/ Technology

Can broadband keep up with our binge-watching habits?

Orange is the new black on a mobile device

According to Ofcom, more and more people are enjoying on demand TV thanks to the availability of superfast broadband. But are you missing out on the latest episode of Game of Thrones because of your poor internet connection?

We’re apparently a nation of binge-viewers, according to Ofcom’s new research, with 40 million of us (or eight in ten adults) now watching TV episodes back to back.

When the new season of Orange is the New Black came out on Netflix this summer, I promised myself to watch it sparingly. 48 hours later, I’d finished it.

There is something incredibly moreish about having access to multiple episodes of your favourite show, and I think we’re starting to see this influence the way in which shows are written and produced. Late 90s / early 00s favourite The West Wing had 22 episodes in each season nearing about 1000 minutes of viewing time per season. Shows are much less likely to be produced in this format anymore because the way we watch them is different.

Digital changes

The Communications Markets Report 2017, released annually and out today, unleashes some interesting observations about the way we view and use technology in our lives. It’s no surprise that this is constantly evolving and that we are in many ways becoming more dependent on our devices.

Ofcom cites the trends in instant entertainment as being partly due to the availability of faster home internet speeds.

But as we continue to uncover, there are stark differences between good and bad broadband speed for millions of people. So is there a danger of people missing out on spectacular TV entertainment that should be available at their fingertips?

Take our speed test

Ownership of internet-enabled devices is on the rise according to today’s Ofcom report. Nearly four in ten under 55s now own an internet enabled smart TV which explains the increase in ‘binge-watching’ habits, but if you can’t get a decent connection then are you going to start missing out as culture starts to lean more towards this style of watching your favourite shows?

Your views on broadband speed

So, do you have internet-enabled devices in your home? Is bad broadband impacting your ability to keep up with your favourite shows?

Does your internet connection restrict your TV watching habits?

No (74%, 111 Votes)

Yes (26%, 40 Votes)

Total Voters: 151

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Just another reason why the government should fund FTTP connections throughout the UK. It’s rapidly become an essential service.

As the internet on demand TV companies are the ones making faster broadband necessary, I think they should be the ones funding FTTP.

Amazon have just bought the UK rights to ATP tennis for £10 million a year. Do Amazon and Netflix pay anything towards the internet platform they use to peddle their products?

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It was announced on 30 July that BT had offered to deliver broadband to at least 10 Mbps to anywhere in the UK no matter how remote at a cost of £600 million. The culture secretary is considering whether to accept this offer and drop the Universal Service Obligation. Different technologies will be employed according to location to ensure comprehensive coverage.

I should have mentioned that the £600 million is the cost to BT, not a government contribution. BT’s payback would come from the traffic it carries so perhaps they are either going to charge the content providers more for the services they carry [which will be reflected in the bundle prices], or going to charge subscribers more for broadband. This is all rather opaque at the moment.

Edit: You read it here first!

As I and others have said the entertainment companies should be making a significant contribution to the cost of providing decent broadband services.

The internet service providers should be charging according to both download speed and usage so that they can contribute to the cost of improving services. Heavy users of broadband can mean slower speeds for other users, and this problem is likely to grow. Energy companies don’t generally offer unlimited electricity and gas, I suggest that unlimited broadband tariffs are phased out. One benefit of charging according to usage is that those who are low users because they don’t use video etc. can benefit from a fast service at an affordable price.

Exactly Ian- it is rapidly becoming an essential service. We can’t even get the basics here some days. The other day our speed was a breath taking 0.02mbps! TV on demand for us is currently a practical impossibility.

At that rate you would be better on an old fashioned dial-up service.

I don’t see why our taxes should be used give us faster broadband simply so we can watch more tv. The NHS, social care and welfare, schools are far more deserving causes for any spare tax we might have. I agree with alfa that the providers should fund this, if possible. Perhaps part of the subscription should go towards the cost.

Will we have a plea for free Sky TV next?

“Will we have a plea for free Sky TV next?” Obviously that should be available via the NHS and/or DHSS for those who are unable or unwilling to pay for it themselves… 😉

Or perhaps we should nationalise it, so it can be made available at a fair price to all… 😉

Or (worst of all?), its owners and advertisers might adopt the YouTube model, fund it by advertising revenues, and make it freely available. (But free only as in free beer, but not as in free speech.)

I may be wrong here, but I think prisons get free Sky TV but hospital patients pay exorbitant rates to watch TV.

Of course, there are all sorts of reasons to have decent internet for all – online banking, switching energy suppliers, getting involved in this online community.

That doesn’t mean we can’t also discuss and debate the lighter things in life, like watching internet TV.

