are marketed as:
– broadband
and customers given an estimate of the minimum speed that they are likely to achieve. Obviously this must assume that the customer has a modern computer linked by cable to the master socket to avoid the complication of WiFi interference and problems with internal wiring.

We have not been given sufficient information in the BBC programme or in Colum’s introduction to know what is meant by Steve West’s property being capable of receiving 79Mbps.

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“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”

Presented out of content, as it is above, this claim is somewhat confusing. In principle, my home could achieve 1000Mbps if I hardwired all my local area network (LAN) interconnections together using a gigabit lan. However, I don’t think that factoid is of any relevance to speeds that might be achievable by the wide area network (WAN) technology that my broadband provider operates.

I think it is deplorable that the media – including W?C – never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

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Hmmm. I can supply a real-life example of the ‘promised 79mbs and only get 1mbs’ case. Friends of ours run a small cliff-top cafe (on which the Lobby is modelled, BTW). A year ago BT promised them 45 mbs, but could only manage 1. It took a while and several visits from technicians, some of whom kept saying he should be able to get 79mbs, but others that there was no way. Eventually, despite having installed ‘superfast’ he had to settle for 1mbs.

What struck me about the entire saga were two things: the technicians (presumably trained to roughly the same standard) who kept saying the opposite things. Both knew the cafe is around three miles from the nearest cabinet, so why the marked disparity? The other thing was why did BT ever even offer them superfast? On a single copper wire, strung on overhead poles straddling the side of a mountain for 3 miles? And don’t BT possess a device that could be plugged in to determine if the line would support the promised figure?

As I understand it compensation would only be awarded where BT failed to deliver what they’d promised. Seems a good deal to me.

That’s a nice example Ian. It sounds like some of the technicians actually understood the practical limitations of their technology, while others (and their accompanying sales droids) did not.

It is the honesty of the companies that seems to lie at the heart of this. They make extravagant claims and are unable to fulfil them. The actual problem is that, in many areas, the infrastructure is missing and the providers have not invested enough in updating it. Perhaps this is because the public are expecting a better service without considering the time it takes to actually construct it on the ground. Are the broadband companies working flat out to rectify the situation or are they sitting back and making a profit from disgruntled customers? Sadly, it seems we also have to contend with hackers and ransom-ware. If these are not contained, we may not need our broadband connections and may have to find alternative ways of communicating.

I suspect if “legislation” imposes automatic compensation if speeds are not achieved (whatever this means when they will vary for all sorts of reasons) the providers will simply surround “claims” with ifs and buts. If a proposal proves impractical it will not achieve anything.

It may be we could specify a standard test at the socket done in a particular way and at a particular time under standard conditions – rather like the NEDC test for car mpg. If the customer required this and it worked against their claim they would have to pay the cost of the test.

@user-66219, is this feasible?

Duncan wrote: “Right Wavechange tell me how “automatic compensation ” works if companies are arbitrarily going to be fined …..” Let’s imagine that a company told a customer that they would have a download speed of 20Mbps and they never managed more than 5Mbps despite being connected directly to the master socket. It is a clear case of dishonest marketing. The company could and should have advertised its service as something like 3-5Mbps. In these circumstances the companies should be required to revise their advertising and pay compensation until they behave honestly.

I have my reservations about the broadband universal service obligation and the politicians should have consulted with experts to establish what is feasible before making public statements.

As I’ve said before, I believe that the entertainment companies pushing services that require fast broadband should be contributing to the cost of roll out of improved services.

I totally agree with entertainment companies contributing to improving the internet infrastructure as they are the ones making higher speeds necessary.

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Right Alfa and Duncan. How do we get Which? on board?

Entertainment companies would need a download-ometer that clocked their output and get charged accordingly. That money could then go towards the broadband infrastructure.

It shouldn’t be too difficult to get the government to introduce such legislation as many of these companies are already tax avoiders and it would be a way of getting some money out of them.

I don’t remember Which? discussing this possibility, Alfa. I suspect this may be because it would mean that heavy users would end up paying more. My impression is that Which? is not keen to upset subscribers or members of the public, but I would respect the organisation more if it supported measures such as this.

Having been a Sky TV customer for over 20 years, the quality of programmes has gone downhill in recent years with many new series never being available except via the internet.

