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What do you use your broadband for?

broadband uses

Latest Which? research has found that many people consider broadband to be an essential service. So what do you use yours for?

We asked 2,107 households with internet access how important broadband was to them, 90% said it was now more important than a mobile phone, a television or a running car.

It was only housing, energy, food and running water that were considered more important than broadband.

Essential broadband

Now I don’t know about you, but my broadband keeps me connected and on top of things – I enter energy readings online, check my bank balance, shop for groceries, do a bit of Christmas shopping here and there, connect with friends on social media, research my next holiday destinations and, of course, keep an eye on Which? Conversation.

So, it seems to me that without easy and reliable access to the internet, I’d really struggle.

I have to admit that when I moved house earlier this year, my broadband was one of the first things I got set up.

I transferred my existing account to my new address and was distinctly disappointed that, despite prior notice, I had to wait 3-4 days for the connection to kick in (3-4 days where I was, of course, still paying for it).

Even though I knew it was coming, it was still frustrating being without an internet connection. I needed to set up my council tax, change my address for my mobile phone provider and carry out various other bits and pieces of ‘life admin’.

Conducting such basic online tasks can be a real pain when you’re struggling to connect to the internet.

And I’m well aware that I’m not alone with my broadband troubles – according to our survey, 68% of households have experienced problems with their broadband connection.

We found that 35% of households have had broadband outages in the past 12 months, 36% have had slower speeds from a few minutes to a day, and 35% had slower speeds for a day or more.

When my broadband connection did finally kick in at my new place, I attempted to order a fridge – and, lo and behold, the connection kept dropping out.

The problem was that the connection dropped at the worst possible moment… when I was on the payment page. Trying to reconnect, I started to get a bit fearful of how many times I could have paid for this fridge and whether I’d cleared out my bank account… Thankfully, the payment only went through once!

Relying on broadband

Now my connection frustration was fairly limited, as its outage was only brief and there was no tangible impact on me.

But had that been a longer outage preventing me from, say, ordering a food shop, entering my energy readings or seeing my bank statement then I’m sure I’d have been a bit more irritated.

So, I’m curious to know: what do you use your broadband for and how do slower broadband, or connection outages affect you?

Comments
Profile photo of duncan lucas
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This whole debate centres round government action of forcing the public onto the Internet by limiting the means of communication between it and many government departments , even the latest move by the government of closing down many employment/DHSS offices where people are forced to go to and saying -do it by the Internet., This is amplified by many big companies with financial interest in saving money , just as the government is doing , its obvious to anybody with an ounce of gray matter up top that that forces up the issue of the telecommunications network . In other words the government KNEW this was going to happen and ,to me, the hidden agenda is selling off the network to BB which would be the USA via telecommunication companies existing in this country many of which are owned through shares by foreigners who are only interested in profit not the security of this country, not the keeping of an essential public utility in British hands , its just another sell off of the last of the sell-offs left in this country , large parts of this country are now owned by foreign off-shore companies and hidden billionaires , foreign banks etc . So its-stir up the public so that they get very angry and make it easy for HMG to force a sell -off but then we have the BT pension group to consider those buying wouldn’t want to pay for it and there is legislation AGREED with HMG to protect it. I know its not reached that type of stage just now but that is the future outcome a bit at a time keep the pressure on about this its not hard to figure out – okay then WHO PAYS ? How about the £32 Billion about to be spent in the Gulf area by our forces our money seems to have no restrictions when it comes to defence spending , this country complying with US demands on Europe of 2 % of the GDP , but who are the real payers , not the billionaires or Banks but YOU the British tax payer and certainly –the POOR via massive cuts in benefits who can suffer great hardship while those in Whitehall can trumpet we are a “strong martial nation ” but its on the backs of the ordinary person . Why doesnt this country wake up to reality about the present situation- who is going to pay for 100 % coverage of FTTP of the UK , and instead of shooting the messenger please give practical, down to earth SOLUTIONS to this , not just criticism of me.

Profile photo of DerekP
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I live in a city, so I would be able get by with just mobile broadband if only used broadband for things like posting on W?C and email.

I also have landline broadband that I can use for large s/w downloads (e.g. Linux distros) and streaming TV services (e.g. Youtube).

I agree with Duncan’s point about welfare services. For example, to claim Job Seekers Allowance, the system now expects that you will have internet access that you can use for regular vacancy searches and for submitting job applications.

Hence I think it is much more important for us to have adequate broadband for everyone in the UK than to have superfast broadband for a privileged majority.

