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Update: bad broadband? You’re not alone…

Bad broadband

A good broadband connection is a modern day essential. Yet the service many of us get simply isn’t good enough. Do you struggle with bad broadband?

I’m addicted to the internet. When my broadband goes down it becomes apparent how much my life relies on a good connection – whether its watching on-demand TV in the evening, streaming music, paying my bills, sorting my banking, shopping or maybe trawling holiday booking sites for a dream break.

Bad broadband

The fact is that more people now bank online than in branch, online shopping is becoming the norm, and streaming our favourite TV shows and movies has become a big part of our popular culture.

There’s nothing that annoys me more than settling down to watch a film and the internet cutting out. For no apparent reason.

In fact, thanks to my shoddy broadband I may never know what happens in the final scenes of JK Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which I rented last weekend. Annoyingly, my broadband dropped and the rental period ended before I had a chance to finish the film.

In this digital age you would expect broadband to be better than it is.

Connection problems

In rural and urban communities alike, people are let down by poor connections, dropouts and slow speeds.

Our latest research has found that six in ten people have experienced a problem with their broadband in the last year, and the majority of them are frustrated as a result.

Over a third of people who have experienced problems with their broadband have been completely stopped from carrying out their online activities, and some have even said that it has cost them money.

Providers draw us in with all-singing, all-dancing connections, yet many people aren’t getting the speeds they need.

Fix bad broadband

We want to build up a picture of the actual speeds and problems people are experiencing across UK, so we’ve created a new free speed checker for you to test your connection and compare your broadband speeds with others living in your area.

We also have tips and advice on how to improve your connection, and a free tool to help you to complain to your provider if you’re not happy.

In this digital age we should all be getting the broadband connections we need to keep up with modern life. By using our speed checker you will be helping us build a better picture of the speeds and the problems that people are actually experiencing across the UK, so that we can help everyone get better connected.

Update: 3 June 2017

The government has announced a £400m Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund to improve broadband connectivity across the UK.

This investment in the UK’s digital infrastructure is being touted as a fast-track to full fibre – it will seek to make internet access more reliable for homes and businesses with an overhaul of the UK’s fibre network.

To aid the delivery of the full-fibre network, it’s expected that the £400m fund will be matched by private investment and bring the total investment sum to £1bn.

Alex Neill, our Managing Director of Home Products and Services, said:

‘Our research shows that too many consumers across the country still struggle with slow broadband speeds, finding it hard to carry out even the simplest of tasks, such as online banking and shopping. This investment will offer a much-needed boost to upgrade our national broadband network.

‘The industry must now press on with installing full fibre swiftly in communities across the country so that consumers get faster, more reliable broadband.’

Have you used our speed checker? What speed did you get?

Lilian owens says:
7 April 2017

When TalkTalk replaced my router, the ‘engineers’ placed it behind my television, next to the window! Having completed your survey my Response Time is 493ms; Downoad Speed is 13.3 Mbps and Upload Speed is 1.6 Mbps

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I would have assumed that password protection would have prevented neighbours using your Wi-Fi. If that can be hacked then a neighbour could still use it even if your computer is connected via a cable. With tablets and laptops, a wired connection is not very practical.

The chap who came to install my broadband router suggested putting it behind the TV but concerned about possible interference from the TV I had it put in the hall. I know that old CRT TVs produced a lot of interference from the line and frame oscillators but I have no idea if flat-screen TVs radiate much interference.

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I did not know it was possible to disable the Wi-Fi signal from a router, but I’m now on my third wireless router and have not had any problems. Thanks for the speed test site you posted earlier. It is obviously different from speedtest.net but still shows me that I’m getting a higher download speed than what I’m paying for.

Potential interference of a wireless router is one issue but another is siting the router to provide a decent signal for Wi-Fi devices throughout the house. Thats a real problem in very old houses with thick internal walls.

David Hassett says:
7 April 2017

I live in Shrewton, South Wiltshire and my ISP is Fleur Telecom, which is an adjunct basically of TalkTalk, dealing with rural customers presumably not considered ‘important’. I haven’t been able to run the Which Speed Test, it just sat, and did nothing, but previous experiences getting speed tests have, at best given download of nearly 5 MBS, at worst total dropout. Supply for the whole village is via BT’s conduits, so in most instances all the other ISP’s customers are in the same boat so to speak. Yet BT Openreach have been very busy over the last year, and some residents, who are in newer properties, and in line with the new cabinets, are getting speeds of up to 40 MBS. Where our broadband problem lies is with email, Banking, and on-line ‘live ‘ scenarios, e.g. HMRC Tax Returns. Various engineers from the ISPs we’ve had over the years have all come up with the same answer, ‘it’s a line problem’ i.e. BT.

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John Dodkins says:
7 April 2017

Tried the attached broadband speed test several times and it crashed every time. Recommend trying ookla speed test (www.speedtest.net) for a more reliable result.

