/ Technology

Flawedband: are you happy with your broadband service?


Our latest research shows over half of households have had a problem with their broadband service in the last year alone. Are you one of them?

I’m sure like many of our Convo readers, I am quite good at taking action when I’m unhappy with a product or service. I switched mobile provider last year; I recently convinced my parents to switch broadband provider; I challenge my gym when my experience doesn’t live up to my expectations (having my spin class cancelled on the day one week did not make me happy!).

And yet there are still many examples where I accept poor service. Things pass me by, or I just accept as the status quo. And for many broadband customers, this seems to be the same.


Our latest broadband satisfaction survey found that more than half of Britain’s households have experienced a problem with their broadband provider in the last year. As with all of our surveys, experiences varied across providers but even the lowest score still showed a quarter of customers experiencing problems.

The top complaint was price increases, affecting one in five.

Slow speeds was the second biggest problem, with frequent connection drop outs and problems with routers following respectively.

It’s a positive that automatic compensation will come into force next year with 90% of the broadband market committing to doing it. But even then, compensation will apply only to three areas (slow repairs, missed appointments and delayed installations) that don’t appear in our top four list of problems.

Automatic compensation is certainly a welcome step, and something we at Which? have campaigned for, but ultimately we want the service to improve in the first instance.

Communication failure

With over half of people experiencing problems, I’m sure many do take action with their provider, but it has to be the case that many more don’t.

I think that often consumers are confused about what they can do, they don’t understand what the problem is, and they get frustrated with slow or no customer service to fix it. Furthermore, they don’t understand when they can and should negotiate on price. (Want to know more? Check out our advice on haggling for the best deal.)

Are you surprised at the results? What grumbles do you have with your broadband service and have you managed to have them addressed by your provider? And what can be done to stop more than half of households having problems?

Which? surveyed 1,901 telecoms customers in Dec 2017 to Jan 2018. We require a minimum of 30 responses to give a rating or score on any particular measure. Broadband customers were asked: ‘Thinking about the last 12 months (i.e. since December 2016), which, if any, of the following problems have you experienced with your broadband?’.


We had 3 months of complete he’ll with internet falling out problems all if the time Every other day I was phoning Sky had 6 visits and on the last visit was told that Open reach and Sky know about the problems in the Exchange with the blocks but didn’t know how many customers had been affected. So in the end I had a New Router Cables everything supplied free if charge to me and also got free internet for 1.5 years which has how been renewed by then without me asking for another 18 months as a valued customer of over 20+ years. Who h makes my whole package tv phone internet for £41.59 per month I’m so happy with that.

Last month we had several days of intermittent problems with our broadband going off and on which gets to be quite frustrating if you are in the middle of an important piece of work. This is with Virgin Media

I am with BT and enjoy the fantastic speed of 2mb. This sometimes drops to 0.5mb or no connection at all I have BT Tech support on speed dial. When I moved to this address I was guaranteed 1 mb now 10 years later they will only guarantee 0.25mb, yet I still have to pay the same basic price. There should be a campaign that anyone who does not have a connection speed of 10mb (government target) should get free internet connections this may give a little more urgency to the provision of fibre to the property.

Suzanne E says:
10 April 2018

I am unfortunately with Vodaphone who failed to tell me that Vodaphone actually uses Talk Talk as its base. So I am locked into an 18mth contract despite some vary specific ‘disgusted with Talk Talk speeds and connectivity’ comments whilst discussing what they were offering. I did my best to ask every detail but did not expect that vodaphone would not be using their own base. Unfortunately I did not find out until after the ‘backout’ period was past from a very good computer/support shop who I discussed the still ‘c***’ download performance with. He whole heartedly gave PlusNet the thumbs up as the best provider as they proactively addressed issues and listened to their customers rather than script driven others – particularly Talk Talk ! He got things turned around the same day whilst experiencing with other providers up to a week to actually get somebody who was technical enough to understand he generally knew as much/more than their support (non PlusNet providers) and already knew exactly what needed to be done by them. So if PlusNet does not grow to quickly and loose its service levels I will be moving to them as soon as I can.

I have been with Plusnet for some time now, and have found them an excellent company. I have had no problems at all for well over a year, and when I did have a problem, it was the fault of BT, not Plusnet. I have had a problem with my computer a couple of times in 2016. When I called the tech lads at Plusnet, they had me sorted out in double quick time, with easily understandable instructions. They don’t try and baffle you with long words or tech jargon.