Member
bishbut says:
8 December 2016

I make use of Broadband for most thlngs ,, banking receiving online bills etc. but having lived most of my life before Broadband and other Tech things I would be able to manage quite well without it all,But thinking I proberbly wound not want to now But I could !!

Profile photo of John Ward
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Apart from a few incoming e-mails every day [most of which I could happily do without], the occasional dabble on Which? Conversation, catching up with the news, and some purchasing, meter readings, and internet banking, I hardly take advantage of the potential of broadband. I wouldn’t be completely lost without it but it certainly has made life much more convenient and saved a lot of travelling. Late last night I was ordering some timber and paint for a project and the ability to choose it, order it, pick a delivery date, and pay for it has probably saved half a day of getting the car out, putting the seats down, driving to a shed somewhere, wasting the usual amount of time in the process, and all the rest of it. That’s probably the most useful purpose for me. Some people complain that they seem to waste a lot of time on their computer but it’s probably a question of how you use it. There’s no doubt in my mind that overall it saves a lot of time and gives much greater flexibility over how we spend the time we have left on this earth. All that said, I would say my computer time is only 40% on-line, the rest being off-line use – correspondence, documentation and general admin [or sadmin as it is usually called in this house].

Profile photo of Ian
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Interesting. Internet forms a major part of our life. From banking, to utilities, staying in contact, downloading the manuals no longer included by manufacturers, researching, ordering food, ordering goods and products, running forums, devising ever more fiendish ways to make spam emailers suffer, dealing with the variety of agencies – both governmental and business – that demand attention seemingly every day, maintaining the iCloud-based diary, printing Xmas card lists then printing the postage stamps – the list is pretty endless.

Where we live, however, we can guarantee the BB will be flakey after a night of heavy rain. That’s every time, too, not simply the odd occasion. Add in a bit of wind (not unusual in the mountains) and it’s back to ‘phoning BT to come and patch their ageing and rapidly deteriorating extension cabinets.

So it’s invaluable and that’s all without donwnloading and streaming, which I haven’t mentioned as that’s more the optional aspect. But BB is essential, now.

Member
George Hamilton says:
16 December 2016

I aim to move to a reasonable distance from Glasgow (30 miles) and fast broadband (fibre) has been promised for two years now. There are MoD premises nearby and I hope that they do not need to use the old telephone wire system like the rest of us, because it drops out and slows down a lot.
By all means roll out superfast fibre, not in the cities who are well off already, but to all out in the rural parts of this lovely land. Encourage home working and reduce pressure on city transport systems.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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George , if I said West Dunbartonshire/Argyle+Bute and the “base “begins with F would I be right ? Main town yes -fibre surrounding area no but BT has Special MOD wi-fi ( among other means ) . I dont think you have to worry about any “dropouts ” in MOD bases , been in some , no problem with telephonic/internet connections .Special Defense cables exist from Glasgow , ask no more .

Profile photo of wavechange
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I make a lot of use of internet access, both at home and using mobile broadband. My requirements are quite modest because I don’t download films or play online games, though I do use iPlayer. I am very lucky to have a reliable broadband service.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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While I could not compare broadband to running a car (if, for example, you said which would you give up if that was the choice), it has made life a lot easier in so many ways. I use it for emails, banking, shopping, searching for information, Apple tv, paying bills and when it went down (router) recently I was a bit lost for the first day. Today I needed a new wheelbarrow wheel (scrooge) and through a search found one at a sensible price at Screwfix. How long would that have taken to locate (if at all) without the internet? I also save money and locate books on topics I’m interested in at prices I’m prepared to pay. 4 books on trams through Abebooks cost a total of £10.77 including p+p. How else would you do that?

But, however useful and convenient it is, essential services should – must – remain available easily on paper through the normal channels of snail mail, telephone, and by attendance for those unable to access or use broadband.

Member
David Bamber says:
8 December 2016

I live in a fairly rural location but recently we’ve been lucky enough to be connected to FTTC at the local exchange (just under 1 mile away).

Both my children (young adults) and me and my partner use broadband extensively. We used to work from home on a 4Mbps (on a good day) line previously but still managed to cope with most things adequately. The only things that were difficult were downloading or streaming videos which used to take forever.

We all use home banking and web browsing of course but we can download and stream HD videos from Sky, Netflix and Amazon quite easily on a 32Mbps line often simultaneously. As well as gaming and streaming audio.

I don’t understand the pressure being applied by the government and Ofcom to pressure BT into rolling out FTTP to everyone.