Sky may have its faults, but it has put a lot into providing the service. There are satellites, receivers, on-screen TV guides, a lot of what is probably quite expensive technology to develop and maintain. The same would apply to cable TV.

Then along comes the likes of Amazon and Netflix who have sole distribution rights to series like the new Star Trek that will be unavailable to Sky. Why should they be able distribute their product and use the broadband infrastructure for free and at the same time avoid paying taxes? They are the ones creating the need for faster broadband and need to pay for the privilege.

If they are not made to pay, Sky satellite and Virgin cable will become obsolete as they will be unable to compete.

I would also add, that for most people the quality of internet TV is vastly inferior, so there will be little point in buying the latest technology TV.

If Sky and Virgin become obsolete, 1000Mbps will become the new necessary norm.

Maybe I am going overboard, but I see many reasons why internet TV needs regulation and control before it gets out of hand.

Why is claiming compensation the answer to everything these days? Compensation just pushes prices up as it has to paid for somewhere.

Anyone getting over 15Mbps does not need compensation as it is adequate to do almost anything unless too many people in the household are trying to do things with heavy usage at the same time.

A better solution in the short term might be to insist anyone getting less than 15Mbps should be entitled to one free visit/check-up from their ISP or Openreach to ensure the customer is getting the best speed they can with what is currently available to them.

It could mean they need a different router, a rewire in their premises, placement of router, etc., but it could make a big difference to many people struggling with low speeds at the moment. ISPs don’t always provide the best routers and this would need to be taken into account.

By doing a free service instead of compensation, at least the money would be trying to achieve something useful.

I agree with your practical suggestions, Alfa, but we must stop companies making dishonest claims. They should give potential customers a realistic estimate of the speed they will obtain and the use of ‘up to’ in marketing should stop.

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As far as I know you can ask your potential provider for an estimate of the speed you could expect at your premises. If this is so then we should be educating people to ask.

The adverts are there to give a general description of a product. Under the present rules if 10% of customers do get the advertised speed that is not dishonest on the part of the provider. We must not confuse what might be regarded as inadequate rules with dishonesty.

After many complaints, my ISP dropped the ‘up to’ from their advertising and simply provided an estimated speed. Problem solved. It’s the marketing men that need the education.

I know what honesty is.

How do we know the difference between dishonest claims from ISPs and bad setups in the home?

Not sure why a telephone company having a legal right to access customer premises is relevant. A customer would invite them to inspect their set-up if they were unhappy with their current speed. Many people don’t do this at the moment as they are threatened with quite a high call-out charge if no fault is found.

I have suggested giving customers an estimated speed on a number of occasions – glad you agree. What matters is what I will be likely to get, not the “average” that I might or might not reach.

Like many others i understand the term “up to” that applies to many things. Providing its basis is explained.

But what is an “estimate”? It is not a guarantee, so how will people behave if they think they are not getting their estimated speed? What tolerances are placed on it? What determines whether you get an estimated speed. We’d need a standard test to properly determine that under defined conditions.

Dropping the ‘up to’ does mean customers might get much lower speeds than they potentially could get as ISPs will state lower speeds to cover themselves.

alfa, exactly right. Providers will ensure, except under extreme circumstances, that they are not liable for compensation. So we will suffer from less useful information, or it will be surrounded by ifs and buts. I am not in favour of a compensation culture and generally feel that compensation covers actual loss. And where will the compensation come from? Customers of course through charges. Do we want one large group of customers giving money to another small group? What this Convo should really perhaps be using is the term “penalty charge” rather than “compensation”.

I have Windows 7 and use Internet Explorer, Firefox and Opera.

I have been using Firefox and Opera more as I.E. had become rather slow. Last week I found out why.

I regularly clear temporary files and cookies through Tools/Internet Options and had assumed they were being cleared although I had always had a nagging feeling they might be stored elsewhere as well but never got around to looking into it.

I discovered the temporary internet folder was huge with many folders and subfolders contained within it so it was little wonder I.E. was slow. After moving the folder to another drive, I was able to delete it and I.E. is much faster now.

But it does just go to show that there are many reasons for a slow internet.

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Maybe it’s time to ditch IE:

Credit: Wikipedia

Thankfully Microsoft ceased development of IE for the Mac at version 5.2, when Apple launched Safari.

