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Why do big broadband providers keep failing on service?  

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Our latest broadband satisfaction survey shows the biggest providers are consistently failing their customers on service. Why do these providers rank lowest and why do consumers continue to stand for it?

Today, we’ve released our latest results on customer satisfaction with broadband providers. The fact that it paints the same story as so many of our previous surveys is very telling; the bigger providers fall down on customer service.

For the fifth consecutive survey running, TalkTalk customers have given them the lowest customer score of 40% and Sky experienced the biggest drop of all of the providers since our last survey in April.

Best and worst broadband providers

Choosing provider

Why then, do consumers continue to choose these providers?

I would suggest they go with bigger providers for a number of reasons; reliability, convenience and choice.

On reliability, I think people can be prone to conflate a ‘well-known’ brand with a ‘trusted’ brand. Research like our surveys can hopefully dispel that.

On convenience, bundling packages could have more of an influence in your choice of provider than the broadband service itself.

A third reason is that there can be a lack of choice. In some areas where there is little or no infrastructure deployment, bigger providers may be the only option on offer.

Change needed

If providers continue to recruit and retain customers then there is little incentive for them to change their practice.

We have long argued that the switching process should be easier – both assisting consumers in moving to a new provider but applying pressure to providers to step up in order to retain their customers.

We’d like to hear from you. Why do you think the biggest providers continually come bottom of our satisfaction tables? And what do you think needs to happen to for them to step up and deliver?

Update: 20 October 2017

According to our latest research, more than half of households are still experiencing problems with their broadband.

Our latest customer satisfaction survey reveals that 53% of 1,700 surveyed had a problem with their broadband last year. Six out of 10 customers of Virgin Media (61%) and Talk Talk (60%) and over half of Sky (56%) and BT (54%) customers said their broadband had failed them at least once in that time.

Far too many people suffer poor service from their broadband provider. Problems range from slow speeds to lengthy losses in connection. This isn’t good enough. We continue to advise those dissatisfied with their service to switch.

We’ve campaigned for an end to confusing broadband ads that promise speeds many customers will never get. We think as many customers as possible, if not all, should get the speeds promised by providers. Currently, if these companies achieve just 10% they are deemed to have satisfied advertising rules and regulations.

Test your broadband speed using our free tool and help us build a better picture of the nation’s broadband health in the process.

Take the Which? Speed Test


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I absolutely agree with Duncan Lewis. I switched to Zen, after seeing the recommendation in Which?, in January. Since then, I have been constantly disappointed with the service, which fails completely at least once a week, usually at peak times, and at other times drops off badly, with serious latency issues. As the (BT) local distribution network has been upgraded to Fibre-to-the-Cabinet, I assumed the problems were with the router (which I bought from Zen) or with their backhaul provision. Two weeks ago, they finally agreed to replace the router. There is some improvement in service, but still the peak time problems. I cannot fault the helpfulness or courtesy of the tech support people, but I have spent hours on the phone to them, trying all manner of re-configurations of the router, factory re-setting and throttling my upload speeds (one suggestion was that my upload was preventing speedy downloads – there was no noticeable change after I put the brakes on).
We’re not exactly rural here, being in Dalkeith, the largest town in the fastest growing county in Scotland, so my conclusion is that Zen simply hasn’t engineered it’s backbone network to cope with demand outside major cities.

I too joined ZEN, on the Basis of the Which Recommendation, I had many problems with a continuous broadband service for months, only after hours of , phoning their support desk, ( in my opinion) not knowledgeable, visit from a B T Engineer, a router swop out, did they, accept the fact that their bad service, was nothing to do with my internal wiring, distances from my local telephone exchange etc, or any of the other <> !!
P S they did admit they are no longer using ZyXEL Router, as it takes to long to reboot, appx 1 minute in my experience. After the long awaited intervention of a Zen ( expert ) was my problem reduced to an acceptable level of service. Value for money ? not in my opinion!

I suspect much of Sky’s low rating is a historical view as there was a time when their customer service was the direst of the dire. We have been a satellite customer for over 20 years, then my o2 broadband was migrated to them.

I do think their customer service has improved a lot in the last few years. You no longer have to go through a bang-your-head-against-a-brick-wall exercise to fight a first line defence to talk to someone who might actually be able to help you.

A recent internet problem was sorted out reasonably well and they did send out an engineer who fixed the problem.

Sky routers do have a problem with Wi-Fi. We still had a connection out in the garden with an o2 router, but it struggles in the same room with the Sky router.

But Sky is let down by greed. They want you to have the whole package: satellite TV, phone and broadband and where they fall down badly is not letting you update any part of your package without updating and having the whole lot. Our phone is with BT.