When you say providers, do you mean the internet providers? You might be interested in this: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2017/08/bt-to-bring-10mbps-broadband-to-99-of-the-uk-by-2020/

If you mean Netflix… there are some very interesting debates in relation to that around ‘net neutrality’ ie. the big companies that can afford to pay for the internet, get access to faster speeds for their services. This would create an imbalance, where websites etc that can’t afford it might have a worse service. It’s a big debate in the US at the moment, with thousands of people lobbying the FCC. There are obv pros and cons.

Alfa: a small proportion of prisoners in the privately run jails are allowed to access Sky. It’s used as a reward system and, since we in the UK jail more of our population than almost any other country, I personally don’t have a problem with that sort of incentive. I suspect loss of liberty is sufficient punishment. Making them watch Sky – well, that possibly contravenes human rights. 🙂

Patrick S – When we talk about the providers paying for faster broadband, in this context we are referring to the providers of the content [for example films, gambling, exclusive sports events, gaming] not the telecoms service providers or internet service providers except when they are also supplying content.

We pay for what we pull out of the internet and that is supposed to cover all its costs; there is an argument for making those who shove high capacity demand stuff into the internet pay for that privilege – without faster broadband these companies and the services they provide would not have existed yet they have made little or no contribution towards it.

I was thinking of the content provider, not the ISP. If they make money out of people who watch their output – and advertisers – then maybe they should contribute to the cost of the internet infrastructure necessary. It is that structure that will allow customers to use and pay for their service.

Personally, the only use we make of the internet for TV is if we’ve missed a BBC programme that we’d like to have watched. mrs r then uses her ipad and apple tv box to entertain us. I could argue that excessive tv has blighted our society (for many anyway) taking people away from doing more constructive activities. I fall into that category – sometimes easy to watch a film than get out to cut the grass or go for a walk.

Well put John.

It’s an argument which almost certainly resonates with the Train companies. And haulage companies.

I suppose it comes down to whether there’s an argument to be made that the Government has an obligation to provide essential services. For years, through slavish adherence to the now largely discredited Friedman economic theories, we’ve privatised (IMV) far too many essential service providers. I still believe it’s abhorrent that the supply of water is privatised and the creeping privatisation of the NHS has been on the cards for years.

I believe it’s a government responsibility to provide basic infrastructure and services. We know too well the consequences of privatisation – we see them every day. Governmental provision is really the only safe way it can be done. BT’s offer to provide the service is simply because they know that under the USO they couldn’t wriggle out of it, yet we can guess how many appointments will be cancelled or jobs not done once it’s entirely voluntary.

It’s 2017 and high time that we invest in providing proper fibre broadband (FTTP/FTTH) rather than continuing to spend money on slower and less reliable broadband dependent on copper phone lines (FTTC).

The considerable amount of money needed to roll out fibre broadband should come mainly from the companies that profit from entertainment services and the internet service providers, rather than our taxes, but is the government doing this?

I was being mildly tongue in cheek with my intro post, but there’s no doubt that superfast has more uses other than watching TV.

Distance learning, remote diagnosis, commerce, accountancy, communication, virtual reality, social interaction – thew list goes on and, as we know, any new technology with the potential of Superfast Broadband grows activities to use its potential in ways we might not be able to imagine just yet .

On a very simple level, it can bring families together in remarkable ways; as screen become ever larger (wall-size will soon be possible, and cheaply) families living apart will be able to be in the same room, albeit virtually. But the images will appear the same size as in reality.

In a sense this has become an indispensable aspect of modern life and, although there are those who find the telephone to be perfectly adequate, the next generations will come to accept instant and almost real-life communication to be the norm, bringing with it enhanced mental health, physical well-being, social participation and more that we can’t yet imagine.

This country invented the internet, invented the jet engine and invented the Maglev and each innovation was either given away or stolen (in the case of the jet engine) by the US or countries who were willing to invest. We’d never have a space programme on the planet without massive government investment, and the list of things that only governments can accomplish is enormous, or that we’ve backed away from.

Yes – we need a huge amount of investment in the NHS as well, but that’s what governments are for. We must stop assuming that governments have to run their finances the way anyone runs their house. They don’t.

I agree that there are huge opportunities and I would like to see the UK known for technological research and innovation rather than manufacturing washing machines and heavy industry, where we don’t even stand a chance of competing.

Netflix paid no UK corporation tax last year….
Streaming service apparently generated £200m in revenue from UK……rapid expansion means overall it is making a loss
The company says it is in ‘expansion’ mode and is making overall losses on its international operation’

Netflix paid less than £400,000 in UK corporation tax last year as the TV and movie streaming service revealed revenues of £36.5 million in the UK.

