/ Technology

Why I don’t want superfast broadband


Whether it’s Al Pacino trying to get a better broadband speed with Sky, or Usain Bolt signing up to Virgin’s fibre optic service, it’s clear ISPs think we should splash out on their superfast broadband deals. But will you?

Superfast broadband is certainly appealing. It’s getting more affordable and heavy internet users will definitely appreciate the faster speeds it gives. Equally, if you only get very slow ADSL speeds of 3-4Mbps (or less) then switching to fibre, if it’s available, is a good idea.

But for many of us there’s no real need. Which? Convo regular Wavechange agrees:

‘I am happy with my 7Mbps because the connection speed is remarkably stable throughout the week. Sometimes I have to upload large files to a server. It does not matter that this is slow because I can get on with other tasks at the same time.’

Tom disagrees:

‘I can only get 1.5Mb as I’m the furthest away from the BT exchange so opting for Virgin cable was a no brainer as I now get 20Mb.’

We’re campaigning to get broadband speeds guaranteed, so that providers give you the speeds you’re promised. You can help by joining 20,000 others in signing our petition.

I’m sticking to ADSL

I use the internet most days but the 10Mbps download speeds I get through my ADSL connection are more than enough, whether I’m streaming movies over Netflix or emailing friends.

This may change as my family grows, placing more demands on my connection, and with more services moving online. Much like dial-up internet, ADSL will ultimately disappear and fibre will become the default option.

However, until that point I’m content to stick with my good value ADSL package (naturally from a Which? Recommended Provider) rather than spend twice as much for unnecessary speeds.

Do you think superfast broadband is over-priced and over-hyped, or the only way to stay connected?


The aspect about ADSL I dislike most is not the slow speed (particularly the slow upload speed), but the requirement to have a physical phone line that I don’t need or want, which incurs a hefty charge of around £140 per year or more.

For those people who prefer to call me on a fixed line number, I have a London 020 number which reaches me via VoIP wherever I am in the world for which I pay nothing whatsoever. Gone are the days when the internet operated over telephone lines; now telephone lines operate over the internet. The requirement to have a physical fixed phone line in order to have broadband is very last century and the sooner this requirement is gone, the better.

Mike Suttill says:
5 April 2014

I totally agree that the need for a land line is old hat and a commercial ploy to keep as much business as possible with BT and other fixed line providers. The sooner Sky (or others) facilitate the internet over satellite links the better for all!!!

You obviously do not live in a rural area where we do not even get sewerage. Fibre is years away for many people. We are stuck with telephone lines for the foreseeable future.

Simmondp says:
10 April 2014

You have obviously never used a sat link for data. Most rural sat links are used in conjunction with a land line to help reduce the latency on the line.
Latency is in the region of half-a-second (request + reply) and bandwidth per person in the region of 100’s of kbps (not Mbps).
Then add the cost……
Suitable for parts of Africa, the wilds of parts of the America’s – but UK and Europe – unlikely if would make economic or practical sense.

I left BT in December because of slow speed issues (and their crap customer service).
Now on a ’40mb’ package with EE and the problems are just as bad, if not worse.
I have dozens of speed tests below 5MB and loads under 1MB!! Slow streaming, freezing etc., mostly in evenings but not always. Hit a low of 0.1Mb the other evening!!
Technical support is a joke, on phone lines that you can barely hear anything on (a ‘known problem’ I’m told but still ongoing!), and EE customer service is about as bad as BT’s.
I’m now told I can leave with no cancellation fee. Haha!
Where to next?? Anyone know any good ISPs??

Steve says:
4 April 2014

Just take a look at the recommended Which? Suppliers! I have and am more than pleased with my choice! I don’t get fast BB as I am so far away from the exchange, but the customer service I get is brilliant

Margaret Barnes says:
4 April 2014

Go to PlusNet, a which recommended provider. We have ASDL and routinely get 12MB, 10 at busy times. Next door neighbour has PNet’s fibre optic and gets 20MB. We don’t need that. Their customer service is brilliant. Takes a while to get through now (they are taking on more staff, opened a second contact centre) compared to in the past – but the wait is always worthwhile, because they Sort Things, and operators know what they are doing, are polite and friendly, and are in the UK (Sheffield).