When we had a problem with the internet I tried to update it to fibre. But I couldn’t have fibre unless I switched the phone to them, and we would be without phone and internet for at least a week which was completely unacceptable.

We enquired about upgrading to Sky Q but we can’t upgrade without switching our phone to them…..grrr

Another problem is the phone and TV is in my husband’s name, and the broadband in my name. They refuse to connect the accounts or put them both in the same name without taking out new contracts. Why should we have to enter new contracts with a company we have been customers of for years? I hate being forced into contracts especially when I have been a customer for so long.

So because of their greed, we have an inferior service that we are paying too much for because we don’t get a discount for having more than one product even though they promised the accounts would be linked when my broadband was migrated to them.

Sky are also losing out because if we could have upgraded the bits we wanted when we wanted, they would be getting more money out of us and we would have been happy customers.

The only reason we have stayed with Sky is their satellite TV which was excellent. But that is no longer the case.

We only have 3 series recording at the moment, Zoo, Colony and The Last Ship. We used to record so many series, we couldn’t keep up and they were queued up for the summer when most of them had a rest. But new series are not making their way to Sky, they are only available via Amazon or Netflix. TV & Satellite Weekly lists all the new series for the week, but most of them are not available on Sky. I was gutted when I found out the new Star Trek series was not going to be shown.

So why would we want to upgrade our broadband and get into a new contract with a company that no longer delivers?

If we do update our broadband, it won’t be with Sky, and if we get fibre we will no longer need satellite TV and that will be a great shame.

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We watch the same things, Alfa. Although Zoo seems increasingly riddled with logic issues…

And you’re spot on re: sky. They offered to supply us with two new Q boxes and do the installation for nowt the other day, as I was ringing up to replace a defective Sky HD+ box. Trouble is, they don’t teach their staff too well. Sky Q is 2TB, whereas we have two 2xTB boxes and, as I pointed out, that adds up to 4Tb. Going to Q would be effectively downgrading.

I’m sure some of these sci-fi series are made up as they go along Ian.

Do you also think quality and availability of new content has gone downhill?

On the first point, they certainly are, Alfa, because the way the system works in the States dictates that show runners don’t know until almost the last minute if they’ll be working the following year.

My better half and I were discussing this last night. Grimm was outstanding, in our view, and cancelled for no good reason. West Wing was another excellent series, as was Stargate, but for every great series there’s a morass of doss. But I suppose that simply reflects the state of products in the world, anyway.

Chris Goddard says:
23 September 2017

I have just cancelled my TV sky contract, well I actually did that in April. But that is another story! Anyway, as I say I have cancelled the sky TV service. But have kept the telephone and Fibre Broadband service. I have also told Kevin the sky customer service person that I WILL be moving to a new broadband supplier asap. Again, nothing about having to keep one service over another? So I should go back to sky and tell them what you wish to do. Please do contact me if you wish for any more info.


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Chris Goddard says:
26 September 2017

Hello Duncan, good question! One I asked myself and not something I had really thought about. However I cancelled my NEW contract with sky for the new FIBRE broadband with speeds of UP to 75mbps?? And as I am on the old fibre at UP to 25mbps and am getting good ness alone knows what actual speed. But put it like this? I get buffering all day, but more usually around T-time 1700 to 1900. But I also get this at the really busy Tims of day too, like 0300?. And dropping out? That is enough to make a Vicar swear! But to get back to the point in question, when I assured KEVIN (The American at sky customer services) of the fact I was going to change my Broadband but wanted to keep the same telephone package. He did not figuratively speaking mention any5hing untoward? Perhaps he didn’t believe me when I said he was not the object of my ire in cancelling said contract??

But do indeed appreciate your input my friend! Incidentally, is it possible to obtain broadband by actual fibre?? I only as as we are in possession of a cable entry as well as the copper telephone line? Or like we had in our old property, two telephone lines? One a residential number and the other a business and dial up internet line? Albeit that was several years ago! 👍

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I am happy with John Lewis Broadband (Plusnet of course). They are easy to contact with a problem and quick to respond, whether by phone or through my account. My only complaint has been that very occasionally, towards the end of the monthly subscription, I get a message that the included Bullguard subscription has expired. This worries me, but it recovers in a day. I am told by JL BB that even when it has “expired” it is still active……..

