/ Technology

Updated: Change is on the way for broadband and phone providers

Fibre broadband

Ofcom has published the conclusions from its first strategic review of the communications sector in 10 years. And with it comes a win on something we talked about only yesterday…

A lot has changed in the past 10 years, in both the way we use communication services as well as the tech we own. Many of us now have smartphones and access to superfast broadband, enriching our lives with new ways to communicate and access content.

However, it’d be wrong to say it’s all been plain sailing. It’s often difficult to identify the best broadband or phone deals; reliable and fast broadband is still a dream for many; mobile coverage can be poor; and it’s tricky to switch providers. This has put our trust and satisfaction with broadband and mobile providers at a similar low level to that of the banks and energy companies.

So, it was definitely time for change. And so we were delighted that Ofcom announced its Strategic Review of Digital Communications last year. We’ve been feeding into the review, including sharing your views, in order to highlight the need for standards and services to improve. So what’s been announced?

Changes for BT Openreach

Ofcom has announced tighter standards on the performance of Openreach, the division of BT that maintains the UK’s phone and broadband network, and has called for the company to be more independent from BT.

The regulator has also advised BT to open up its Openreach network to allow competitors to connect their own fibre networks directly into homes. This will give you a greater choice of providers, with less reliance on Openreach to roll-out superfast broadband to your house.

Automatic compensation for loss of service

On top of these improvements to the service you’ll get from your broadband and mobile providers, we’ve also achieved a win on something we talked about yesterday.

Ofcom said it intends to introduce automatic compensation for when things go wrong with your broadband, landline or mobile. You won’t have to battle with getting compensation yourself; instead you’ll receive automatic refunds for any loss or reduction in service. Ofcom will consult on this proposal this year.

There were also announcements on providers improving broadband and mobile coverage, as well as calls for providers to give clearer information on the price and quality of the services you’re getting.

Reforms must come in soon

So there are some very promising reforms in there, which should raise standards across the industry. But Ofcom needs to implement them quickly, hold providers to account and ensure that Openreach genuinely improves the service for customers who’ve been let down for too long.

We’ll be holding Ofcom to account to make sure your expectations are understood and included in these proposals.

What do you think about the proposals Ofcom announced today? Which announcement do you think will make the most difference to you?

Update 19 July 2016 – The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has found that BT is failing to invest in Openreach, its super-fast broadband network.

According to the report BT ‘appears to be deliberately investing in higher-risk, higher-return assets such as media properties, and not investing in profitable lower-risk infrastructure and services through Openreach’.

The Committee has estimated under-investment to be potentially hundreds of millions of pounds each year. MPs have warned that the telecoms giant should be forced to split off from Openreach unless it addresses the significant under-investment and poor service.

Our Director of Policy and Campaigns, Alex Neill said:

‘We welcome today’s Committee report. It’s clear that Ofcom must move quickly to make sure Openreach genuinely improves service for customers who have been let down for too long.

‘People now see telecoms as an essential service so Ofcom must work with the industry to raise standards, with faster, more reliable broadband and automatic compensation for consumers when things go wrong.’


Hi, I have been in dispute with BT for about a year since I purchased Infinity II. My complaint is based on the unreliability of the line and the paltry speed of maximum 13mb. BT did not want to know so I raised a case with the Ombudsman who eventually have taken BT side – no surprise! Apparently 13mb out of a possible 76mb is acceptable!! What other industry would get away with such claims; what if the train company stated that because of a number of factors a journey could take 30mins or 4 hours (probably a bad example!). BT have admitted that if I had purchased Infinity I I would seen no differnence, so why did they sell me the extra speed if they could not expect to get anywhere near it. I understand the comms port is no where near 80 mbs, so it would never work. My next door neighbour uses TalkTalk and gets twice the speed I do. Therefore, I am convinced that there is a fault on my line. I cannot change supplier as they would just blame BT!

The Onbudsman have offered me a chance to get out of the contract without penalty, a BT letter of apology and chance to speak to BT about my contract. Absolutely stunning!

