/ Technology

Update: are you at breaking point with your broken broadband?

Fix Bad Broadband roadshow

The results of our nationwide broadband survey are in! Are you one of the many thousands putting up with bad broadband just because of where you live?

Update: 11 July 2017

Our Fix Bad Broadband roadshow has been a roaring success!

For the past two weeks, we’ve been visiting supporters in their hometowns hearing about their broadband problems. By taking our Fix Bad Broadband campaign on the road, we’ve been piloting whether these kind of events help us to reach more people, find new supporters and hear their powerful stories.

In Luton, for example, one new supporter told us that in his small village the internet connection was so bad that his business was failing to grow. It often took him well over an hour to check his emails as the connection would intermittently drop in and out. And sadly he told us the situation was causing him understandable financial hardship and emotional stress.

This is unfortunately not a unique story. The breadth of interest from communities and scale of concern from individuals continues to inspire us in our campaigning with you. We have many more stories like this and will be sharing some of them as the campaign ramps up.

To this end we also stopped at Parliament. During the day we spoke to 71 MPs about our Fix Bad Broadband campaign. They showed great enthusiasm to work with us and champion our broadband campaigning. Needless to say, we’re going to be continuing our conversations with MPs in an effort to get the voices of unhappy broadband customers heard in Parliament.

We also continued to promote our speed test tool during the roadshow. With 500,000 uses to date, we are building a clearer picture of problems across the UK, but we still need more in order to paint the fullest picture of the nation’s broadband health.

Thank you to all those who came out to see us. With your help we will improve the broadband service customers currently receive.

Original Convo: 27 June 2017

The UK’s best and worst broadband speeds have been revealed and the results make for very interesting reading.

The good, the bad and the almost there

Our speed test data analysis found the best-performing areas were Tamworth in the West Midlands, Reading, Adur in West Sussex, Enfield and Dundee City, in that order. However, those areas letting down residents as the worst-performing include the Orkney and Shetland Islands, the Highlands, Ryedale in Yorkshire and Purbeck in Dorset. Average tests in these areas were all below 10Mbps.

The government’s own Universal Service Obligation suggests that the minimum download speed anyone should be experiencing is 10Mbps. However, our research shows that 12 areas, broken down in our research by local authority, aren’t quite achieving even this benchmark.

Of course, you may very well assume that many of the worst performing areas are going to be rural and for the most part, you’d be right. However, many residents living in some of the most built-up areas also lag behind the national average of 17Mbps. For example, speed tests taken in the London Boroughs of Southwark, Westminster, Lambeth, Hackney and the City of London all fall behind this download speed; a figure determined from our research.

Here’s a map of the best and worst locations for broadband coverage in the UK based on speed tests. How does your area fair?

Receiving a good broadband service can often be something of a postcode lottery but, aside from complaining to your provider until you’re blue in the face or moving house, there are of couple of other things you can do about it.

First and foremost. you can take our broadband speed test and log your results with us so we can continue to build on our current research. With over 400,000 uses, our tool is helping us create a complete picture of the UK’s broadband health. Click the button below to submit your speed.

Take our speed test

After you’ve done that, the next thing you can do is to come visit us on our roadshow!

Fix Bad Broadband roadshow

Over the next two weeks we’re going to be taking our broadband campaign on the road and we’re inviting you to come and speak to our team about the problems you face getting online.


Come and visit us when our Fix Bad Broadband van rolls into a town near you.

Our crack team of broadband boffins will be on hand to offer tips on how you can improve your under-performing connection, share details about our Fix Bad Broadband campaign and invite you to get involved, and listen to your stories so we can go to government, internet service providers and regulators with the real-world problems faced by customers all across the country.

Is your broken broadband holding you back? Tell us how slow internet affects your life in the comments below, but of course we’d much rather meet our valued supporters face-to-face on the Fix Bad Broadband roadshow.

Comments

Does this speed survey look at what people currently get, or does it look at what they would get if they took the fastest service available in their area?
I ask this because I understand that, for example, fibre is available on Orkney and Shetland but subscribers may not be making use of it.
From 4 years ago – http://news.hie.co.uk/all-news/more-homes-across-highlands-and-islands-set-for-fibre-broadband-boost/

If the survey does not take any account of the available service then it gives a false picture. i hope this is not the case.