Every Viennese cafe, every sausage stand pays more tax in Austria than a multinational corporation.

Netflix and Amazon seem to have bottomless pits of money in their quest for domination.

Healthy competition is one thing, annihilating the competition by getting sole rights to deliver sports and new series is another.

I am going to stick up for Sky here as it is the only medium we have for watching quality picture TV. Sky have invested heavily in a delivery platform – satellites, dishes, boxes, home installations and support.

Virgin have also invested heavily in laying cables for their delivery platform.

And along comes internet TV piggy-backing their wares onto a distribution network set up and paid for by others. The demand for their cheap (moneywise) programs is so great, that the tax-payer has to foot the bill to improve broadband across the country. And what do they pay for the privilege of destroying what was once my great TV viewing? Practically nothing.

The government need to stop these companies dominating our TV viewing fast. Do I want to watch TV on my 5” smart phone or a stuttery, grainy picture on my smart TV? NO. I want to watch quality HD on my 42”. What will be the point of Super HD and larger screen TVs if Sky and Virgin no longer exist?

The more strain put on broadband, even 100Mbps will be insufficient at the rate Amazon and Netflix are taking over. Duncan mentioned Amazon launching services on BT/Virgin. Should it be permitted when it will be at the expense of other platforms and all the jobs and infrastructure that go with them? With little overheads, they can afford to undercut the competition.

The government could make a start by banning any company having sole rights to media distribution like sports and TV series and give us the choice of how we want to watch it.

To be fair to Amazon and Netflix, they both produce a lot of shows in UHD – four times sharper than 1080p HD – but I’d also point out that BBC and ITV have invested in some extremely high quality programming, with ITV certainly pulling off some of the best dramas anywhere. Foyles War, Midsomer series, Endeavour, Morse – all great stuff, so I’d add their names to the list of the best producers.

Netflix seems to show mainly older stuff and Sky – well, anything in which Murdoch has a sticky finger leaves me feeling distinctly uneasy. And they’ve only started producing their own shows comparatively recently.

But in the main I agree that competition has to be maintained.

My eyes are not UHD-ready. They can barely discriminate between High and Standard definition such is the excellent picture quality on a good TV set. I realise it’s the austerity programme that’s driving these high-cost features and I mustn’t stand in its way.

Quite agree John. Years ago we bought a Pioneer plasma tv – still going strong. We’ve switched between HD and standard to try to convince ourselves that it is significantly better. Not so. We are more than happy with the standard offering.

How many people can watch TV in UHD? How many of them will be able to watch UHD when more and more people try to watch it in UHD?

We have a 55″ Samsung, which purports to upscale 1080p hd to UHD. The difference on a very large screen is vivid. Sharper, brighter and more immersive. The contract between that and our 46″ ordinary HD set is stark.

Now, most bandwidth seems to be consumed by downloading as opposed to streaming, so multi0ple people watching shouldn’t have that much of an effect. The compression algorithms employed by the likes of Netflix can easily operate over a 3mbps line, so those with higher speeds may only notice a small slowing of traffic.

Malcolm: the ony way to make a realistic comparison is to try the test on a brand new LED system. I guarantee you’ll see a stark difference.

The best Samsung sets are photographic quality. Quite incredible clarity and detail. And compression formats are becoming better all the time.

I agree. I have seen the difference in quality on a modern TV, even though there is not much difference on my old TV. Pity about the sound quality of modern flat-screen TVs but at least there are ways of getting round this problem.

We use a Pioneer amp with Tannoy, JBL and Cambridge Audio speakers. Keep the TV sound itself off.

I accept that the difference might be more perceptible on a brand new TV – although our three year-old smart TV does not show much difference between HD and SD. Anyway, even if the difference was incredible, is it worth paying a lot of money to replace a decent quality picture? Maybe,if watching TV is a big part of your life and it beats other desirable expenditures.

Since the regional news programmes are not broadcast in HD we tend to keep the set tuned to the SD channels.

I think our smart TV is a 44″ model which I consider is too big for the room and too dominant. The room is about 16′ x 24′. Viewing is better now that I have installed a sound bar and sub-woofer but we now have to stand up to change channels because the receptor for the remote control signal is blocked by the sound bar. There is also a slight synchronicity problem. My mother never had these problems with her 9″ Murphy.

I suspect your set is upscaling the SD images to HD, which is why the difference is only slight. Very cunning, these sets.

Our lounge is slightly larger that yours, John, but I would be happy to have a set three times the size. We do have a ceiling-mounted HD projector and a 10′ screen for seeing the really good films. But I do enjoy films. The best are gateways to another universe and I’m a very enthusiastic SfiFi devotee.