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Following more rain and dropping BB plus a crackly line Openreach arrived with a cherry picker today and after a couple of hours’ work found the problem: one of their connectors had perished. The problem, however, seems to relate to ancient wiring in the boxes and on the poles, and the cost of sending out the teams they do must exceed the eventual cost of upgrading the system to fibre Optic. Seems very short sighted.

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I think they’ve forgotten about us, here.

stephen roe says:
7 April 2017

I moved to a new house on a new estate five years ago and we’re still waiting for decent broadband, that’s around new 300 houses a mile from Leeds city centre with 1-1.5 mg download speed all because BT has the monopoly with Open reach and we’re held to ransom until they decide they can upgrade our nearest cabinet.

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Some people are claiming to watch films, we are lucky if we can download a photograph
It is so bad in the evenings It is as bad as the old dial up.
When I do a speed test I get abysmal results so then I go the the BT wholesale site and do another test and even though it times out a few times and I have to start again only to be told it is too slow to do the test when I eventually manage to run the BT test it tells me the speed is ok
So BT have rigged the rest and are liars

We have very slow broadband in our area. We then found that EE offers 4G in our area. We bought an external antenna and a mobile internet router that accepts signals from an external antenna. After mounting the antenna on the roof we had 4G. Great right? Not really, since February 15th this year (2017) we no longer get 4G here. Today (7th April 2017) we still do not have 4G.

The worst part is we do not have contract with EE only “Pay as you go”. Our airtime validity is time limited. At this rate it will expire before I can even use it. Contacting EE has met with a thundering silence. Its not just BT!

All providers need to be held to a minimum guaranteed standard. I really would like to pay “UP TO” a percentage of my account just like I get “UP TO” a percentage of my promised broadband speed.

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My exchange has fibre, but when it went live, I found it would not work as I am too far from the cabinet. So I had to revert to ADSL2.
Your checker gives me a download speed of 2.1 mbps, which is about what I get – but it shows an upload speed of 6.1 mbps and that is wildly out. I get about 0.35 mbps up.
There doesn’t seem a solution to this problem.

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David Stone says:
7 April 2017

We live in an extremely rural area of Shropshire. After numerous problems with BT, who said we could have broadband, charged us a year in advance for it, – and then could not deliver! There was not even a vestige of broad band signal at the end of our line, which is 8Km from the exchange. We even had to pay an early cancellation fee to get out of the contract.
We then went to a local company, (SWS) who provide a multi-hop microwave radio system. Totally brilliant, great people to deal with and a consistent service. We can have up to 20mb/s, which is certainly better than BT can offer.
BT need to get their act together, there are thousands of people in areas like ourselves that BT could be making money from, if they would only improve their infrastructure.


BT are already making money from these people! We are remote and rural and have had appallingingly inconsistent speeds and yet pay the same as people receiving 3x’s the speed…..

My exchange has fibre, but when it went live, I found it would not work as I am too far from the cabinet. So I had to revert to ADSL2.
Your checker gives me a download speed of 2.0 mbps, which is about what I get – but it shows an upload speed of 3.4 mbps and that is wildly out. I get about 0.35 mbps up.
There doesn’t seem a solution to this problem.

john says:
7 April 2017

Twice I’ve tried your speed checker now and it doesn’t work ! ! !

Hi John, I’m sorry to hear this. The speed checker has had high levels of traffic over the weekend, but it should be working OK now. Please let us know what errors you’re seeing, thank you

We pay for 35 mps and regularly get between 2 and 10 mps. Never seen 35mps since the day it was installed. We are frustrated that we pay the same as people who get far faster speeds. No one cares about people who don’t live in big cities. When will we be treated the same as urbanites?

I was with a provider who promised everything. I often go days with no connection and when I do get a connection it only lasts a short while and is never more than 0.4. I sent 10 emails of complaint none of which were even acknowledged. I contravention of their complaints policy they failed to respond to a written complaint. Trying to contact them by phone always took more than 15 minutes being kept on hold, once over 40 minutes, then fobbed off with promises to remedy to situation. Took complaint to ombudsman who found all in my favour. I didn’t want compensation or right to end the contract for a non service, just have them give the service they promised. For all heir appalling non service and cavalier attitude they still come out financially ok. I feel until these people are made to honour their sales patter they will continue to contact people into contracts.

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Which? I can’t add my results to your speed checker. My ISP is Eclipse Internet (owned by KCOM). They no longer offer domestic broadband packages, but if you are a small business or need to work from home, their small business packages are excellent. They also offer home broadband in the Hull area.

Latency 69ms, Down: 70.5 Mbps, Up: 21.6 Mbps – 400m from the cabinet.

Response 105ms, download 82.1 Upload 5.4. No complaints re broadband – source is Virgin Cable.