Alison Dawson says:
22 September 2017

We changed to Virgin ( getting a TV, phone, broadband package for the first time) when cable was installed along our road. We were with BT before and never had problems. Virgin has been a nightmare from the start. We were losing connection for perhaps five or ten minutes at least twenty times a day. We’ve had a terchnician out to the roadside box several times. Eventually they decided it was connected up to our property incorrectly. Problem solved for a few weeks but then back to square one – and round we go. We can’t wait for our contract to end! On the plus side their customer service is superb. The staff on the phone always helpful and as I mentioned the tech has been out several times to try and sort us out.

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Ordered broadband from the BT group back in July. Still waiting. Sold it as being available in 2-3 weeks. After 2 months I am being told the lead time is 4-6. Is this super fast broadband?

Just tried your broadband speed checker.
Its confusing me.
Why do the results seem to be in different measures than the provider comparison table?
175ms response time
4.4Mbs download speed
3.1Mbs upload speed
provider comparison:
Advertised speed (Mbps)
Download speed (Mbps)
how do I use these figures?

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Have to say, using talktalk for many years at my mothers. I have found them to be totally rubbish.
I can not think of one part of using them as even average. When I tested it at my mothers in Clacton, we regularly got 2.8 download and 0.7 upload. this is very poor and no ware near as advertised. Many calls to customer services, which are worse than bad. Rude and have no knowledge of UK law, or the terms and conditions of talktalk. If it was my broadband I would have cancelled it years ago. My mother was old and didn’t want the aggravation. Just felt I had to comment on this deplorable company.

Simon Lawson says:
27 September 2017

Threatened to leave them when contract ran out in July 2016 and they offered me a better deal which I insisted had to be unlimited downloads. Moved home end of September 2016 and had BT transfer my service. Now I discover I am on a limited download service and I have gone over by 36 G which has cost me £63 which I can not really afford due to disability forcing me to be on fixed income. Tried to phone and complain on 25 Sept. 2017. The person I was talking to kept speaking over me and then I was cut off. They did phone back but cut me off as soon as I answered, twice. Then sent a text saying someone would phone me again on 27 Sept. and as yet (at1345) that hasn’t happened. I couldn’t get an answer as to when they changed my contract from unlimited, when my current contract was started or when it will end. I will never use BT again!

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They just don’t care – indeed, if they ran their service as well as their accounts department, they’d be pretty good!

no sooner had I paid for upfront line rental with BT the service speed dropped and charged for sport. I can get out of the BB service but they insist I loose the line rental and NOBODY will take on just BB without line rental. Stitched up good and proper for the next two years.

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Peter Northall says:
3 October 2017

Plusnet. Both Broadband and mobile.
In short: _DON’T!
They are without any doubt the worst broadband provider I can remember having. The famed customer service is awful; 30 minute waits on the phone to be connected with somebody who has less knowledge than I do; a pointless online chat option (last time I was 17th in line), and then they blame YOU for their failures. The bb speed is always at the lowest end or below. The mobile didn’t work overseas despite being set up for it.
Awful awful awful.

We’re with B4RN which isn’t included on the Which? list presumably because it is a local community initiative – as it’s name implies it is ‘broadband for the rural north’ delivering fibre directly into our homes, not to a cabinet down the road. We get a great service, but what I don’t understand is the discrepancy in speed test results between the Which? broadband tool and speedtest.net. Which? broadband speed checker gives Latency 68ms, Download 124.3Mbps, Upload 366.7Mbps whereas Speedtest.net gives Latency 22ms, Download 897.24Mbps and Upload 940.43Mbps, both using an ethernet cable plugged into the router, not Wifi. Who’s wrong? Are the servers for the two speed checkers in greatly different locations and if so could that explain the difference? The Which? tool won’t permit me to submit the test results without me choosing a broadband provider from their dropdown list, but B4RN isn’t on that list. A pity as there must be other Which? readers in the North Yorkshire/Lancashire/Cumbria border region who could benefit from B4RN if they knew about it. If enough people in a rural community register an interest then B4RN can make plans to head their way, but if Which? will only give publicity to the worst providers and not the best, that is only helping people rise from truly awful to mediocre.

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Hi Peter and Duncan, we are aware of the great work that B4RN are doing, and it’s good to hear from their customers directly. I’ve just checked to see why we haven’t included them in our surveys so far and the reason is because we need to have a minimum of 30 of their customers to take part in our annual survey, in order to get a fair representation – this is the same for all providers.

We do still engage with B4RN and keep up to date on what they’re doing for their customers.

