/ Technology

When ‘Great Expectations’ are not met


News just in: the higher your expectations, the more likely you could be disappointed. This is not my analysis of the London dating scene, but rather a reflection on today’s new revelations about bad broadband in the UK.

This week we learned some pretty disheartening details about the UK’s broadband health. According to Cable.co.uk’s global ranking of broadband speeds, Britain came an underwhelming 31st (!). Today we’ve been dealt another blow with our analysis showing the faster the speed you expect, the less likely you are to actually get it.

Expectations form an interesting part of our lives. We expect our train to show up on time. We expect the person who shows up in the bar to look at least remotely like their Tinder picture. We expect to have an internet connection fit for modern life.

Expectation vs reality

We’ve been uncovering many problems around connectivity since we launched our Fix Bad Broadband campaign this year. And now, according to our research, there’s something else to add to the broadband customers’ list of woes. We’ve discovered that the faster you expect your broadband to be, the further away you’ll be from achieving that speed.

For example, consumers who reported they expected speeds in excess of 30Mbps (between 30Mbps and 500Mbps) were only getting 54% of the speed they were expecting.

Here’s a graph showing our findings:

Consumer tested broadband speeds compared to expected speeds

Speed dating

My dating life might be a lost cause, but I’d like to at least be able to rely on a decent broadband connection. If our connectivity expectations are nothing more than a pipe dream, then perhaps Dickens had his finger on the pulse when he wrote in his famous novel: ‘Ask no questions, and you’ll be told no lies.’

I’m keen to hear what our online community thinks.

Why does the gap between achieved and expected speeds widen in this way? Why are consumers treated differently for connectivity than for other products? What can consumers hope for to fix bad broadband?

Don’t forget, you can contribute to our growing picture of the UK’s broadband connectivity by using our speed test and submitting your results.

Take our speed test


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So far as I am aware the UK has not committed to Chinese nuclear energy plants. Hinkley Point C will be a French design with partial Chinese funding. Sizewell C might be the first Chinese-built nuclear power station in the UK but nothing has been signed. “Built to a price” means our taxpayers pay a heavy cost for taking our foot off the pedal in nuclear power generation several years ago.

As far as I know, the Chinese are building power stations as quickly as they can, to meet the needs of their rapidly growing economy. This involves them buying in foreign expertise, from many different nations and building many different types of nuclear station, including versions developed in collaboration with other countries.

I think EDF are hoping to build a another twin EPR station at Sizewell but a CPR (a Chinese development of the French EPR) is being considered for Bradwell in Essex. Other new UK nuclear stations are being proposed by Horizon and NuGen, using BWRs and Westinghouse AP1000 PWRs respectively.

George says:
19 August 2017

Hi All,
Just jumped in here because at present, I’m seeing 1.2mb on an ‘up to’ connection of 80!

Sadly, with so many of us still using the ancient Copper cables, I reckon this situation – whilst not regular – is still going to be a problem in the future.

Unfortunately, being British, we accept all this B.S. and the Government and the rich f*ckers know that.

Moan over……

Well this is what to do – persist. I was on EE Fibre and getting around 20Mbps. I phoned EE and they decided to send out a CUBE engineer. He checked my router etc. all good. I renewed my contract with EE and for 18 month contract got a reduced price and super fast broadband up to 76Mbps. – unfortunately still only getting 20Mbps. cut a long story short I emailed the CEO of EE and got personal service. I was telephoned a number of times and eventually a BT engineer sorted the problem – new wiring in the house and a new line to the cabinet. Excellent Customer Service from EE! New speed at router down 73Mbps and up 16Mbps. In fact the Which Speed Test gave 89Mbps down and 45Mbps up?! EE does not do too well in your surveys but my experience has been that they provide excellent customer service.