The only reason Chrome is popular is because it forces itself on you when you update something else as you have to opt out of downloading and installing it.

Personally I like Chrome because it is supported by Google.

It does happen to work well too.

Now I know that some of you will point out like Google is one of the big multinational corporations that run the Internet. Nonetheless, for whatever rational and irrational reasons, my customer choice is that I prefer Google over any of the rest, including Amazon, Apple and Microsoft.

YMMV – that’s just my 2p worth.

I do also use Firefox and Chromium and SeaMonkey (etc.).

Finally, note also that, for us free (“libre”) folk here in Linux land, we do not suffer from drive-by-downloads, i.e. where Windows users can easily end with something like Chrome when they install some other free (“gratis”) software.

I’m having some problems using Safari to view the Which? website though no problems with Which? Conversation. At one time I used different browsers for different purposes. Sorry for taking us off-topic. 🙂

Sorry to hear that Wavechange – what are the problems that you’re having with Safari and Which?. I’ll report back to the team that look after the main website.

Hi Lauren – Thanks very much.

The problem is that some pages on the main website appear blank apart from the header and footer to the page. I’ve been copying the page address into Firefox, where it works fine.

On the homepage there are currently links to three articles: ENERGY NEWS, SAVINGS NEWS, LATEST NEWS and only the last one works. It’s the same on an another Mac running Safari. Maybe I just need to do an update but I look at many other websites and have not found the same problem, and Safari works absolutely fine with Which? Convo.

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There is a problem with the Which? homepages and Macs in general. In both Safari and FF when I click on the headings such as “Baby and child” a grey bar appears above it, as though there should be something there but nothing appears in both Safari and FF, and it happens with El Capitan and Sierra. It seems to be a CSS issue, in fact, because I’ve just checked and exactly the same thing happens in Chrome.

Not the first time there have been problems with Which? and CSS, in fact.

From a straw poll of Firefox. Chrome on Chromium, I can just see a thin grey bar appearing at the top of the menu, along with a further fat grey bar bottom left which says “www which co uk sitemap”. I assume the latter is supposed to appear sat the top. Right-clicking the thin grey bar then opens the site map.

The full functionality also seems to require the Which? supplied spyware to be enabled.

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I am still having to sign in every time I log onto Conversations, although my password is now accepted I can’t for the life of me remember all 16 digits so have to keep looking it up. I have on occasion received flash messages to say this is not a secure site. I am still using Safari with no problems on other websites. It’s all a bit puzzling.

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Duncan – I have looked at the code for the Which? homepage but it’s beyond me. 🙁

Like Ian and Derek I’m familiar with various minor problems with the Which? website, and it used to work fine.

I apologise to Lauren for taking this Convo off-track and perhaps we could move to The Lobby.

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All I would expect a provider to do would be to check their side of the service to where it enters premises in the case of a dispute. If you want your system checked then another specialist should be employed.

There has been criticism of the Which? speed checker as being “inaccurate”. I wonder how “accurate” others are. I would expect a “standard” for checking speed, and done under strict conditions. Otherwise, from a “compensation” point of view they would be a waste of time.

I think there are far more important things to be concerned about than broadband like hospital A&E waiting times, delays seeing your doctor, where speed is of real importance.

Yes Malcolm, there is a limit to what such a service should entail.

There ought to be basic checks like line input speed, wiring, router, distance from router. If they check out then all the things mentioned by Duncan would be additional suggestions/checks given at the time of the service.

From my experience, an ISP does know what speed you should be able to get and a few basic checks should highlight where a problem might lie.

I have always got nearly my ‘up to’ what I have been told I would get and very occasionally more. But over time since dial-up, as more people have come on line and internet content gets heavier, it does deteriorate. As people in the locality have switched to fibre, our ADSL speed has actually got better.

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I think I agree duncan. We need Which? to present cases in a fair balanced way that have been properly investigated. If they do not have the in-house staff to do this they should use outside experts. i would also like them to use input from the various parties involved to avoid the sensationalist partisan case that sometimes is used to incite emotional responses.

Duncan – Would you agree that the public should be provided with honest information about broadband speeds? Surely it is better to underestimate, so that the customer does not feel cheated. Be honest and then it is unlikely that there will be many claiming compensation.