Steve says:
5 April 2014

Don’t forget that Plusnet have been owned by BT since 2007.

Tallboy292 says:
5 April 2014

Good ISP? I am with John Lewis broadband (ADSL) I get 7.5 Mbps, fine for web browsing, customer service excellent, very consistent connection. 20 gb monthly limit. £29 pm including phone line and all 01 number calls. Can’t be bettered.
NFH complains phone line costs £140 per year but so does the upgrade to cable.

Foluso says:
5 April 2014

I cancelled BT, Sky and Talk Talk years ago. I use Virgin Media Broadband. My download speed is 54.7mb and it is almost always constant with little variations in the early evenings. The upload speed is low though at 4.3mb. I recommend Virgin broadband to you. There is no landline charge for the broadband which comes through cable but if you take their TV and Talk weekend, you’ll pay landline charge.

David Ancketill says:
7 April 2014

I have been with utility warehouse for 3 years now and find that they are very satisfactory. The speed is around 6-7 mbs.. sufficient for my needs. Customer service is excellent. They are prepared
talk you through any problems and are extremely helpful. I recently had a modem problem and they
supplied me with a modem, helped with connection advise, and telephoned me after a couple of days to check if everything was alright. They are also suppliers of gas and electricity and mobile phone. There are good reasons why Which customers have voted Utility Warehouse the no 1 supplier this year.
David Ancketill

Steve says:
7 April 2014

Agreed, David! Utility Warehouse have given me great service over the last 4 years! However, there are a few individuals on this site that have a real issue with them! The last time I congratulated UW for great service, I was shouted down heavily! I’ve been quiet ever since! It seems that Which? readers seem to love the idea of moaning about the likes of BT whilst insisting on staying with them! Shame!
Why don’t you just move ….. To Plusnet, John Lewis, Utility Warehouse ….. Whoever! Just simply MOVE! And stop moaning! Read the results of your own magazine for April 2014 and decide for yourself

My move from EE is now complete and my new, very modest, package with TalkTalk is up and running.
To me, their promise of ‘never slowing your broadband speed’ is the biggest attraction and guess what. This £3.50 a month broadband is so far performing just as well, if not better, than the EE ‘superfast’ which is 5 times the price!
If you’re a big online gamer or need to download movies etc then by all means try ‘superfast’, but for moderate users who stream a bit, surf a lot and email etc. then try the much cheaper option.

Dennis says:
31 March 2014

On copper cable my speed was 1.5. On fibre to the cabinet it became 32 (20 times faster). All for £5/month/special offer with Talktalk. Well worth it!

Haven’t checked my Mbps speed but things
seem to be faster…. both my computers can
be used at the the same time unlike formerly.

Sam Cooper says:
4 April 2014

Raw speed isn’t everything. We’re on virgin media cable and do get the stated 30mb speeds when performing speed test but have constant problems with any streaming services such as iPlayer and YouTube. We’re not the only ones it seems when reading VMs own support forums.

Much preferred the old 8mb service which wasn’t as fast but always was reliable.

After dial up any broadband was brilliant. I live mlles from the exchange so speed is ultra slow. I switched from BT some time ago and although they now claim that they can deliver ultrafast broadband, the increase in speed does not come close to what they claIm is possible as we do not have cables where we live. The benefit certainly does not justify paying an extra £15 per month for the combined phone and bropadband package. Maybe people should learn to be patient.

I am generally happy with ADSL from BT (with no download limit) which feeds 2 or 3 computers and /or iPlayer on the TV. But it is irritating when the latter becomes unusable on some evenings, presumably due to contention. Does anyone have contention problems when using fibre?
(Fibre has not yet reached our village.)

Richard says:
4 April 2014

I’m on ADSL with BT – seems fine for my needs but thought I would upgrade to infinity back in January ….. orders constantly cancelled and promises made by BT to get it sorted come to nothing – I must have been told 20 times ‘we will contact you before 8pm tomorrow to keep you updated’ – they never do of course…… dreadful customer service … but what can you do? – they have a monopoly – must have a phone line and BT are the only route (no cable available here in my part of Cornwall)

Josquine says:
5 April 2014

I also upgraded to BT Infinity recently and was and remain delighted with the service. The only gripe is that when I was ordering they didn’t tell me that I had no need of a new hub. The installing engineer did though and, after some chasing I eventually got my money back.