@dsamways, hello Dean. I hope Which? will clarify the above before this comment disappears! 🙂

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I have used the speed test in the introduction and filled in my details, but was not asked whether my service was standard broadband, FTTC or FTTP (the service I have). I was also not able to give the speed of my service because my service provider is one of the few that does not use ‘up to’ in the product description.

I feel that Which? could collect more useful information by asking the right questions. It annoys me that Which? Connect surveys about consumer goods don’t ask how often they are used.

I have to admit to certain annoyance to finding a picture of a van with an illegal numberplate. Or has someone be paid to photoshop it in. What a waste of time and effort.

I note in the header small print says “analysis of speedchecker ltd data ” …

Companies House says
Speedchecker Ltd – 06643737 – Dissolved on 12 January 2016 2 High Royd Lane, Hoylandswaine, Sheffield, S36 7JR

Perhaps Which? Ltd could explain what is going on.

As a help here is a link to another site which lists the other programs they have:
shouldiremoveit.com/Speedchecker-Limited-5542-publisher.aspx

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Hello, my apologies for the delay in reply. As I say, I was out yesterday and coming round to this today.

Firstly, on the number plate, I’m happy to share that it’s only in position (with velcro) when the van is off the road and becomes a static, branded events space. This is then removed when the van is on the road again so that the number plate is showing.

On Speechecker Ltd questions (and I’ll post this lower down where you’ve been asking questions about them). Speedchecker Ltd has been providing the software that powers our broadband speed checker for a number of years and we’re confident in the tool and service they provide. Speedchecker Ltd is a company registered in Ireland under company number 569154 – it has no connection to Which? and we have not bought the company. The company has a speed test tool on their website and provide custom built tools to third parties, such as Which?. The company has a number of small and large clients using their services. I hope this offers some reassurance and answers your questions.

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This doesn’t include pockets like my area. Rotherham can, I understand, get average speeds, but those served by the Thrybergh exchange are limited to approx 10Mb – which is the maximum I can get (ie just over 10 really), but when the lag is taken into consideration, the service is abysmal. It can take 5 minutes just to connect. The BT equipment is well out of date and they know it. It would seem that we’re not worth bothering with. To get a faster connection, however, I can now pay out more money and get cable. It hardly seems fair when others can get far higher speeds just by subscribing to the same service I’m subscribing to. I change providers because of the customer service, not because of speed – there’s no point.

My broadband is so bad that the speed test won’t work. I get 1 1/2 mbs and for at least half the time I have no broadband whatsoever……not even on my phone. I think it’s not only infuriating but why should I be paying the same amount of money as other customers who have a good broadband service. When I phone my provider I’m fobbed off with…..”You’re too far away from the junction box.” I’m now going to change provider.

I’m with TalkTalk and have fibre to the cabinet which is about 400 metres away so at times I can get 30 meg which is good. The week link is the TalkTalk router which is very poor and seemingly has known faults which those with the expertise eloquently explain on the TalkTalk forum. The fallings with the router lead to poor speeds, random speeds etc etc. Some TalkTalk customers have bought their own routers and now have excellent service. TalkTalk must know they have a problem but will not accept this nor do anything to rectify it. Has this cropped up anywhere in your research?

Roger says:
29 June 2017

Paul, you can purchase a decent router and configure it. There are plenty out there to choose from!

I was with talk talk,changed to Vodafone for fibre at same price.However Vodafone router is rubbish.Plugged in my old talk talk router now working well !

Ofcom publish extensive data on broadband and presumably have equally comprehensive data on speeds
https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/100761/UK-home-broadband-performance,-November-2016-Technical-report.pdf

If the data collected from Speedtest is accurate, why is it necessary to spend limited Which? resources on a travelling roadshow and just what might it really achieve that an online survey could not? Is Which? working with others, including Ofcom, to look at broadband or just duplicating what is already being done?

Hello Malcolm, we are out on the road visiting areas with poor speeds in order to help and give advice to local communities on getting access to better broadband and advice on how to improve their connection, as well as hearing their stories.