Denis says:
8 April 2017

We’re with a wireless ISP (ItsWisp, based in Norwich) which uses a technology that’s terrestrial rather than satellite based. It’s also cheaper than satellite (£31.99 per month, “unlimited”) and doesn’t have such high latency. I don’t understand why Which never seems to mention this system as an alternative to satellite broadband in rural areas: it’s available in an increasing number of places. The company we’re with offers 8 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload and claims these figures are sustainable. In reality the speeds have tailed off somewhat recently, but are still a lot better than we could get through ADSL, which gave only 1.5 Mbps on a really good day – and we’re too far from the cabinet to expect any better in the foreseeable future.

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Duncan, agree – BT / Openreach has generally been the sole bidder as far as the Digital Scotland Superfast project is concerned, certainly for rural areas. They receive adverse publicity when premises remain on slow connections but quite a number of properties are so isolated that the economics simply don’t stack up. My nephew’s village (pop 500) is just having fibre installed as part of the Highlands and Islands digital project; prior to now village either used satellite or 64k dialup given that ADSL was never rolled out.
The politicians still refer to ‘100% superfast rollout by 2021’ but it’s simply not credible that fibre would be laid along up to 50km of rugged terrain to supply just 1 or 2 properties – satellite with hefty subsidies would be a lot cheaper for taxpayers (who are funding the DS project).
As for alternatives to BT I could mention that Virgin Media have cabled selected areas, nearest to my house being 130km and they have no plans for more local infrastructure – clearly they consider it unecomomic.

I’m on an EO line 3km from the exchange, nearest cabinet is 2.6km away. Trunk fibre cables pass within 50m of house but no intermediate cabinets were installed when cables were laid given that with sparse distribution of properties regular street cabinets in this type of rural area would be uneconomic. Although I’ll have to wait longer than most for a faster connection I’ll do well once it arrives as am listed on Openreach line checker for FTTP which is much faster than the more normal FTTC. Presumably as Openreach / Digital Scotland have opted to connect some rural properties via FTTP households so affected will not be charged the substantial premium normally associated with FTTP.
In the interim my download speed via ADSL is 7 mbps which works quite well and is above average for rural areas without fibre. It’s worth noting that 2 years ago speed was just 2.6 mbps but having BT install a modern master socket and my replacing the ISP-supplied hub with a ‘high-end’ hub approximately trebled the download speed.
The new hub had more comprehensive settings options than the ISP’s own hub including option to select from ADSL2 or ADSL2+ as well as selecting best value for SNR to sync with local exchange. ISP-supplied hubs (which inevitably are ‘cheap’ given there’s normally no upfront charge) don’t normally offer these enhanced settings. I appreciate it’s not easy for many households to configure ‘high end’ hubs but there’s plenty of research notes posted online and, in any event, one can quickly perform a factory reset if change of settings has led to dropped connection. The rule I try to stick to is to take a screen print of settings before changing anything and also change just one field at a time thus it’s easy to ‘backout’ if a setting change has made things worse.

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Duncan, I am with BT for both landline and ADSL having switched back for latter from Virgin Media a few years ago. BT are probably not the cheapest although, upon switching, I found BT’s connection somewhat faster than VM even though the same copper wire is being used locally. The advantage of having everything with BT is that in the (unusual) event of something not working there’s not the possibility of being passed between 2 suppliers as BT / Openreach is responsible for everything up to my master socket. Given that lines tend to be overground in places around here they are subject to damage by ice or tree branches weighed down by snow and, just like SSE, BT are really good at fixing infrastructure faults around here.
My 3rd party hub is far superior to HH5/6 while I’m still on copper but I’ll go with what BT supply once FTTP arrives and I’ll pass the hub onto someone languishing on ADSL at that time.
Winters can be very variable here (Highland / Grampian), sometimes lots of snow and frost but virtually no snow (although still a lot of frost) this past winter. The big difference vs some other areas is that councils and many individuals are prepared for it, for example I swap to winter tyres in November. Other useful tactics by council is that ride-on mowers have a blade fitted for the winter and are deployed as ride-on pavement snow ploughs; in addition snow plough drivers take the heavy ploughs home overnight if forecast warrants it thus overcoming the problem of ‘snow plough drivers being unable to reach depot due to road conditions’ which has been reported further south.

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Mark says:
10 April 2017

I use Virgin 100mb broadband and speed-tests show that I now get 100-105Mb, actually get slightly faster than advertised. The main issue is most people’s MTU settings aren’t configured properly on their laptop/device. When I changed mine, it added 20-30% to my speed.

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BT basic is not at all reliable even in central London. I had speeds of 0.5 to 14 for download which is useless if you do any interactive wrk such as trading currencies or undertaking business work. I used to get screen freezing, dropped signal, inability to get in and all sort of thinsg which is useless if you are trading money. I managed to get infinity from BT in late December and have now left these problems behind. It’s more expensive but if yu need reliable contact it’s essential.