Upgraded to Bt Infinity 1 with advertised speeds up to 52Mb in April 2017. The account details in MyBt state an assured speed of 34Mb for our phone line.
The maximum EVER achieved has been 22Mb todate in this new contract. Three complaints have been made about slow BB speeds to BT through July to October this year. An overseas call centre has dealt with these complaint without any remedy. This is despite many lengthy telephone calls and following all their instructions on at home settings. Their online fault logs now show these complaints as fixed.
The quality of response has been awful. Nothing has been achieved in trying to get what we were promised and paid for in terms of download speeds. The whole thing is a shambles.
This can only be seen as a blatant case of misrepresentation by Bt Sales.
My online account is even offering an upgrade package to speeds of up to 76Mb. This is obviously at an even higher cost. If they fail to supply at contracted speed how can they offer an even faster one?
We are stuck in this contract until April 2018. There is nobody intelligent who you can get through to. All the calls are fielded by overseas operatives who fail on all counts with communication and service.
How can this situation be legal?

The Bt Wholesale broadband speed checker states my acceptable speed range for my telephone line is 15 to 21Mb

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John Tuerena says:
23 October 2017

I have argued for some time now that the physical restrictions of copper cannot handle the high bandwidth needed to transmit megabits of data efficiently. Compression of signal and data is the only way to make this work and compressed signals have a limited efficiency.

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Could the bosses and other employees are using another network for their phone ,broadband and do not care if it works or not because it will no affect them ?

@j964144156 Can you state the number of people surveyed that made up each percentage please? The figures don’t mean a lot without them.

I am far happier with my Sky on 45% than someone I know on Zen at 84%.

Colin, do you think you could change your @ name to @ColinMcGuire so we can find you easily.

Much of this is pointless – Across several speed checkers I average .38 mb download (.7 for which) and average .25mb upload (froze on upload for Which). The problem is that, even though we have super fast fibre optics running just 5 meters away from my front door, it goes to our telephone exchange 4 miles away then comes back to me (the last house on the exchange line) along very old and many times repaired phone lines. We’ve tried 4 companies so far and NONE have ever got close to the 1.5mb they all promised dispite coming to us with engineers and checking everything out! Satalite internet is unsustainable and will become increasingly unreliable, let alone that it’s far too expensive. So my hopes of selling my wares from my croft via the internet in the far North of Scotland is out the window. Following letters to the company rolling out the “super fast optics” here get the reply that “If they can find a solution it will be rolled out on or after 2025”. Any suggestions as to how I now proceed Which?

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How do you currently sell your wares?

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I was replying to Mr Scratchard’ s post duncan “So my hopes of selling my wares from my croft………”

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Isn’t it about time that all ISPs moved to using IPv6 then we could all have our own fixed IP address or group of IP addresses so that we could access machines remotely without having to fiddle about with port forwarding on our routers?

The whole business of multiple providers, switching etc. is a complete farce. It makes the whole thing much more expensive and not fit for purpose. There will never be a satisfactory outcome until the whole network is nationalised with a truly democratic users watchdog with as little interference from politicians as possible. Why is it that the national health service is seen as the only reasonable answer for our good health but for utilities “national” is unacceptable. The only problem with the NHS is private medicine which runs counter to to the whole concept of care to all. Similarly our utilities are so expensive and underperforming because of overmanning and unnecessary complexity. On a personal note Openreach is yet again in our small village for its weekly visit. They have spent more money patching up the antiquated line than completely replacing it.

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The NHS provides free health care. That is very different from what the utilities are expected to provide. Real competition should good at keeping innovation moving, and ensuring businesses are run as efficiently as possible and free from political interference. I do not think that nationalised industries were good at efficiency, innovation and certainly were subjected to political interference.

What we need are good guardians to ensure that we have fair markets – something the regulators should be doing. So I’d concentrate on making Ofgem, Ofcom, Ofsted, CQC, FCA, for example, do their jobs properly and in the consumers’ interests as well as those of the industry they seek to regulate. Which? should have a major role in watching that this happens.

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What’s the point of wibbling about broadband speeds and suggesting changing suppliers when the vast majority will get the same speed as it all comes via Openreach. Price and service when things go wrong are sensible reasons for swapping supplier but speed and quality of broadband won’t alter.

It is very difficult to form a view how good or bad local IP performance can be on a “debating” forum like this. Understandably the poor experience attracts the most comment

We have two fibre lines (one business): PlusNet @ 64mbs (more than promised) and BT @ 40/45mps (as promised). We are 2 miles from the exchange on FTTC and 300yds from the cabinet at the end of dodgy aluminium life expired cables. Lines can get noisy when it rains, but line breaks are the most common problem. It is not speed but, customer service is the most important.

The local Which comparison site is not helpful – We simply do not recognise the speeds achieved (half ours or less) and note Plus Net is not even listed. We have done and logged the check 3 times since Which gave the option but see no change to the table. In our experience it better checking the customer performance maps on the Thinkbroadband site