Firstly most people would find the kind of speeds we achieve quite adequate and wouldn’t want to pay appreciably more for bandwidth they cannot currently envisage being needed. Some people would pay more for faster speeds but I would say they are probably few and far between and those who actually need it now probably even fewer.

Secondly the emphasis should be on those who are getting sub-2Mbs speeds and don’t have alternatives available to bring them up to an acceptable standard of, say, 10Mbps.

The actions of Sky, Vodafone, Talk Talk and Three are obvious in trying to damage BT by reducing their ability to compete with Sky and make them take on the commercially unviable task of rolling out FTTP on a large scale.

Why Ofcom and this government are playing along with this I don’t know. It will cause great damage to the network infrastructure by playing along with BT’s competitors and forcing them into an impossible commercial situation. I can see the point about future proofing the network but if they want full rollout of FTTP in the UK then money should be available to do so centrally and I mean a lot more than the £400k offered in the last budget. We’re talking mega billions here.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Wise and far seeing man David and your strategic thinking ties in exactly with mine . I know why the government are “going along with this ” and if they could it would be much further ,money+friends “talk ” but I couldnt print what I know from evidence gathered . Its just the fact that this government is prepared to sell off a British strategic asset to foreigners if they could , that no other country in their right mind would , gets me like a punch in the gut .Maybe I am too patriotic but that never hurt America only gets it praised , over here its the opposite, shows the thinking is not in favour of the long term welfare of this country or its people .

Profile photo of John Ward
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David – There is no question of the government paying for universal FTTP. The present policy is for 10 Mbps FTTC for 95% of the population.

The government also has no intention to force the sale of BT or Openreach – they are not the government’s to sell. Openreach is a component of the BT Group which is already in private ownership. Ofcom’s proposal is for Openreach to remain under the BT Group but as an autonomous subsidiary.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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i hope to God you are right John , I have a very good intuition or maybe some “second sight ” and strategic planning but given the chance BT would be cut by a 1000 legislative “cuts ” that chip away at the profitability of it. WHY aren’t the same detractors not cutting US owned companies to pieces , its so obvious it doesn’t even need spoken.

Profile photo of John Ward
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With the present preoccupations of the government and Parliament over our withdrawal from the EU, I cannot imagine for a moment that legislative time would be given to any interference with BT’s status. Bear in mind also that the government now has a wafer-thin majority and such a move would be strongly resisted and opposed.

Member
Threebee says:
9 December 2016

I have no alternative but to use a BT networked provider. (Talk Talk) The mobile Networks are of a very poor quality here in the South Wales Valleys and Signal quality is the issue rather than the type of signal. 3G 4G etc. Virgin media’s cable Networked areas are predominantly in higher population areas due to the cost of the Network to be put into the ground. It would therefore take a longer time for the cost of that infrastructure to be recouped. I use my broadband for web browsing emails and video streaming via Amazon Netflix etc. I am satisfied with the speed of the network, but contention ratio is a major issue during peak hours, when buffering occurs on some services. Even on a supposed 34 Mb fibre link.

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Pete says:
9 December 2016

The 5%, like me, who suffer a maximum speed of 1.5 and constant dropouts will remain just so. Uneconomical to satisfy us compared to providing the masses with fibre. Decent broadband is far more Essential than a car, I have legs and can pedal into the nearest town 5 miles away

Profile photo of VynorHill
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Like most of the above, I find the internet useful and time-saving for the reasons already given. What worries me is the trend to automate everything using the internet as a medium to control, store, direct and generally make things work. The more our lives are dictated to in this way the more broadband becomes essential and important. If we pursue this course there will come a time when a determined hack, a power outage or any other inability to get on line will be catastrophic. The country will cease to function and, at best, there will be just minor chaos as the repairs are made. At worst we are into the realms of science fiction, only it will be science fact. Just take automated road transport as an example. Lots of exciting talk about driverless cars at present. I’m glad I’m not going to be around when this becomes a reality.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Your right Vynor and some pretty intelligent social philosophers agree with you and even bigger worry is the Globalisation push for a “cashless ” society, once that is achieved government+BB has you in total political control and can dictate your actions by withholding payment -IE-Democracy-no more -Autocracy – now available . Guess who controls Western money ?

Profile photo of VynorHill
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You’re quite right too, Duncan. : -)

Profile photo of wavechange
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Vynor and Duncan have posted some serious concerns but I wonder how we might cope with loss of access to broadband for any length of time. That could happen for a variety of reasons. Anyone reliant on online banking would do well to consider how they would cope.

