/ Technology

My broadband problems brought me down loads

Sad smiley key on computer keyboard

Last month I spent more time speaking to my broadband provider’s helpline than my family. I couldn’t resist telling this to the customer service support staff, and got a sympathetic laugh from the end of the line.

I don’t know what it is about being stuck on the phone trying to sort out technical problems, but I seem to turn into my dad. I can’t control it. It just happens.

Between coming up with awful dad jokes, such as the title for this piece, I was getting more and more frustrated. I’d spent three weeks with speeds under 2Mbps (I should have been getting much faster) and at some points I had no broadband at all.

I snapped. I started doing daily broadband speed tests and became one of those people who just spoke about their internet woes. Working on Which?’s Broadband Speed Guaranteed campaign was an excellent channel for this frustration, but I was no fun at parties.

I’m not alone in my frustration. Our latest broadband satisfaction survey reveals that the biggest providers are letting their customers down. BT, Sky and TalkTalk came bottom of the pile, with smaller providers like John Lewis Broadband, Plusnet and Zen Internet topping the tablet.

Give us broadband speed guaranteed

We also asked customers about their satisfaction with broadband speeds, and most of the providers received a score of three stars or less.

This ups the ante for our Broadband Speed Guaranteed campaign. Not only are we campaigning for providers to improve their service, we want customers to get the speeds they’re promised when they sign up.

At the moment broadband providers are allowed to advertise speeds that only 10% of their customers actually get. That’s why we’re reiterating our call to the advertising watchdogs, The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and The Broadcasting Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP), to tighten the rules so that advertised broadband speeds more closely match customers’ real experiences. Our executive director Richard Lloyd said today:

‘We’ve told the advertising watchdogs that companies need to be much clearer with their customers about the speeds they can expect. However, three months on, we’re still waiting for them to announce how they’ll ensure adverts only show the speeds most customers actually receive.’

I’m back online

In case you’re wondering, after four callouts my broadband is now back up and running. I was so happy I could have hugged my technician, Winston. (I did.)

Is your broadband service bringing you down loads? We want to hear about it.


My telephone line fault was reported on 11.01 2016 and fixed on 19 01 2016, but the fact that I got it done reasonably quickly was due in my opinion to the fact that I had previous experience of the provider/openreach protocol in an incident, not long before, and the fact that I made an educated guess as to where the problem was on the line connecting to my property and what was causing the problem. It was due to water entering into (old) equipment fitted by openreach in which the rubber seals had perished. The engineer volunteered that it would be probably many years for the old stock to be used up. However my reason for posting all this is to underline the fact that providers are also at fault to some extent. In that my reputable provider, had not heard of the Which report on openenreach Dec 2015, was not aware of its criticism about providers taking any compensation due from open reach rather than the customer. Lastly I had to ring my provider to stop them sending a second openreach engineer to fix the same fixed line connection, It was alleged that openreach had not informed the provider themselves that the work had been done,, I found that astounding because I had taken the trouble to tell my provider by phone immediately that the line fault had been fixed. It seems that staff at both ends do not read or take messages well. I have the doubtful benefit that unlike my next door neighbour my line was fixed in a reasonable time, in his case he had the bad luck to report the problem just before Christmas, and then waited and waited and so on. three households had an openreach hole in the driveway to get around to enter our properties at the festive time with visitors etc!!So tell your provider as much as you can abut the problem as soon it occurs, go through the checking protocol, however annoying it seems, tell them if you or anyone in your home is a vulnerable person (a care line holder for example) and then follow up and follow up. Good luck.

Very good practical-down to earth advice R.G.Taylor . I take it as you mention an-openreach hole in the driveway and seal being faulty that it was a pole DP (distribution point box ) fault and that the tail of the cable from the box to the UG ( underground) joint in the manhole had water ingress . It surprises me too as an ex BT engineer that they were told to use the old boxes till they were used up as there is a world of a difference between them in in resisting water ingress . The actual UG joint should use shrink down plastics for a permanent seal .