Matt Duffy says:
10 April 2018

Ian, if you ever leave plusnet,I had a plusnet email Address, ensure you download all your current useful information, I moved from plusnet two years ago and lost all my information, emails, Photos some personal family stuff, when I tried recovering this information plusnet advised me they had deleted all my account and nothing was recoverable, I was advised by the person transferring my information from an old iMac to a new one I was purchasing, if my email address was with Gmail this could not have happened, my information would have been stored indefinitely and recoverable, I understand sky is similar to gmail if you visit their site regularly when you leave them.

gmail – so very true.

Max says:
10 April 2018

We live in North Stockport (SK4) and have been with TalkTalk for years. I agree that they used to be terrible but for a couple of years have given no problems.
We are on fibre and have speeds are between 30-40 mb down and 7-7.5 up.
So my experience does not match that of the many of the users that you have polled. It would be interesting to know why this is as I assume that there are many customers of TT with my experience.
Perhaps the technical people at Which? might consider reasons for the differences in achieved speed from the same provider.

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Thanks for this quick response.
I understand the distance from the cabinet problem but as cabinets are used by all but Virgin one might expect that on average all providers (except Virgin) would achieve the same speed.
Could it be that Which?’s sample is unfairly biased towards TT customers at a greater distance to their cabinets than, say, those of PlusNet. Or is there an underlying technical solution to speed that has been identified by PlusNet which TT engineers have yet to catch up with??
If the latter is true I would expect an increase in speed if I moved to PlusNet. I suspect this would not happen which indicates that there is a problem between the samples.
I take your point about the 20% customer related problems. This also implies that maybe TT customers are more prone to make errors within the Which? samples.
It would be interesting to hear from Which? about how they collect the data.

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Fascinating extra information.
So do we believe that TalkTalk and, possibly the PO, set up their LLU configuration to substantially reduce speed in a particular exchange.
It seems to me that these assessments of speed are of little value.
I also note the problems with the router, while Which? suggests the TT router is the best.
What does seem certain is that customers who contact TT feel that the service they receive is not optimal.

I do recall some years ago, in Northwich, I was able to get a significant speed increase by switching to O2 from Eclipse broadband, with both being LLU suppliers I believe.

Malcolm says:
14 April 2018

We’ve been with TalkTalk for years. Occasional slow speeds happen but they quickly restore to our regular 8 to 12 Mbps over ADSL. Price is fair, bundled with tv, phone line, a modst sim-only mobile service and bundled calls around Europe, North America, Australasia. Occasional difficulties are sorted by charming people in the Phillipines. When a modem failed it was replaced in two days. No probs!

Trevor Finlay says:
10 April 2018

We took out a contract with John Lewis and assumed that because they have a good overall reputation for quality and good service that this would apply too to their broadband provision – WRONG ASSUMPTION…..
We moved early last year and the hassle we encountered was truly unbelievable but when I found out that PlusNet actually facilitate JL’s broadband ‘service’ then it all became clear.
It’s too long a tale to go into but we had promised ourselves that no matter what deal PlusNet were offering ever; we would never have them as our BB providers again.
From our previous experience: we found a great many of their staff to be extremely rude (one Polish girl simply put the phone down on me) and had the attitude that they could give you appalling ‘service’ because you couldn’t do a thing about it (which is true – believe me I tried).
That impression did not alter when we needed to communicate with them about the appalling and inept way they dealt with our house move last year.

John Lewis were not interested and every time I tried to report their appalling BB ‘service’ and the complacent attitude of the PN staff – they just kept on sending my complaint about PlusNet to yes, you’ve guessed right – PlusNet.

I have been with TalkTalk for years and, contrary to the usual ratings, I can report a good experience with them UNTIL RECENTLY. Since the end of 2017 I have experienced frequent dropouts – often several a day; the cure is to turn off the router and turn it on again. I note from the TalkTalk user forum that this is a common problem and that some customers have received a software update to the router – so why hasn’t it been rolled out to every customer? I have not yet complained to TalkTalk because I know from experience that it takes several hours to go through needless equipment checks before a genuine complaint is registered. I think Which should now stop focusing on raw connection speed and concentrate on reliability of broadband service.