I’m no expert but it seems to me that the government should have taken the advice of technicians and engineers before committing to the broadband universal service obligation. It is sad that many people with authority don’t have the practical knowledge or experience that is vital to make good decisions. I expect that there will be considerable criticism of the government when promises are not fulfilled.

Any thoughts on pushing the companies that profit from delivering services that demand fast broadband? I don’t want to see more government money poured in to broadband, BT and other service providers cannot afford to do what is demanded as you have pointed out many times, but there is an alternative source of funding.

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I can agree with most of what you say above, Duncan, but let’s keep it simple and leave the international politics out of it for the moment. All we are asking for is strong and stable broadband for the many not the few. And we need a government that will stand and deliver.

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It depends whether you see globalisation as an opportunity or a threat. The Britsh can hardly complain as they were the leading exponents of globalisation for over two centuries
and we still enjoy the benefits of that commercial acumen with many large conglomerates and multi-national corporations based here, some of which grew big by buying up American companies or by expending into their markets. I’m not sure I am in favour of total independence; there is a lot to be said for alliances and strategic positioning. I think interdependence makes for a safer world. If an American product or service is better than a UK one I don’t have a problem with accepting it as the leader; in any case, China is becoming the dominant global manufacturer now.

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Duncan – You have put your finger on one of the problems of defining the ‘nationality’ of any major company. A company can be headquartered in the UK, have British personnel and board directors, and sell British-made products all over the world but be owned by shareholders from anywhere on earth. Since the shareholders of most major companies are investment funds, insurance companies, pension funds, and other like institutions which generally have a fiduciary duty to use their resources to optimise their yields this is probably satisfactory and certainly much better than having companies dominated by individual tycoons or moguls with no concept of mutuality whatsoever, which was the prewar American model.

I am not sure why you think Vodafone is not a genuine UK company, and there are plenty of other international UK corporations like BT Group, BP [which acquired Amoco in the US], GSK, Reckitt Benckiser, BA, HSBC, BAT, Aviva, Rolls Royce, Barclays . . . I could go on. They are all trading globally and earning profits which are returned to the UK.

Incidentally, I liked your humorous description “100% kosher British company”. I must admit I have not studied the religious make-up of the investors.

P.S. China might be a dominant manufacturing country but most of its output relies on intellectual input from elsewhere, including a considerable amount of specification and design talent from the UK.

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Thank you, Duncan. I shall leave it there as those concerns do not affect our household.

Has anyone else had experience of a BT openreach engineer saying their broadband is capped at the exchange and to talk to their broadband provider to have the cap removed? After years of complaining about the slow speed of our (rural) broadband we were told last week that there is a 0.5Mbps cap at the exchange. This tallies with the max speed we’ve been experiencing. Many neighbours get 2Mbps, which is closer to what we’ve been told is the line’s capacity of 2.4Mbps. Talk to the other part of BT (as our broadband provider) and they deny there is a cap, then neither confirm or deny it. They now say the line is ‘fixed’ at 0.5Mbps and there is nothing they can do, but they can cancel our contract at no fee. We’re a long way from being offered compensation for unknowingly having had our line capped at a mere 0.5Mbps. We’ve got BT walking away from the problem that they’re created, with presumably little or no prospect of another provider being able to resolve the problem without the support of some part of the BT group (the cap being placed at their exchange by them).

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Engineer(who used the term ‘cap’) made a call when he was on site a to confirm this, so the information sits on file in BT somewhere. Said he doesn’t see it often. Last time was a year ago. BT broadband complaints team have since confirmed it on the phone. They are, rather ironically, calling the line ‘fixed’. Our line is capped/fixed at 0.5Mbps, though the cable is capable of 2.8Mbps. We get 0.5Mbps max. At busy times it is less. For the last few weeks it has been dropping out completely, which is what kicked off our current complaint. What sounded like an easy fix last week (removing the cap at the exchange) has turned into BT abdicating responsibility and wanting to walk away. When is no broadband better than slow broadband? When the BT complaints team are involved. I did try the Which broadband complaint tool, but the speed we get is half the minimum the tool will accept (must be in units of 1).

We seem to continually confuse “Engineer” with “Technician”. Those who perform routine activities are in the latter category.

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It’s a British thing duncan where the status of “engineer” is different from, say Germany.