Profile photo of Beryl
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Coincidentally this topic surfaced when my email connection was most needed in relation to travel and other arrangements with family members to attend my sisters funeral, a good 100 miles distance from my home.

An incorrect return address suddenly appeared on all my outgoing emails which has taken about 4 days and numerous instructions and advice over the ‘phone from one of my brothers to fix it, a process that involved changing POP 3 to IMAP, which we both found quite stressful at a time neither of us needed it.

Broadband is undoubtedly a technological marvel when it is working but is really emphasises our reliance upon it when it malfunctions or breaks down completley and can prove extremely frustrating and time consuming when we often can least afford it.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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Quite right beryl, as I posted earlier we should be able to easily do things the old fashioned way – phone, post, personal presence – for essential services. Broadband does go down and we need to be able to function without it.

I am sure the last thing you needed was an email problem. These failures always seem to happen when we least want them.

Profile photo of Ian
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Well, the ‘old fashioned’ methods are still there; and just as when mains water goes off you can probably manage with a local stream, rainwater or walking to a neighbour’s house. Likewise, when the electricity goes off it’s possible to cope – simply not well. The only thing of which we need a continuous and abundant supply is air, and that’s not optional. But I do look back at my childhood and find it quite astonishing the way some things have invaded our lives and conspired, almost, to make us dependent on them.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Some people use internet-only current accounts. I wonder what provision they make in case they have a problem with their broadband service.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Wavechange -they could use tethering from their mobile to the computer , or use wireless broadband , or get in a car and find a neighbour with a BT wi-fi “hot spot ” BT are one of the most prolific companies for this ,they advertise it constantly . What you DONT do is go to a wi-fi enabled Macdonalds/Dunkin Donuts/Pizzaland/local airport and use theirs-guaranteed to be hacked by that innocent young man in the next table with a laptop on his knee.

Member
Jess Mitchell says:
10 December 2016

I have to agree with Lauren Deltz and with many of the others posting here. I am physically disabled and quite deaf and use the internet a great deal. Apart from the uses that Lauren mentions it’s also far easier for me to email than phone someone. I’ve just had four days with no connection because of a router problem and have realised how restricted my life is without broadband. I’m fortunate that speeds locally are normally about 14 – 15 Mbps but I know that in many rural areas around here they are far less.
I do, however, find that both local and national governments seem to have adopted a policy of “do everything on line” which is difficult in areas of poor broadband and annoying for those those who can neither afford broadband nor do not, as many of my generation do not, have the necessary skills.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Computers and tablets can be tethered to most modern mobile phones if the contract permits. Before I had a smartphone I used a MiFi battery-operated wireless router to get online when away from home, provided that the signal was adequate.

It might be worth trying tethering before the need arises. It is simple to set up, and once done a router failure or similar problem is of little consequence. It is very important to keep track of usage because service providers may charge a lot if you go over your data allowance.

Profile photo of VynorHill
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£2 for every 50mb on my phone. That’s extortionate so I always use it on Wifi.

Profile photo of wavechange
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It can be very expensive if you have an unsuitable phone contract or go over your data limit. Mine gives me 5GB per month. When I used a MiFi I payed about £50 for 12 GB sim and that was enough for my needs away from home for a full year. At the end of the year it expired and I put in another sim.

Profile photo of alfa
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I’m sure it was a total coincidence that my Sky broadband played up just hours after having a moan on a Home Communications survey from Which?

We get a download speed of just over 7Mb/s and it is adequate. I find it hard to imagine what 100Mb/s must be like.

The internet does save a lot of time traipsing around the shops looking for things. We still try and buy from a bricks and mortar store if we can as it is use them or lose them.

We would definitely struggle to be without the internet now that our lives have become so entwined with it.

Profile photo of wavechange
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For web browsing or sending emails, the faster speed will make little difference, but downloading films or doing software updates should be much faster.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Wavechange , if you mean Windows 10 software updates there has always been trouble downloading them due to the size of the downloads and the complete devastation it does to many computers . When the computer cant take them or the changes stop the function of the computer MS dont give up they try again-and again. Just ask those people affected by them all over the world. That is the reason MS has had a policy for years of big downloads at 2AM in the morning because the CPU goes 100 % in many computers and makes the computer unusable for normal use. When this happens in non powerful computers they slow right down and it could take hours to download.