This type of offline engagement to spread the word but also to help people face to face, rather than online where these communities may not be able to access online resources, is exactly the type of engagement we should be doing more of.

I too think Which? should be more engaged with the population however this does not seem to be a particularly big commitment as only five locations are listed.

Seriously though given the way the National Grid was forced through the to be a secure source of power for ALL the country this is really what should be used to highlight the inequalities that exist.

As Govt. has made BB a cornerstone of its digital service then it should be a mandatory duty to provide speeds sufficient to use Govt/council sites.

The interesting argument is whether the ability to download videos on demand, or watch YouTube without stutters constitutes the benchmark for speed of download/upload necessary for the country.

I note people talk of families with children or businesses suffering from lack of speed. I would suggest that once you get to a satisfactory level for dealing with those bodies of importance like the utilities , DVLA etc etc, then that is sufficient and everything on top of that is down to how much people are prepared to pay for their personal needs.

There should be a base level service to every dwelling . All utilities etc banks etc govt departments should deliberately have a default low bandwidth site without extraneous glossy bits.

Rather like mankinds experience with roads – you build them bigger and for faster traffic and you then get more users than it can handle it clogs up and the cycle repeats itself.

In the subject of engagement with the public I did suggest three of four years ago that, given the cost of energy, that Which? should, either by hiring or using members, do thermal surveys of the outsides of properties and provide them to the owners gratis so they could see graphically where they were leaking expensive heat.

I suspect a lot of goodwill and a practical piece of engagement guaranteed to reach its target. I now see a recent BBC article saying it is highly effective means of galvanising action.

Which brings us to the point as to whether Which? does enough of the right type of interaction? Setting up a van on the building sites with badly designed or shoddy half-finished houses would have provided hundreds of stories and by naming the builder presumably led to some fast resolutions. And savd a lot of anguish to the house buyers as they were stonewalled by the builder.

However Which? has not done that. High profile and directly helping consumers what is there not to like?

Patrick T – I agree with you on the need to provide a standard baseline broadband service for all users and it seems that that is deemed by Ofcom to be a minimum of 10 Mbps. I don’t know enough about the technology to know how that can be applied in the present circumstances as, in most cases where there is not FTTP, it will largely depend on the capacity from the exchange to the cabinet. I do not think there is a way of rationing that out to all the subscribers connected to the cabinet so that they can only use a certain bandwidth. There must be some mechanism because there are various speed allowances available under the different tariffs, but even then, under the ‘up to’ rules, that is not a guaranteed service level. If several users connected to the same cabinet start using high demand services this will draw capacity away from other users connected to the same cabinet.

In providing broadband services the telecom service providers bombard prospective customers with all manner of enticing menus for TV, games, films, and so on without having any idea of how many devices will be simultaneously connected at each property or what the activity levels will be at different times of day, or what the true capacity is. Then people progressively take up the available capacity and somebody who just wants to do their supermarket shopping list finds it takes twice as long as going there on the bus.

Possibly, if there is FTTP, there is an easy way of controlling the capacity uptake through the size of the fibre cable or by means of a filter installed at the intake box before the master socket or alternatively in the cabinet. In practice I doubt if it is that simple as I suspect a standard high-capacity fibre optic cable is provided to each property which is designed to allow unlimited broadband at phenomenal speed 24/7 [hence ‘infinity’]. The problem has been that, as soon as capacity expanded as a consequence of the BB roll-out, content providers and advertisers started using up that capacity in ever more innovative ways in order to leverage higher revenues from the the network – a network to which they have made no capital contribution and probably no proportionate revenue contribution.

I remember years ago looking at car manufacturers’ websites: the presentation of the new models was about as interesting as looking at somebody’s holiday snaps via an automatic slide projector with long pauses as the graphics slowly segued from one image to the next. Then, as people gained better connectivity, the adverts became much more energetic with multiple images and film sequences, sharp editing, interactive feature displays, and in fact they went over the top with it all and our screens became irritatingly hyperactive. That all takes up bandwidth, and even buying humble household goods and clothing now involves all manner of views, sound, angles and rotations, tabs, filters, and other high speed motion experiences. Where will it end? Well it won’t, because – as capacity continues to expand – the entertainment, media and marketing industries will continue to fill it up without regard to the consequences when the man next door just wants to buy a railway ticket [even that is complex enough already]. As you say, it is like the road network: in a form of Parkinson’s Law, traffic builds up to fill the available capacity and only tolling or peak time lane reallocations will moderate it.