As noted above we have been with TT since Tiscali days. We live in Stockport (SK4) about 200 mtrs from the Fibre Cabinet.
I have just tested again and achieve Ping 6ms, Down 36.89mb and up 7.47mb. This is exactly in line with all my tests in recent months with no ‘drop-outs’.
I wonder what I am doing right! It cannot just be luck.
I agree that Which? should drop the raw connection speeds as I feel certain that they are not comparable.

only 44 miles as the crow flies from central london but broadband not available. All would benefit from full connectivity but the Goovernment has not forced BT et al to address this problem with despatch

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S Shaw says:
13 April 2018

It finally came, after years of waiting, yes Fiber had arrived.. So we signed up for it along with a phone line with BT… Engineer date was booked, everything looked good until a text saying we had to have a copper phone line and the order had been adjusted… So I checked online to find my fiber broadband had actually been cancelled.. so on the phone we go… two hours later, yes two hours to answer and agree is was a mistake… So it was put right yes?… well no, some idiot at BT again cancelled it.. another two hours on the phone to resolve the issue.. sorted yes?.. well no.. The engineer turned up on the wrong day.. ok no problem he ran in a new fiber cable and box… it will on hours he said… Next day another engineer called while we were out to connect in the copper line???????? What???? And we hand no connection still, so on the phone again to BT.. a load of excuses, yes the order had again been cancelled…but they promised to have it sorted the next working day…. did they??? Hell no.. having paid them £230+ i still had order and no phone or broadband.. I then cancelled under the 14 day cooling off and did get my money back..

OK so now I try to get connected through another provider… Nope.. not possible.. no other provider is allowed on the new fiber line??? So back to BT we go.. But No, because there is a complaint in I’m not allowed to order another line with them…

So now we have no phone, no internet and no provider other than BT that will offer connection.. At the same time my sister lost her internet and phone line.. her phone number of 25 years had been sold to another BT customer???

When will the BT monopoly stop???

Apparently 3 months on BT are still dealing with our complaint so a recent letter said??? Meanwhile we still have no phone or broadband yet strangely do have a BT account that seems to be in debt now..? and still no other provider will cover this area?

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I had trouble with BT and cancelled all contact with them, I know use mobile phone and mobile Wi-Fi
The Mobile Wi-Fi can be a pain at times when the signal is lost, non of the providers EE, 3, Ect seem to care all you get from them is you are in a poor area , it appears all any of them want is our monthly payments, but all is not lost, i can use my mobile phone and keep in touch

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I live in a small town, Woodbridge, Suffolk, not out in the countryside. Over 2 years ago new cabinets appeared in my street, the nearest just over 100m from my house and only about 5m from the distribution cabinet for our bit of the street. They bear posters declaring “Fibre Broadband is here!” but still it isn’t in fact available to me. Even BT Sales thought it was, as they made several special offers for switching to fibre! Speeds have improved slightly (I can now usually watch weather forecast videos without lots of pauses for buffering) and dropouts have become much less common but with a lot of concern aboout rural speeds I suspect I may have to wait a lot longer before the posters (now fading) on the cabinets tell the truth.

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Virgin, even after 5 year plus, still apparently find it difficult to maintain their service!

We had a time, 2 – 3 years ago when we had persistent poor speeds, which they put down to insufficient bandwidth in our locality. Eventually this was fixed but no allowance was made for the less the glowing service for something like six months. When we raised this we were offered additional TV programmes free for a months, which would then her added to our bill for as long as we stayed with them! They appear to be learning from Sky, raising the take whilst lagging behind with providing basic services.

When we had finally got fed up with their “service” and switched to a different supplier, all they did was try to convince us about the technical superiority of the optic cable technology, which is wonderful but only when one can access it, when you cannot, they are not overgenerous with apologies or correction!

I can’t help wondering if there is case for having subscriptions with BOTH Virgin AND one of Openreach’s retail outlets.

That way, it would be very unlikely that one would have to suffer poor or non-existent service on any given day.

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Suggestion BT. Openreach give reduction on Line Rentals to Broad band user have low speeds
regardless who their providers are ,I have experienced 0.01 at times

Forget slow download speeds. Our download speed was only 6.5Mb on a good day. Our upload speed was max 0.35. Guess what? BT (nor any other providers for that matter) guarantee upload speeds! They simply do not! We didn’t have a lwg to stand on i this matter. Have Which? heard my complaint about this? Not as far as I am aware.

If you are paying for a service but cannot upload a photo to “the cloud” – any cloud – then tough titties, nobody (even Which?) Seems to give a damn. Download speeds are God, let us only concentrate on what they all promise on download with no mention of upload which should be approx 50% download speed.

Which, you are a waste of space!