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I’m a new subscriber to Which. I have been running a campaign (for three and a half years) to bring fast broadband to the rural outer edge of the London Borough of Bromley (approx. 1200 homes and businesses in the area). My starting survey found that our average download speed was 2mbps (yes TWO) – and we are in London !!
My campaign has been a voluntary activity – I feel very strongly about the subject. The campaign has led me to meetings with government ministers – I had a personal meeting with Sajid Javid (when he was DCMS lead), many meetings with our MP (Jo Johnson), meetings with Bromley Council, and I lobbied the Mayor of London’s office. I have had many discussions with residents, discussions with many technology companies, and have engaged in writing thousands of e-mails. There have been many setbacks and delays on the journey, as for the most part no companies saw the area as profitable enough for them to invest.
Despite the government rhetoric and publicity, I have had virtually no help from the authorities ! I contend that the government’s strategy is fundamentally flawed and misguided, and seems to focus on blaming private companies (eg BT) for their limitations in seeking to make a profit ! As I said earlier, companies did not want to invest in my area as they could not see a payback. Even when Sajid Javid offered me £360k of BDUK funding in 2015, I could not use this as my local authority (LBB Bromley) refused to match fund it. So much for an effective government strategy !
I decided to strike out on my own. After finding innovative ways of filling my “begging bowl” I was able to seal deals with two telecoms providers to provide fast broadband solutions to the area. As I write, I have implemented “fast” broadband for approx 550 households (via Openreach FTTC) and started an implementation of “radio broadband” (via Pine Media) for another 600 households. Even those getting only 9mbps via FTTC are delighted as it is over 10 times the speed they previously had !!!
I have had to do all this myself, which is a strange way of going about installing essential infrastructure for the community. Fast broadband is the “new utility” and is essential for UK plc to be successful. We have a very flawed government strategy if I and a bunch of other amateurs have to do all this work !!!

Well done Steve. It’s good to hear when people take action and succeed in their aims.

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Excellent work, Steve. Worryingly, a similar situation prevails throughout the UK. You should form a limited company to advise those needing BB.

Jonathan Butler says:
3 September 2017

Hello all, I live in a semi-rural area in Cornwall and am at the end of the line with regards to the bt open-reach copper network. My average download speed in 256k. I have experienced increasingly slow and inconsistent speeds with the connection dropping pretty much every 30 mins. This has been going on for over two years now, i have had a number of engineers around and to be honest they have not done anything that has benefited me. I have been told by the engineers several times that it is down to the aging copper network that BT openreach control and every provider would be the same. The most annoying thing is that 300 mtrs down the road all properties have access to the superfast network. Numerous times i have complained to my providers (EE) but unfortunately they tell me their hands are tied as Open reach controls the network.
Any suggestions on how to get BT to do anything?

I am around 7 miles from the BT exchange , not even on copper wire so gave up trying to get broadband down the wires a long time ago. In Scotland our government ran a free connection scheme that would enable you to get broadband via Satellite and although you are restricted to whatever amount of MB you can afford I have been able get a good speed of up to 11 MB which is adequate for my needs. What puzzles me is why my isp Freedomsat, run by Bently Walker is not on your list of suppliers.

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First of all you, ie “Which?”, need to get a speedtest link that works!! I have tried is twice today and it stops at “preparing download test”. However, I then used “speedtest.net” as I regularly do and my results were – download 109.90 and upload 6.22. I am on a Virgin cable network and pay for 100Mbps, so I am very happy and lucky. (The time of this test was 12.17hrs on a Friday.)

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Sorry to hear you’ve been experiencing issues @alanlloyd.

It’s been known that during busy times we have had reports of users having difficulty testing their broadband speed. Please accept my apologies for this. Don’t be deterred though. Please continue to try.

Occasionally, it’s might not be possible feasible to run the test because an individual’s broadband connection is so slow the test cannot complete (although this doesn’t sound like it would be the case for you Alan).

I hope you get somewhere soon. Keep us posted if you still experience difficulty.

In an interview on Radio 4 this morning a slightly aggressive interviewer(ess) was attacking Matthew Hancock. The basis of the need for higher speed broadband was the ability to download films and itunes. I’d be much more sympathetic to supporting the subsidy required if it was to improve business, Perhaps it is a sign of the state of the nation that entertainment is a more important criterion than wealth creation. 🙁

…more bread and circuses… 😉

To some extent it always has been. Certainly explains why footballers are paid the astronomically high sums they are.

Not forgetting the stupendous transfer fees, bungs, cars, clothing and other emoluments.

They get free lip salve? Oh, wait…

Yes, that as well – you mustn’t touch their emoluments.

Frederick. Buckley says:
15 September 2017

I have made the enclosed suggestion verbally to a Broadband Service Provider -” I would be happy to pay for the speed actually delivered pro rata to the speed / cost advertised.”
I got no response from them. THE PROVIDERS EXAGGERATED CLAIMS ARE TOLERATED AND ACCEPTED TOO EASILY by Government and Customers in the UK.
I worked in Madrid for two years, about 6 years ago, and experienced first class speed and service?!!!!
Perhaps the time is now ripe to say that if you do not supply what you advertise [a breach of contract] you will not be paid.

billt grant says:
19 September 2017

yes which speed test dont work try fixing.