Profile photo of wavechange
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That’s certainly one example of where fast broadband has its uses. 🙂 At one time major software applications came on disk but users are often faced with large downloads these days. An increasing number of laptops don’t even have an optical drive.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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What I was getting at -it wouldnt matter how fast a broadband connection you had as –due to an enormous data download a non-power computer would not be capable of PROCESSING it fast enough , you would get data “jam logging ” -IE- taking a long time for the CPU to process it and in some computers it could “time out ” . You do realise routers can overload as well ?

Profile photo of wavechange
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OK. The only version of windows in my house use the double-glazed operating system.

Member
jude bond says:
14 December 2016

i lost my hearing at 40. The organisation link suggested the internet. My husband can’t switch a pc on!i rely on our pc for banking, email contact, genergy provider, our bills. i bought a tablet as both my husband and i have had numerous admissions to hospital which resulted in late charges because my husband couldnt access the bill dates. The internet is necessary in our lives

Profile photo of mnevis
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It is impossible for me to rely on broadband internet. I live in a rural location. When I was signed to the post office isp it struggled to reach a speed of half a megabyte. A quarter mb was the norm. Plus losing connection continually and having to have BT engineers attempt to fix it. In the end I had to change to Plusnet and the speed went up astrnomically to 4.5mb the highest it has ever been. Plus only one connection droput per annum that needed an engineer callout. The broadband does slow down and freeze and go offline and come back on and is very slow to start having to wait 2 or 3 minutes when the computer is turned on for the broadband to work. So, no, impossible to rely on broadband in rural area. The other bone of contention is that I am paying the same amount of money for somebody with a 60mb connection. Let my explain. It is impossible now to watch Youtube in continuous motion. It freezes, slows down and stops completely. And, NO, it is not the computer, or my cables or any of my equipment which is what BT blamed EVERY time they were called out.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Mnevis lets look at this logically , first I take it you are using Windows 10 ? that slows down the time it takes to appear on your monitor, second if you have a lot of apps on it that slows it down appearing . Broadband speed does not affect the time it takes on your screen only when you input a URL or by clicking on a link/tab , taking 3 minutes to appear is a fault in your computer , while Firefox takes a few seconds to appear on lInux that is because I have a load of apps on it , on the other hand my other browsers which are Linux types are instantaneous . I ran for years on your speed of 4.5 Mbps till I got FTTC , yes it was slower but not as bad as yours . Did the engineer disconnect the wiring going to your extension sockets and plug his equipment into the Master socket to check the speed ? You are not alone many Win 10 users complain about it due to updates /drivers etc have you tried another browser and what is the one you are using ?

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Mnevis ,as you are with Plusnet a couple of facts , Plusnet say you are one of their 10 % users in non-low cost Market area “A ” and your speed with them will be UP TO 6Mbps and depend on line conditions . More to the point is that Plusnet practice -Traffic Prioritisation -quote- if you or your family are trying to do more online than your SPEED allows -we will prioritise the traffic to your home -translated from the flowery sales talk -if you are trying to watch videos and high data-stream downloads they will be slowed down and priority given to “normal use ” of your broadband connection -iE- surfing the web/ emails etc. Please note these are Plusnet,s words not mine. Plusnet are part of the BT Group but are run independently.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Here is some better news for rural broadband users , 600,000 extra homes will get FTTC that have poor coverage . The new cash comes from savings made by BT on the provision of FTTC using funds provided by HMG , the savings amount to 440 million . In other words instead of hiding the money for its own use BT have made efficiency savings in its provision of fibre and returned it , now if that was Vodaphone ? Government statement on Thursday-Reuters. No idea yet what areas will be getting fibre but it wil be rural.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Having been one of the lucky ones to benefit from FTTP earlier this year, I wonder how much extra that would add to the cost. I assume that FTTC will just be a transitions stage in bringing fibre broadband to homes.

Anyway, this news will make many people happy.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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Apparently there is technology to increase broadband speeds with FTTC that does not require replacing the copper between cabinet and premises. Do you have any information on that duncan?

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Your right malcolm but it depends on the electronic equipment fitted into the fibre cabinet they don’t all have the same stuff .Speeds can be increased dramatically BT has been working on it for years , do you want the technical details ?

Member
Susan says:
6 January 2017

I live in a rural area and pay for super fast fibre optic broadband and the lag on the kids games is pathetic. Sky just don’t care, have been with BT and they are the exact same. I am paying for a premium service but get little or no help and NEVER get the problem resolved. Between a rock and a hard place, If these companies were to get hit in their pockets, I think they wouldn’t be slow to resolve things. They do what they like.