This the challenge – finding an equitable way of providing high-demand households with the access they need at an affordable price and charging content providers for the demands they place on the network capacity for non-essential services.

Hello, sorry I was out all yesterday. Now that I’m back I can share a few responses 🙂

You’re right that we’ve only committed to 5 locations for the roadshow – that’s because it’s a pilot. We want to see whether it’s popular, if it’s something people find useful in local areas, and then we’ll consider whether we invest in rolling it out across the country, including in Scotland.

So far, we’re getting really good feedback with people enjoying talking to our experts. I’m sad I haven’t been able to go along but members of my team are.

I do like your idea about engaging and helping people on energy, which I’ll re-raise with the teams.

I live a few minutes from the Cross Rail terminus at Shenfield. Years ago I was discussing my poor broadband speed with BT senior management and betting them that I would be travelling on my first new train before they/Openreach ever install fibre to the street in which I live. I am still living with under 7 mbps but guess I shall soon win my bet.

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Duncan, I think the point about Speedchecker Ltd has been missed, apart from the seemingly unappetising apps it purveys.

You cannot have two companies called Speedchecker Ltd or Speedchecker Limited as there is legislation to stop the public being deliberately confused. Companies House says the company was defunct in January 2016 so what can the status possibly be of the company that Which? is using?

Is it in breach of the law in claiming to be a limited company or implying it is? Given Which? is featuring its name and encouraging people to use its services I do really think it needs checking out.

One has to be concerned that as a matter of policy Which/ Consumers’ Association should always check carefully who it is getting into bed with as the reputation of the charity, though battered by excessive pay to the CEO, needs to be preserved.

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Company Vitals

Company Name: Speedchecker Limited
Time in Business: 1 Year Company Number:569154 Current Status: NORMAL
Website:speedcheck.ie Principal Activity:[5829] Other Software Publishing
May Trade As:Speedchecker Ltd
Registered Address:The Black Church,
St. Mary’s Place,
Dublin D07 P4ax
D07 P4AX

Directors

NAME CO. DIRECTOR ADDRESS DIRECTORSHIPS
Janusz Jezowicz Yes ANDORRA 1
Vlasta Jezowicz Yes ANDORRA 1

Interesting to see an Irish Company in the same line of work popping up with the same trading name [albeit Irish] and apparently run by people normally resident in Andorra with Czech nationality.

The regulatory regimes in Eire are not of the strongest when it comes to the computing/software industry.

This is an interesting 2015 interview with one of the Directors about BB speeds and peoples increasing expectations. It is nice to have an insiders informed comments.
img1.informatm.com/interview-with-janusz-jezowicz-ceo-optimal-software/

For instance:
” According to the latest Mary Meeker report US consumers now spend more time consuming media on their mobile devices than on laptops/desktops. I believe a similar trend is happening in the UK. Consumers for many years got used to connecting their mobiles to home Wi-Fi networks to save on costly mobile plan data usage and for increased speed. However, it’s not always the case that Wi-Fi gives those users good performance and they might be comparing their speed on their mobile with their fixed broadband. This produces a situation in which the user is not happy because of poor user experience; the mobile carrier is not happy because of higher bandwidth consumption and the broadband provider being blamed for poor performance. A recent survey by GWS (Global Wireless Solutions) has shown this problem exists in 16% of surveyed London homes.”

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Nice country, Andorra, but refuses to have railways or a navy so good place for hiding.

The same two directors as when the company (dissolved) was at a registered address in Sheffield.