Luckily we are able to go to the cinema very conveniently.

I actually prefer watching TV on one of the older models in other rooms.

Unlike Alfa, with the only drama we tend to watch on TV, we already know the ending because we’ve read the book or seen it before at the pictures. I have never ever seen a sci-fi or a horror movie – I get my thrills on a well-known conversational website.

We could blame the manufacturers for making “improvements” that we only then find we “need”, to tempt us into buying the latest product (whilst our existing one works perfectly well). I am more than happy with the quality of the picture on my Pioneer, but am sure when it dies I’ll then buy the latest technology – and be more than happy with it. It does seem a shame that sound has been wrecked by making tvs ultra-slim, requiring yet more expenditure on sound equipment to make up the deficiency. My tv sits across a corner on a wooden unit, and has more than enough room to accommodate decent speakers.

John – You might find the TV remote control works if you point it at the ceiling or a wall to reflect the signal.

Malcolm – The earlier flat-screen TVs had better sound quality but they were usually smaller than today’s offerings. In an early Conversation we were told that Which? had downgraded its test for sound quality thanks to flat-screen TVs.

Thanks, Wavechange – I’ll try that.

I have a confession to make. I binge watch TV shows.

House of Cards
Game of Thrones (I’m way behind though as I no longer have Sky)
Orange is the new Black
Ru Paul

I can watch three episodes of an evening and get through a series in no time. What I dislike is when Netflix uses the old fashioned ‘release an episode’ once a week. I much prefer the House of Cards strategy of just putting them all up in one go. I do then burn out and not want to watch TV for weeks on end.

I wonder though whether this means we miss out on something – the social aspect of talking about the latest episode the day after. If everyone is at a different episode in a series, you can’t safely talk about it without spoiling it for others. Thoughts?

I’m surprised you can do this without a microwave, Patrick. Unless…… 🙂

We are what we watch. If I watched any of those programmes I certainly wouldn’t talk about it. There are some things we should keep to ourselves.

He didn’t mention Dad’s Army.

Never took to that.

The only time we binge-watched a series was when the Sky box was on the blink and was about to be replaced.

I hated it. It meant we didn’t have a few months in which to enjoy one of our favourite series. It lost any suspense to the next episode.

We record quite a few episodes before watching a series. Occasionally we might watch two episodes together, but generally wait nearly a week and mix them up with other series we have recorded. Recently we were down to recording about 5 programmes a week but had plenty of other recorded material to watch.

I tend to forget what happened the week before on the week-a-show series 🙂 But I think TV viewers are split between those who enjoy suspense and those who want to know how it all pans out beforehand. I suppose it’s the difference between enjoying the process or enjoying the results.

I like to have several of a series available – like you, Alfa – but we don’t watch them all in one go. I just like knowing we can, I suppose.

I forgot The Good Wife and Damages (with Glen Close) – both excellent legal dramas, as is Suits.

@johnward – I shall presume that was sarcasm in your tone then, as I’d gladly defend each of them! 🙂

Fringe was excellent. We really wanted to watch Game of Thrones, but gave up in the first episode as we don’t like every other word being the F*** word.

Possibly, Patrick.

*reminder: write mean things about John Ward in my diary* I’m joking of course 🙂

Fringe was superb.

Three Fringe fans!

I’m not a great TV enthusiast and have one TV and five unused TV points. Most of my viewing is done on a laptop in bed. I disposed of the bedroom TV and DVD player when iPlayer became available and I had a reliable broadband service.

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Duncan: it’s not BT providing the superfast broadband: it’s Openreach. If you provide the URL I’ll be able to show you the discrepancy, but the simple fact that is rural superfast is far, far cheaper to provide than urban because the infrastructure is already there.

I nobbled an Openreach supervisor some months ago who admitted that bringing superfast from the exchange to us in nowhere was a relatively low-cost process, since all it required was the fibreoptic cabling and the time to hang it from the existing poles. That’s one reason why your figures are not accurate.

But fibre optic cabling will, in the not too far distant future, become an essential part of life. There is no reason the government could not fund the installation, possibly through a tax-payer owned subsidiary. Sell off of BT was stupid and short sighted, anyway.

BT have offered to do it using Openreach and have said it will cost £600 million. I presume if they have made a mistake they will pay for it.

What something costs to do and what the company charges a customer to have it done are not always in alignment.

Ian – Duncan has pointed out some of the additional costs in replacing copper cables (often underground rather than on poles) with fibre. One cost that I can relate to is the cost of access where contractors have to go onto private land. It does not seem to matter that the landowner will be one of those who benefits from fast broadband.