I cannot believe the amount of the plastic bottle thingys on the poles that I see have fallen down to be upside down and will take water yet these are the same roads I meet the vans on all the time
I ask an engineer not so long ago and he said that unless a fault is reported no one will look at them,,,,,,in others words,, they are not allowed to simply stop and fix the obvious.
Is this not another example of BB economics resulting in bad service

Your right Dee , BT has to have a report about a fault before it takes action the days of somebody going round checking infrastructure are long gone. Those plastic bottles ,like the UG versions hold the joints in the cable between the box on the pole/wall and the cable going back to the street cabinet if water gets in it can effect your telephone/ broadband connection by HLI/LI -heavy low insulation /low insulation or battery to earth faults .

Thanks I have been away, so catching up on replies.Yes I was surprised too but the remark was from an open reach man and and maybe he did not know as much as he seemed to claim, secondly, the the “box” or piece of equipment in my case was about say 10 inched long by 2inch in radius a bit torpedo shaped, fortunately l have easy access to mine (unlike my neighbour with the hole in the ground)as it is in a plastic covered box off the driveway, but it still lets water in, so I insisted that the engineer strapped it up, or kind of suspend it higher above water.. Hopefully, it will last long enough for me , I am 86 !! Reg Taylor

Hi Reg – Outreach should make it waterproof its their equipment , as you probably know rain combined with high wind can drive water into the smallest openings that would cause your phone/broadband to go down . They have shrink down plastic to cover joints to make a watertight joint . If it is terminating strip rather than a joint then it still should be watertight if its not then go to Outreach,s website and report it running a bit of PVC tape round it is not good enough . They MUST take action on a reported fault in their equipment as it could be a public hazard.

Right Duncan, I’ve got the message and will get on to open reach to fix it properly with the plastic cover as you recommend,and many thanks .R G Taylior

Anita Burksfield says:
6 April 2016

My daughter at the moment has no broadband & no landline, she is with Virgin. She has complained over & over, her broadband went down two weeks ago & Virgin told her “we don’t have enough engineers so you won’t get put back on till 11 of April or later! Her landline with them went down on Sunday, same excuse. Honestly she & I are at our wits end, she is recovering from Cancer & has a 12 year old who is Autistic & needs the home phone for the hospital to call her cancer nurse. She has told them too, I can’t help as I’m down in Cornwall & she lives in north London. She has a mobile with EE but has to pay for her calls, of which she can ill afford . I have contacted Virgin through Twitter but that’s not going to help. How can these companies get away with this kind of thing, on contract & still have to pay when you don’t get the service. It makes me so mad.

Anita I sympathise with you ,it looks like a cable fault unfortunately Virgin have their own cable and ducting and not BT,s therefore they repair their own cable or sub contract it out to a private company to repair . If you could give me the area with a general postcode (for the area ) I could check out the fault ,if they make it available. Sorry I cant be more helpful.

Okay Anita checked out Virgin,s own website , including other-cable down websites cant find any for North London being faulty . On the other hand 100,000 Virgin Media customers who dont have fibre are being transfered to Talk -Talk including the North London area ,there is no option . Is your daughter one of them Anita ?

Catherine Mears says:
5 May 2018

April and May so far this year have been the worst ever service I’ve experienced from Virgin with bad quality phone lines; slow broad band; no broad band, being put through to 5 Cities in India, back to Scotland and then to Wales and back to India with no clear way putting in a complaint. Was even told to calm down and no worries it’ll soon be fixed by someone in India. Dreadful dreadful service; cannot wait to get away from Virgin.

Catherine VM have in the past been a bit “inventive ” with the truth of their lines and BT+Openreach have nothing to do with their underground cable labeling FTTC + Co-ax as “full fibre ” and names like that . Lets get this straight – COAX is copper its just got a better rejection of noise+interference than a twisted pair copper line it isnt a “miracle ” electrical component its just a piece of copper wire with an Oxford Street “jacket ” over it. As such it will not achieve outstanding success in speeding up your broadband line . What you want is FTTP , if VM is supplying your cable then they can upgrade it as well . VM has been cutting UK based call-centres and exporting them ” to India like Swansea cutting 772 jobs . Why is it always BT that is criticized when VM do the same ?