Asymmetric (faster download than upload) broadband services are normal for residential subscribers because more data is downloaded than uploaded. Often the upload speed is around a tenth of the download speed.

If the upload speed is significantly less than this then there may be a problem with the equipment in the home. It would be worth unplugging internal wiring such as extensions and plugging the router direct into the master socket and then connecting the router to a computer with a cable. If this increases the upload speed it is not the fault of the ISP. On the other hand, if neighbours are experiencing very low upload speeds it would be worth contacting your ISP.

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I am with BT for many a year particularly because not all other providers can access our properties (flats).
As we adjacent to a BT exchange the flats/houses were directly linked into the exchange and not the ‘green boxes’ .
I requested fibre since BT advertised it but they only have plans to convert the ‘green boxes’ for the present & give no indication when the exchange will be converted.
So linking more than one computer or downloading a film from ‘Now’ TV causes the whole system to run very slow if at all!

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Hi everyone, an update for you. Today we published a news story on how the average household is receiving just half of the advertised broadband speed:


We’ve had coverage from BBC News, ITV News and the Telegraph to name just a few, and also appeared on the radio.


We’ll have a new Convo up to discuss the crackdown on broadband claims early next week.

Presumably broadband speeds will not increase. We will just have a better idea of what we can expect to get. a lot of people – up to 50% – could still no doubt complain they are not getting the “advertised” speed.

Whatever number you choose will have the potential to mislead those who don’t understand the situation. Even if you give a figure for what 90% would get, 10% would maybe complain, but the lower advertised speed resulting would be exceeded for most users. Is there a better way of giving clearer and more useful information? Ideally, what is the average speed users experience in my street on copper, FTTC and FTTP?

If ISPs dropped their ‘up to’ claims and gave a realistic prediction of the speed range for the premises – perhaps a conservative figure – that would help to put an end to the criticism.

I’m on FTTP and generally receive a slightly faster download speed than what I pay for. Before that I was on copper broadband and the speed was within the speed range the ISP quoted, and so did neighbours. Being honest with customers helps gain respect and loyalty.

Maybe the ISPs should be required to brand their services as ‘less than 76Mbps’ rather than up to.

As I have posted below, the Which? claim that customers are getting half the speed they have paid for is not substantiated by the survey. The survey asked for maximum speed on a particular package but when consumers contract for BB they are given an estimate of expected speeds. This is what customers are paying for. it may not be fair that everybody up to 38mbs or whatever pay the same price (which is not always the case – see Vodafone speed guarantee) but this is not the same as saying customers are getting only half the speed they are paying. Very poor research and interpretation in my view by Which?.

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I stopped complaining to my ISP when they provided a realistic estimate of speed range and stopped advertising it as a 24Mbps service. It worked for me but if an ISP is not delivering a speed within their estimated range on a regular basis they should be required to revise their estimate. I’m excluding problems due to wiring and WiFi causing slow speeds.

My question was “what is a realistic prediction of speed”? The only one that matters to me is what I get, on average, at the input to my house. Any other is a rough guide only. Is there a way if getting an accurate personal prediction? An average for my road/locality would be quite useful.

If you contact your ISP they should be able to provide a realistic speed range that can be expected. I assume that this is based on their data for homes in the area. It it is not realistic then begins the task of establishing whether it is your wiring or an external problem.

Then, as I have asked a number of times in the past when complaints are published about speed, why not publicise asking for a personal speed from your ISP. Anything else may be fairly meaningless.

I’ve done that. See below.

I have suggested a number of times in the past publicising asking your potential ISP for the likely speed that you will receive. Advertised speeds will be general, and not apply to many people, whatever the criteria you adopt. Instead of quibbling about this, give people constructive advice.

So have I, and along with other customers pushed our ISP to provide this information, which they did before Which? Conversation was launched. The ISP also dropped the ‘up to’ claims in its marketing.

wavechange, I’m not arguing with your points, nor competing on who said what and when.

I am asking Which? through this conversation, and others, why the focus is on a not very useful advertised speed when it seems that telling people to get a persona/ or local speed prediction would be a far more constructive approach.

It seems we are far more concerned sometimes with knocking a provider than in pursuing workable solutions (if, indeed, the above solution is workable).

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I’m not criticising BT, Duncan. I’m criticising every ISP that claims more than they deliver. Just give customers a low figure and it does not matter if they will receive a higher speed than they pay for. I know that it is impossible to produce an accurate prediction of speed but at least giving a fairly broad range would be more useful than ‘up to’, a speed that few if anyone will achieve. If poor speed is caused by the internal wiring, that’s not the responsibility of the ISP and it’s up to the householder to rectify the problem or pay for this to be done. BT and others have useful advice on their websites.