I suspect underground is a different proposition, but here the poles are all easily accessible, with no need to dig or go down conduits.

In terms of private land charity with which I’m involved has several Electricity poles on its land and the charity does quite nicely out of the wayleave payments.

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I watched the installation of ‘my’ fibre cable and the engineer explained what he was doing, including testing the quality of the link where two fibres were joined. He was not happy with the first attempt so redid it and pronounced that it it was a good connection. Very impressive.

I appreciate there is ducting to the cabinet, Duncan. The point I was making is that in urban areas all the cabling has to be fed down ducting, whereas for us it’s only a few feet. To put it in perspective, Openreach are at the local cabinet every single week without exception. When I asked one of the techs why they were there so often he told me that it was because it was old, the cabinet was leaking and they needed to upgrade all the cabling.

In other words, it’s highly likely that the lorry and its drum would be making its way here, anyway, so they might as well rewire with FO cabling and install a new, hopefully watertight, cabinet which might then just save them money.

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That’s fine, Duncan. I’ll be able to access it if you’d be kind enough to post it.

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Thanks, Duncan; an excellent source of info and figures. Needed to use a VPN to get in, mind, but once in is very informative.

Yes, Duncan; our cabinet is stamped ‘property of Queen Victoria” 🙂 The area in which we live is rocky, remote and really high up. The cabinet isn’t that far from the house, with just enough space for an OReach van to park while they’re eternally fixing things. Thing is, superfast would be invaluable to the hill farming community. During the Foot and Mouth outbreak all markets were stopped and the sales took place over the internet. Rustling’s a problem (as in cattle and sheep stealing – not wind in the bushes) and many farmers are starting to install remote cameras on their herd and flocks. These all work over t’internet.

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The VPN was necessary because the link you sent me required cookies, which you presumably have on your machine, but which I didn’t. But after a bit of fiddling, it worked perfectly.

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Did you log in?

Duncan, with regard to: “over the sea to Skye” it’s now “over the bridge to Skye” (at least for that specific island) 😉

Duncan – thanks for the link.

From my neverware cloudready home edition d-i-y chromium book, I didn’t have to log in, or use a VPN to access it, but I did have to enable cookies.

All that having been said, the literal link posted by Duncan did not load correctly – but it did take me to the site where a drop down pricing menu was available.

I guess that gives the prices to customers – but not the actual costs to openreach.

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Duncan, were BCP an archetypal scotsman, I’m sure he would not have wanted to pay the toll, but he probably didn’t have time to wait while SKAT dealt with that issue.

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This is where I read about it Duncan-

You might also like to see this which Patrick Steen posted earlier today-

Openreach will remain a part of the BT Group but it operates as an arms-length organisation with its own board and corporate structure.

I am somewhat doubtful that ‘universal’ = 100% but that is what they are offering by 2022 [95% by 2020].

Duncan: Openreach’s separation was under threat from Ofcom, and Openreach has now become a legally separate entity, with its own independent board. Now, I accept BT still own Openreach but Ofcom is keeping a close eye on things, especially with Sky and TalkTalk breathing down their necks, as it were.

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From the BBC website link posted by John:

10 worst constituencies for download speeds
Percentage of connections below 10 Mb/s

Ross, Skye and Lochaber, Scotland 65.6%
Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Scotland 63.7%
Argyll and Bute, Scotland 61.7%
Orkney and Shetland, Scotland 61.7%
Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, Wales 58.2%
Montgomeryshire, Wales 58%
Kingston upon Hull East, Yorkshire and the Humber 56.8%
Ceredigion, Wales 55.1%
North Herefordshire, West Midlands 54.9%
Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, Scotland 52.2%

I wonder how these figures were produced. How many users had the opportunity to have fibre broadband but chose to stick with a slower service, which would be cheaper?

Thanks Malcolm for reminding me of these resources. The Ofcom report states: “We also compare the performance of different home broadband packages, and find that while many consumers can receive better performance by switching to a different technology or upgrading to a product with a higher advertised speed…” I assume that the speeds refer to what customers achieve rather than what they could achieve by switching to fibre broadband if possible. In my previous home I stuck with standard copper broadband which gave me 7-8Mbps download because it was adequate and I saw no significant change in speed at certain times of day. Some of my neighbours moved to much faster fibre broadband and others remained on copper broadband.

I would have thought that the most useful comparison of different geographical areas would be to compile data based on consumers using the fastest connection available to them.

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I’m not referring to a standard, Duncan. I’m concerned that the published figures will look poor if some people are using copper broadband when fibre is available to them. I could be barking up the wrong tree.