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Hello folks, forgive me for the delayed reply. Here’s some information for you on our broadband speed checker. On Speechecker Ltd questions (and I’ll post this lower down where you’ve been asking questions about them). Speedchecker Ltd has been providing the software that powers our broadband speed checker for a number of years and we’re confident in the tool and service they provide. Speedchecker Ltd is a company registered in Ireland under company number 569154 – it has no connection to Which? and we have not bought the company. The company has a speed test tool on their website and provide custom built tools to third parties, such as Which?. The company has a number of small and large clients using their services. I hope this offers some reassurance. Thanks, Patrick

Broadband speed in our village is so very slow:
Latency 187ms
Download Speed 1.5Mbps
Upload Speed 0.9Mbps
I would welcome any constructive comments that would help speed things up.

I am with Virgin and was originally on 100 Mb but only getting 30 Mb. I have since had so called upgrades to 150 Mb and now to 200Mb but my speed has remained at 30Mb. Virgin have replaced the router as this was supposedly the problem and this made no difference. Now they have just fobbed me off as having “Network Congestion”. This so called network congestion is there 24/7 which I find surprising!

Elizabeth Ascua says:
27 June 2017

My phone isnt even comnecting to the speed test! Says connection error!! That says alot 😬Tried three times and im sitting on top of the router!

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Elizabeth says:
27 June 2017

But it doesn’t connect going through the pc either! I get the same message!

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Elizabeth, if you cannot connect via either your phone or your pc you may have security softwear that is blcking your access.

For what it’s worth, the speedchecker seems to run fine under Android – either via wifi or via an ethernet cable connection.

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Duncan, your 1st url wont open for me; your 2nd one dates from 2012 so isn’t very up tpdate for current Android versions.

And, didn’t Elizabeth also say she could not get the site to work from here pc?

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No problem, but I suspect you are typing rather than using copy/paste for URLs and wonder if there is a reason.

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The Which? website identifies the 5 slowest regions as
Orkney 6.3 Mbps
Shetland 8.4
Highland 8.8
Ryedale 9.0
Purbeck 9.0
Compared to the objective 10 Mbps does this really look disastrous? Are these the regions the roadshow is visiting? Given the Scottish Government’s pledge in 2013 to improve the 3 regions listed above are we getting too hung up on this? I’d rather Which? devoted this much effort to getting retailers to observe the Consumer Rights Act, deal with Amazon, push for repairable household appliances with longer guarantees, …………. 🙂

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Hi Malcolm, you can see the full data here, where you can see that people are also getting speeds of under 3Mbps in those same areas. You will have also seen the many stories from people who are unable to complete even simple and essential tasks, like online banking, shopping, or switch energy suppliers.

http://consumerinsight.which.co.uk/articles/Consumer-tested%20Broadband%20Speeds#localauthoritytable

To those who enjoy decent speeds like you and me, it can seem inconsequential, but it’s extremely important that everyone is able to get online and enjoy the bounties of the internet.

There are many important issues we work on, and this is no more or less important than them.

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@patrick, I certainly do not see it as “inconsequential”. However, a universal 10Mbs service comes at a cost, and i wonder who should pay for that? I wonder if those who complain about speed could improve by using fibre? And, of course, the choice of where you live is relevant in the service you receive, whether broadband, mobile phone, mains gas, mains sewage, bus service etc. But “inconsequential” is not a word I have used.

Incidentally, until I chose to move to fibre my typical copper speed was 2.9 Mbps. I did all the routine “household” internet tasks, from online banking onwards, quite satisfactorily. Only 1.5% of local authorities in the lower quartile have speeds in that region.

I suspect the Which? figures are using averages, which then makes the picture look fairly depressing. I believe this is a critical issue for Which?; the internet is rapidly assuming the same significance to society as roads, rail and electricity. It’s already essential for many – not simply to watch TV or films but increasingly for most of their lives.

The internet can be essential as a tool for dealing with loneliness, social isolation, mobile ‘phones, food ordering, information gathering, music, general online shopping and not simply for the housebound, distance learning – increasingly important today, communication, democratic involvement, medical resources and so much more, simply because society and business are adapting to place high speed internet at the core of daily living. I can’t remember the last time I saw a service or product offered where there wasn’t an associated web address.

So I’m very happy indeed when I see Which? expending a great deal of effort into improving broadband for everyone, and not simply the few who live near city centres.