Malcolm – I’m not aware that we are criticising a specific provider. The problem seems to me to lie in poor marketing and that’s certainly not confined to one company.

People do get a speed estimate. This is part of the OFCOM code. The Which? Report ignores this either due to incompetence or a desire to have a flashy headline. I doubt Which? will acknowledge this though.

What most people focus on is the ‘up to’ claim. It’s not necessary if a speed estimate (a realistic range) is provided.

Many people understand what “up to” means – and it accurately described what was being offered if thought was given to it. But it is not a very useful measure. Not a lot better is saying what 50% of people will get. What I want is an estimate of what will arrive at my house connection and I did get a reliable estimate from my provider. So that should be publicised rather than continually knocking the ISPs – helpful information that Which? should address.

But they also need to point out (maybe they do), as have others here, that the speed is an estimate at your house entry point. The actual speed users get will depend upon general traffic and also your own users, your equipment and whether wired or wireless.

wavechange, we are not. BT has not entered my comments.
I have understood from past contributions that a reasonable indication of speed can be given to a user – not accurate for the reasons duncan has given – but better than a blanket figure that really is not a great deal of help.

I take it from the statement “the average household is receiving just half of the advertised broadband speed:” that stems from Which? research “Results generated from 235,000 uses of the Which? broadband speed checker tool show that, on average, customers are paying for speeds of up to 38 megabits per second, but actually only receiving half that (19Mbps). that Which? have a reliable and reasonably accurate method of measuring individuals speeds.

Unless someone goes round homes, unplugs internal wiring and plugs in a router and computer (both in good working order and not using a WiFi connection) the test results are dubious. As we are well aware, tests need to be carried out under standard conditions to be meaningful. That’s why I hate the mpg figures on the Telegraph website because there is no advice on how to produce useful data. At least Which? suggests: “For the most accurate results, use a cable to connect your computer to your router. If you need to test wirelessly, position yourself as close to your router as possible. Make sure that nothing else is using your internet connection, or running on your computer, while performing the test.” Obviously there is no assurance that this has been done.

Yes I have my reservations but until the use of ‘up to’ speeds is banned I support efforts by Which?

So the results given by Which? are not that meaningful then? If so, not the best basis for a campaign?

The Honest John mpg figures are simply those posted by drivers and accumulated to give an average figure achieved in real life. More useful though than the NEDC figures. However we all drive differently, in different topography, carrying different loads over widely differing journey types so an average is simply an indication, but more usefully allows a comparison between different cars – exactly what NEDC was intended to do and what the WLTP is hopefully going to do better. Butter the meaning of “average” and its limitations to an individual need to be understood.

I did not say that, Malcolm. 🙁 Even if the figures recorded by users of the Which? speed test may not have been carried out as specified, I believe Which? the campaign is still valid because customers are still being misled by the claims of ISPs.

I was partly commenting on duncan’s point about the accuracy of individual predictions. If you cannot do this with any accuracy then it seems to make Which?s figures, that they use to criticise ISPs, of questionable validity.

However my understanding was that a reasonable prediction could be made. If so, that is far more useful to me as a subscriber than a blanket advertisied speed that only 50% of clients might get.

Campaigns need to be based on facts and accurate data. I hope the Which? one is. If they can predict individual’s speeds accurately then individuals themselves should be able to get a reasonable prediction. The ISPs claim of an “up to” speed is not misleading if people think about what it means; but it is not useful to most. A speed based on what 50% of subscribers will get could be regarded as equally misleading or of limited use- particularly by the 50% who don’t get it.

As far as I am aware all ISP’s using the BT FTTC service will clearly show an expected speed based on a BT provided speed checker. This expected speed is the basis of the contract for broadband services NOT the advertised up to package speed.
I think it is wrong of Which? to claim that half of consumers are not getting the speed they pay for as the comparison has been made with the up to package speed NOT the expected speeds contained in the broadband contract. I do not believe Which? collected the expected contractual speed from survey respondents.
I would also like to know how Which? have factored in problems in consumer equipment and practices which can make speedtests unreliable. We can surely only ask BB providers to provide the contracted speed to the property – they cannot allow for what the consumer then does.
I am no friend of the Broadband Industry but I am very disappointed that Which? have made a claim that they cannot substantiate.

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This comment was removed at the request of the user