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We are talking at cross purposes, Duncan. I’m simply concerned that the published data may make the problem look worse than it is.

I agree that those living in very rural areas should contribute to the cost of providing decent broadband but my top priority is that the entertainment services and internet make a significant contribution towards the cost of rolling out fast broadband.

Completely off topic, Duncan, but there was no problem with Obama’s birth certificate as you implied:


Even when the UK is 100% broadband-enabled the uptake rate will be well below that. People using it today might stop using it in years to come for various reasons. For many people, a smartphone is all they need, and for some it will never figure in their lives.

On the question of speed, the list of percentages of connexions with less than 10 Mbps by Parliamentary constituency [Wavechange’s post above] did not seem to square with the large number of reports coming in to the ‘bad broadband roadshow’ Conversation and others. People all over the country were saying that they had very low speeds, and sometimes Openreach had effectively contradicted them, so it appears that within what might seem to be a well-served area there remain many pockets of low speed and Ofcom do not appear to register this or attempt to quantify it. I question whether Ofcom checks the information it is receiving from Openreach. Some people writing to Which? Conversation have given an approximate location but many haven’t – and there is no reason why they should. It is possible, I suppose, that some of the people reporting very low speeds would be able to access faster broadband if they knew it was available but many stated that they had asked and been told that it was not available from their cabinet. I think the headline issue of providing the whole country geographically with a minimum of 10 Mbps broadband needs to be accompanied by an intensive house-by-house exercise to ensure that what is promised is in fact accessible from the master socket since at the moment there are far too many crossed wires and too much confusing [and possibly unreliable] information.

The only way to collect meaningful data would – as you say – be for inspectors to visit homes. They would unplug internal wiring and plug in a modern laptop in good working order to carry out tests. Obviously many do have problems but technical problems that have been widely discussed will mean that some cases of poor performance will be be beyond of the company.

I know an increasing number of people who are reliant on mobile broadband on their phones and tablets. At present it’s only viable for low users. That might change but we are some way off watching TV and films via mobile broadband.

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I didn’t mean every home in the country, Duncan. In the overwhelming majority of cases there is no dissatisfaction with the available speed.

However, we have a situation where Ofcom says one thing, Openreach says another, and householders still say they can’t get more than 5 Mbps or less. Ofcom needs reliable data and it needs to be sure that what they are being told represents the actual position. Therefore some sort of auditing of broadband roll-out performance is necessary.

In areas where it is claimed by Ofcom or Openreach that 10 Mbps is available but the householder says it is not, a technical investigation needs to be carried out. This is not an extra cost as the industry must ensure that their service is what they claim it to be and that all the connexions in the system are reliable. It’s a form of quality assurance and all major companies spend money doing it because it saves money in the long run on rectifications and customer complaints.

The number of properties where an internal inspection is necessary will be quite small but possibly concentrated in pockets in an otherwise well-served area, and Ofcom should provide for this to be done as a last resort at no cost to the householder. What BT charges for an engineer visit and what it costs them to do it are two separate figures – and I am always suspicious of round numbers. If an Ofcom-authorised inspector carried out an examination as Wavechange has outlined, there need be no dispute as to the findings. It might also be an educational experience for the householder who finds that fast broadband is accessible after all.

Can the connection speed to a premises not be checked automatically? I’m not clear why we need to visit premises. That would only check the additional effect of the subscribers own equipment and layout wouldn’t it? And that is their responsibility. Just a question in ignorance. I assumed this was how the Ofcom data was generated.

I was wondering that myself, Malcolm, but wasn’t sure if it was possible to check it reliably all the way from the exchange through all the intervening junctions and cabinets to each individual address. If so that simplifies it, but it also appears to be the cause of some of the dispute. There are various alternative broadband speed checkers and they appear to have a tendency not to agree with each other. Testing the line from the exchange would require the householder’s cooperation presumably in disconnecting all internal connexions including the router and things in any peripheral sockets and plugging something in to the master socket up against which the speed can be measured. I don’t know the technicalities of this so perhaps Duncan can enlighten us. It is an indisputable speed measurement that we are seeking and I would suggest 1700 -1900 hours on a weekday would be a good time to do it.

Even after 2022 I think most premises will still be receiving their broadband via copper cables. In above half the cases, mainly in older streets, the service from the cabinet will run underground to a pole from which a fan of copper wires connects each property. The weak points in this system are where the line to the property connects to the incoming feed from the exchange [which will probably be fibre by then], the point where the underground line connects to the pole, the distribution or junction box at the top of the pole, and the quality and resilience of the line from the pole to the roof of the property and then inside to the master socket. If all that can be tested reliably remotely I should be surprised; perhaps it can on a pass/fail basis and all fails would then require detailed examination.