In 1992 few had even heard of a router. But society changes and the advent of the internet and more recently the IOT is making the implicit assumption that we all have access to a decent speed. Of course there are some who argue that it doesn’t matter or that we don’t need the internet at all, but in many respects I think they display a similar attitude to the Victorians and electricity, or the Judeans Peoples’ Front in Life of Brian – “Apart from better sanitation, medicine , education, irrigation, public health, roads, a freshwater system, baths, public order and peace what have the Romans ever done for us?”.

Society has never changed as rapidly as it has in the past 30 years and in the past 25 the internet has become as crucial an aspect of modern life as the telephone or roads. Which? is absolutely right to throw its weight behind pressure for improvement and one can only imagine that the 1st Century BCE Roman equivalent – Quod? – was doing a similarly effective job, albeit in perhaps more challenging circumstances. Keep it up, folks.

I agree, Ian. Let’s think to the future. Not everyone needs fast broadband but maybe when they find that they cannot update their anti-malware protection on their computer, the need might be recognised. If more users put more demand on standard broadband or FTTC, the service will continue to decline. It’s not just a matter of average speed but the reliability of connection and what happens at peak times.

I am fortunate and have a reliable service that provides more than the advertised speed on fibre broadband (especially if I use the Which? speed checker) but I propose that we think about those who are less well provided for.

As some of us have suggested, the entertainment companies whose services depend on fast broadband connections should be making a major contribution to the cost of roll out of proper (FTTP) fibre broadband. I also suggest that ISPs charge according to use, in the same way that gas and electricity suppliers do.

John Cook says:
27 June 2017

Unfortunately I cannot attend the roadshow tomorrow as I shall be in Exeter. I live in Southleigh (EX24). The village is small but it is split between 01297 and 01404 exchanges and is no schedule has been proposed for any high speed internet service even though Colyton, 2 miles away, has been equipped with this service.

In addition there is no mobile ‘phone here. It is indicative of the shoddy service offered to customers in the countryside who are deemed not worth the investment necessary to provide a true national service. As an example of this I have been equipped with an electricity smart meter but it cannot work as intended as it requires a mobile signal in order to talk to my electricity supplier.

Regards,
John Cook

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John Cook says:
28 June 2017

unfortunately the village website you direct me to is South Leigh in Oxfordshire and not Southleigh in Devon where I live.

Having to move Hardwick in Stockton-on-Tees, as it is an adapted flat for disabled people, the fastest broadband we can get is 3.1 at most. It’s really frustrating as the houses behind us have fibre optic, and all the even numbers in our street and odd numbers from 35 upwards all have fibre optic as well, but those living in a certain court yard of small flats numbers 1 – 33 (approx) have no fibre optic and broadband is so low.

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I live in the Wakefield WF3. 4 area approx. 2mls from the exchange where servers advertise speeds of `up to’ 17Mbps. After making complaints over a number of years I have now recorded speeds of only 0.8 & 1.9 after 7No. tries using your speed checker, I may achieve 2.5Mbps on a good day. The excuse is that we are at the end of the line !! We are also at the end of our patience with the claims being made by the broadband suppliers when trying to get us to change suppliers.

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I live in East Hardwick West Yorkshire I am a B.T customer the laptop is constantly loosing it’s signal, is there any wonder when it takes 4-5 minutes to connect even to ebay and my download time is 2.00 my upload time is 1.3 .

Your broad band test severely underestimates how bad broad band is because it doesn’t work at all when my broad band speed is 0.5 Mbps and below, which is its normal state. I have made 10 attempts to run your broad band speed tester and only one worked. i have just measured my broad band speed with the Microsoft app and it is showing total of 0.5 Mbps (upload plus download) which is the best we ever get and normally far worse, down to nothing often. Under these conditions, your tester doesn’t work. It is an insult that the government has now agreed to pay for superfast broad band across NI when in West Yorkshire we don’t get anything approximating to ordinary broadband

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I love you guys in London and other urban areas going on about not getting your 100mb speed. I live in rural Lincolnshire and the internet is so slow that I cannot even download the map in this article telling me how bad it is in Lincolnshire. So to you lot in the cities on your 50mb plus, think of us guys here and in Orkney trying to run a business on this 4th world rubbish, and shove your router!!

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