Richard says:
4 April 2014

Go to PlusNet – but if BT can’t sort out infinity (super fast) because of allegedly ‘exchange problems’ or some such and PlusNet need the same ‘BT lines’ they won’t be able to do it either? I’m no expert on any of this as you can probably tell….. 🙁

Steve says:
5 April 2014

As I mentioned earlier, be aware that Plusnet have been owned by BT since 2007

Margaret Barnes says:
5 April 2014

If that is so (and PNet always take pains to stress they are not ‘part of BT’, in my experience anyway), BT needs to take customer service lessons from its minnow. This small estate of 17houses suffered 6 months of lines going down, no bband, ultra slow speeds etc. A junction box had flooded, and ancient wiring from 80s had begun to disintegrate. Service suppliers for us and our neighbours were many…BT, PNet, TalkTalk, etc. No exaggeration, BT must have sent 75 – 100 engineers out to the same junction box in that time period – none of them knowing a thing about the same problems other neighbours were experiencing and previous engineer visits. Unbelievable. And, during that time, the ONLY customers who were contacted, kept informed, treated well were the PNet ones. The worst (appalling in some cases) customer service was experienced by those with BT and TalkTalk. We all had to wait for BT eventually to get its act together and sort things, but I know which provider I am glad we were with during that stressful time.

I am on an ADSL line with Orange/EE and get around 4 mb, which seems to be adequate (I can watch cricket etc without problems). The only problem I have is that every few months for a few days the connection keeps dropping out. It would be nice if there was an email address to which I could send a complaint (I am not ‘phoning!!).

Could someone explain why if some of these other companies give such excellent service it seems necessary to keep ‘phoning them to get problems resolved?

Hi Al, you can complain to EE by email here: https://explore.ee.co.uk/broadband/email-us

Stefan says:
5 April 2014

I have been with Force9, which then became Plusnet, for many years. The service is reliable, fast and the customer service is excellent. I get my phone from them as well. They may be owned by BT but the seem to remain separate from them. Having previously been with BT, I would say that Plusnet are in a different league.

Ex BT Engineer says:
5 April 2014

ADSL Broadband utlises the original telephone network cables which were only designed to carry speech frequencies (ie narrow band). To achieve Broadband over these lines the mathematical theories of Shannon, Hartley and Nyquist are utilised. In essence, these theories link quantity of information (eg data speed) to the noise/interference present on the transmission medium (eg telephone cable). As the noise/interference increases the achievable data rate decreases. The noise/interference increases more or less linearly with increase in distance from the Exchange, hence much lower data rates are achievable at the maximum distance from the Exchange (5 to 6 miles). The noise/interference also increases the more Broadband Users there are on any particular cable, hence the lower achievable speeds in the early evening. Very clever engineering in the form of digital coding has been used to utilise the local telephone network for Broadband. Changing the cable from copper to optic fibre increases the bandwidth phenomenally and also reduces the noise greatly hence giving the very high “Superfast” Broadband speeds that we see quoted. Prosaically the biggest cost element of making this change is digging up the roads and laying the new cable which is why Superfast Broadband is being rolled out along existing cable routes (ie the ducting is already there in the ground so it is relatively inexpensive to achieve). So if you live “out in the sticks” like I do, don’t expect Superfast (or even Fast) Broadband over cable this decade – it’s not a cost-effective proposition for the provider (usually BT).

Richard G. says:
10 April 2014

We have an ADSL connection out here in Norfolk. Previous internet /phone providers have included BT and talk talk with associated poor customer service/high cost. We have now been with the(good old British!) Post Office for a couple of years and customer service is excellent. It hardly ever gets a mention in our ‘beloved’ mag but, tell me, what other ISP includes free week end calls to mobiles as well as the usual STD and international calls.Long live our Post Office!

Its time ISP’s were forced to charge only per Mpbs received.