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Thank you, Duncan. I hadn’t thought of the dog problem but I know that tom cats that have been left entire have a proclivity to spray anything at telecom socket height and pretty foul it is too. In the circumstances it’s amazing how robust the telecom system is.

I have also seen the cover plates hanging off the junction boxes at the top of poles. That probably doesn’t help either.

In many places the street network is now so old that only a physical inspection can identify all the faults. There must come a time [probably ten years ago] when the the whole ageing infrastructure needs to be replaced with FTTP and not at the subscriber’s expense, just as other utilities have done with water and gas mains.

Wouldn’t these same faults affect the recorded speed even if tested at the premises? All we need is a good indication of the typical speed in an area, not down to every person?

Well maybe so, but if you look at all the comments received in these Conversations sometimes there are significant differences between next door houses for no obvious reason – lost in the mists of time as the network expanded I expect and now in urgent need of rationalisation. I suggested this was only done on an exception basis – not where there is satisfaction with the broadband speed available.

I expect comments to Convos are general on the negative side, as that is what people tend to do. I have been accused of complaining about Which? a little more than might seem appropriate; but I take the good side of Which? for granted, and I think many people who get good service don’t feel the need to report it.

You’re late for work and it is immediately noticed, but no one has a record of the majority of the times you were on time or early.

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Malcolm: it’s a fact that people remember and comment much more on bad experiences than good ones. It’s apparently down to the way our brains process negative emotions, in different hemispheres.

“Negative emotions generally involve more thinking, and the information is processed more thoroughly than positive ones. Thus, we tend to ruminate more about unpleasant events — and use stronger words to describe them — than happy ones.” (Clifford Nass, professor of communication at Stanford University.

According to Roy F. Baumeister, professor of social psychology at Florida State University “Bad emotions, bad parents and bad feedback have more impact than good ones. Bad impressions and bad stereotypes are quicker to form and more resistant to disconfirmation than good ones.”.

There’s a lot of experimental evidence to demonstrate this, some of which makes fascinating reading, but the really interesting aspect is that all mammals seem to share the same process, which might suggest it’s something to do with survival .

Nass also noted “We tend to see people who say negative things as smarter than those who are positive. Thus, we are more likely to give greater weight to critical reviews. If I tell you that you are going to give a lecture before smarter people, you will say more negative things.”

Teresa M. Amabile, professor of business administration and director of research at Harvard asked 238 professionals working on 26 different creative projects from different companies and industries to fill out confidential daily diaries over a number of months. The participants were asked to answer questions based on a numeric scale and briefly describe one thing that stood out that day.

The main finding was that the negative effect of a setback at work on happiness was more than twice as strong as the positive effect of an event that signalled progress. Which is one reason why people need a lot more encouragement than denigration.

It is interesting to look at product reviews. I generally dismiss those that focus on positive or negative aspects as being from people who lack critical thinking skills. The exception is where some aspects are covered in considerable detail by someone who is clearly well informed. A balance can be achieved by reading other reviews.

I always go straight for the negative reviews looking for a common fault or gripe. Many negatives you can dismiss but they can give you a good idea of the product. If the negatives don’t pass, I may not waste time looking at the positives and in-betweeners but it will be depend on the product.

An example being a kettle with the water level viewing window behind the handle as a common negative gripe. Not a problem when the kettle is near the window.

If people are reporting to Which? about their rubbish broadband experience compared to the house next door, I assumed that was a matter of fact – not because of an inclination to express the negative aspects of life.

I am not sure how this thread has wandered off into a dissertation on the processing of negative emotions. It’s like some modern day Enigma machine where every stroke of the ratchet engages a different wheel that in its turn is fitted with alternative sprockets that take the cipher to a new dimension. Luckily there is a Reset key.

Oh my goodness. I thought we were in The Lobby. 🙁 Maybe we should take our interesting but off-topic comments there now.

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The fault is mine, as I addressed Malcolm’s comment on negativity. But it’s in a thread, so perhaps quite acceptable in here.

Actually, Wavechange, I think the original topic has been left so far behind now we might as well keep going and see where this takes us. We’ve probably overcooked the broadband speed issue anyway so it might as well go in the bin – although I don’t think we should lose sight of the main point of bringing it into this Conversation which was to point out that content providers like Netflix and Amazon are not making any contribution to the roll-out of faster broadband on which their future profits rely.

Duncan – Station X was one thing, impressive enough, but you should look up Q Central at nearby Leighton Buzzard – at the time the biggest telephone and telegraph exchange in the world with over a thousand teleprinters permanently engaged and over 600 operators. I expect there is a digital equivalent hidden away somewhere today.