Different companies use the words “Engineer” and “Technician” to mean different things.

In many cases, the title “Engineer” is often applied to staff other than Chartered Engineers while the title “Technician” is often applied to staff other than qualified technician engineers.

Also, many of the engineering (and other scientific and technical) institutions now seem to be raising the expected standards for “chartered status”, so that charted status must be regularly renewed (e.g. every three years) instead of being a “qualification for like”.

Some industries are also subject to regulatory requirements, so that potentially hazardous operations can only be carried out by suitably qualified and experienced staff, i.e. those with the skills and knowledged needed to work safely.

Some of my German counterparts may lack the benefits offered by a Royal Charter, but, since they can get to acquire the title “Ing” much like the title “Dr”, they do perhaps enjoy greater formal recognition for their professional status.

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Titles are odd things but several do confer a recognition of the many years of work needed to obtain one. I do think Engineer ought to be protected, since a real engineer will have done at least four years at a University and probably several years after that to gain a Chartership. I see it in the same way I see the Conveyancer: they are not allowed to call themselves Solicitors and an enthusiastic first aider is not allowed to call themselves Doctor. Ironically, real Doctors are usually not those who can treat people. Odd world, qualifications…

Duncan, engineer/technician tested everything and replaced master socket. He could not find any fault but only confirm we’re not getting the speed we should. He used the term ‘cap’ for a limit on the speed that has been put on at the exchange (a limit he said can be removed remotely). BT complaints department have used the term ‘fixed’ but said that the technician/engineer’s term of ‘cap’ also describes it. Upload speed over 2Mbps and download limited/capped at 512Kbps. The current line from the complaints department is that they can remove this limit but that the signal to noise ratio means there would be a reduction in quality and they couldn’t guarantee the consistency of the line. The technical response given as to why we are the only house in the area to have this limit (houses further from the exchange and those with older connections get the 2Mbps download speed) it that ‘every line is different’. Can we have this in writing? Yes, but it would be in the form of a transcript of the phone calls, for which BT will charge £10 per transcript/call. All BT are offering is to end the contract at no fee to us (there wouldn’t be a fee in any case).

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Thanks Duncan. We suspect the last 200m (which is underground cable and serves only our house) is at fault as we know that our nearest neighbour on the same spur gets 2Mbps. The challenge we now face is that BT broadband won’t accept the line is at fault, so won’t request that BT Openreach fix it. BT Openreach won’t fix it because no fault registers on their equipment, because BT Broadband have put the cap/limit in place. Neither part of the BT business will send out an engineer/technician again. From Agatha Christie to Catch 22. It feels like rural customers are just not worth the effort for BT Outreach and Broadband. They are all too keen to end our contract. Your explanation and suggested cure will help us as we try to take it further, fighting for our 2Mbps. Joining the 10% who get the advertised ‘up to’ speeds will have to wait for another day. Thanks.

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Hi Duncan,
An update. BT Broadband were resolute last week that they could/would do nothing about the speed cap and would be sending us a ‘deadlock letter’. After involving our MSP we received a call from what appears to be another wing of their complaints system. They confirmed that the cap was on the line, it could be removed, and would be removed. I was removed and our broadband speed has tripled overnight (to only 1.5Mbps, but it makes quite a difference). It’s being monitored to see if it drops out (which is why they are now saying the cap was on the line), but so far so good. Our upload speed remains oddly high given the download speed (its comparable with the download speed). Not sure this is the end of the saga, and I remain hugely upset at the way the whole thing has been dealt with by BT, but there finally seems to be some hope. It seems it really was as simple as the BT Openreach engineer/technician said it would be, he just under estimated the customer service barriers in the way.

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Our download speed is less than 5MB and our upload speed around 0.3MB. There are no plans to improve the Arborfield cross exchange. We heard that BT engineers sometimes tweak the upload speed if it has to be shared and that neighbours in Farley Hill area was tweaked down to 0.1MB. It seems wrong that my small business is paying over £160 per month for such shockingly low speeds.

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I’ve tried clicking “Start Test ” a number of times but nothing happens.

Hi Edmund, sorry to hear you’re having problems running the test. Try clicking on this direct link: https://broadbandtest.which.co.uk/

If you’re still having problems then let me know.

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