John – It’s all very well for a few of us to agree that content providers should contribute to the cost of providing us with high speed broadband, but I wonder how this could be achieved in practice.

Isn’t there any way of measuring what service providers feed into the internet at their end and charging them for it? Does it only have to be captured at the point of download? Customers are paying for their films and sports through subscriptions, and the providers are presumably paying the telecom service providers to carry it, but nothing is getting back to Openreach and the others for the infrastructure. Every additional customer marginally degrades the service to the rest unless expansion of the network goes hand-in-hand with growth in demand. There must be a way, although it would not surprise me if this has been put in the ‘too difficult’ tray.

If you are on a capped service, your ISP will know how much you have used, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to measure output from big providers and get them to pay for it.

I would be interested to know how Netflix, Amazon, etc. are charged for making video content available via the internet.

Could they be their own ISPs?

Full details of Netflix’s accounts are here:


Their operating expenses are in the hundreds of millions, so they must be spending the cash at least partly on transmission. I also read somewhere that Netflix had complained that BT and Openreach were charging them excessive fees for streaming ,so it does sound as though there is some payment or contribution towards the streaming process.

Openreach’s accounts are here:


As these are all highly technical it will need someone used to statements of accounts to determine just how much income BT/OR have had from streaming services. My brain isn’t mathematical…

Despite searching it’s far from easy to determine what Netflix or Amazon pay to stream their shows. I’m sure they have to pay for T1 lines, plus high speed routing and all the gubbins needed to offer VOD.

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I would hope that Which? could take “good ideas” that seem to have some level of agreement here, and take them up with whoever can implement change

Part of the subscription could be required to fund the improvements in broadband coverage – a tax on the subscription.

Netflix may pay millions for the rights to stream media, but what we want to know is how much do they pay towards their delivery platform?

Duncan, your link doesn’t work.

Duncan, could it be because you need to log in first? I tried the front page and it asked me to log in.

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I believe they buy a ‘deal’ from BT. I’m sure they pay and pay a lot, which is income for OpenR and should translate to more BB lines…

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Duncan, I was talking about your link. As the link didn’t work I went to the front page …..quora.com that insisted on a log in which I didn’t bother with.

As cited by Duncan, I think there is a one missing “-” and one redundant “=” in the link. It seems to work fine without them.


Duncan – Perhaps you’d be better off using a mainstream browser like Edge 😉 😉 😉

That worked for me above 🙂

Thanks Derek, that worked for me.

Thanks for a link that I can simply click on, Derek. I had assumed that Netflix etc. do pay royalties, but my view is they and other providers of video on demand, film downloads, etc. should contribute to the cost of providing us with decent broadband. I have no idea if this happens or how it could be achieved.

I guess most of Netflix’s expenditure is on content, promotion and royalties, not on infrastructure. BT gets a lot of money from Netflix and others for carrying their traffic but how much of that gets transferred to Openreach and other cable companies to improve the network? That’s the bit that doesn’t seem to be transparent -perhaps because it’s zero.

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Duncan, I was running Edge in W10 “for evaluation purposes” on a test box (this was, of course, air gapped from my usual PCs). When evaluating the benefits (or threats) from any s/w, I usually prefer to try it for myself, rather than just relying on secondhand information from the net.

As I see it, participating in the ‘net exposes one to tracking. For example, look at all the cookies we have to accept, just to get on here. We can perhaps choose who tracks us most, out of M$, Apple, Google, Amazon, Ubuntu, Which?, etc.

If you want to share links as data for Convos, then it would help if you first check that they are accessible by ordinary mortals on mainstream PCs & browsers and not only anonymous or dark web enabled kit. I’m sure other poster would value your help with this, so they can to navigate to these targets…

I am actually quite interested in your claims that quite similar but distinct links lead to different pages.

There could be many reasons for this – but not necessarily sinister ones. In the past, I’ve discovered that I can “tree walk” to blocked pages on certain websites. For instance, there could well be legal reasons why different countries see different pages on international servers – e.g. where different libel laws set different restrictions on what can safely be published.

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Can Netflix be their own ISP Duncan? An ISP is only really a gateway to the internet.

If not, presumably they could do so, but that will not help in getting them to contribute to the cost of roll out of decent broadband. As Duncan has said, BT/Openreach cannot pay for it.

Well, BT themselves are pumping huge volumes of sport and TV into the internet and charging customers for it. But is any of that being used to increase capacity and speed?

I wish Ofcom would come back and talk to us!

That’s a very good question.

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