My question is, has anybody taken the matter further and if so how?

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First of all I’m really impressed with all the replies and it just goes to show what a problem we have in the UK. Duncan, apparently (through the ombudsman) I had a fault on my line in June last year but nobody told me – I don’t know if it was ever fixed. I got so fed up with loss of line and wireless – which incidentally BT wont have anything to do with as there are so many factors out of their control – that I raised another fault about a month ago. The operator said that they diagnosed a fault – the engineer arrived and did some checks (he spent quite a lot of time at my property and at the exchange box), but didn’t find anything except for a second line to my property that was terminated properly so he did that and if anything the performance went down from 15mbs to 13mbs. He went to the comms box which is about half a mile away and said that the port was not big enough – he asked for authority to upgrade it to 80mbs but BT refused! In response to your question I use wireless and fixed line so know that the hub is dropping all connections. I have worked in IT for 30 + years to sort of know what I am doing, I specialise in Cyber Security so TalkTalk are not my partner of choice!
My fears are confirmed by Andy, I could move but would I get anything better, other than I HUB which may be more reliable.
I still fail to understand how BT can advertise 76mbs (20%) if they cannot expect to achieve anything near that!
I am really frustrated as there is nothing I can do other than perceive with BT, they know that!

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Thanks for your reply. The engineer did not say what speed the port was, just that it wasnt fast enough for Infinity II. He asked that it was upgraded but BT refused, he said “he would request it again when he got back to the office”. They’ve nothing about high demand and I subscribed to Infinity as soon as it was available, early 2015 so there shouldn’t have been too much contention. As that time the speed was up to 16mb, still nothing to write home about!! BT are not interested, I await to hear from them as a result of the Ombudsman summary! The other thing is the line just drops suddenly, I know this isn’t wireless as both wifi and fixed line drop.

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So I did what you recommended and got a few responses from the forum – all very good. After going through diagnostics etc. it appears that I have a profile of 10mbs, which suggests
I have an Infinity 1 line – not 2 as I’ve paid for…

So, it’s been confirmed by Tech Support that I am on Infinity 1 – even though I have paid for Infinity II for 11 months!!! Unbelievable

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I said I would complain and then the Guy on Live Chat said he had made a mistake and I am actually on Infinity II – you couldn’t make this up!! What a shambles!!

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Soooo, it’s been a long time and I have made very little progress. Customer Services gave me the runaround and I was therefore forced to issue a Breach of Contract – demand for action letter. I also downgraded to Infinity 1 in the summer.
BT responded by saying performance was still below 17 mbps, which was unacceptable and they would send another engineer (last time I was forced to fight for a £130 engineer fee!). They also said that “it is my responsibility to enquire a package more suited to you”! Therefore they would not be refunding any money.
I am not letting this go, just need to plan my next tact.

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Many thanks Duncan – I still say that if I complained the service was poor 10 days after installed – BT should have acted – they didn’t. The line was always set up only for Infinity 1 – I should have known!!! They haven’t said internal or external – I’m sure they will try to blame my home wiring – again! I think I will need to go down the small claims court road. It’s not the money anymore but the principle.


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I totally agree the companies providing these services should pay compension to it’s customers.

Andy says:
6 March 2016

I left BT after a lengthy argument involving ombudsman and there higher level customer service. bT were nothing but aggravation I had months of outages. They allowed me to leave in the end. I then joined plusnet which BT own. What a bad idea that was, started off really well after first year got trouble with outages. I’m sick of providers and there crappy services and not receiving any money back for outages or a decent service. If anyone knows a decent fibre provider please tell me.

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Im very happy with my provider (Utility Warehouse). Im on their ultrafast service which promises upto 76 Mb. I get an average 76 Mb when linking my computer to the router with a Cat 5 patch cable and get approx 35 Mb over wifi, which i think is great. The bb feed comes from a fibre-fed cabinet and copper BT phone wire into the house. I cannot expect faster service (and dont need it anyway) unless i change to Virgin, which is way more than im prepared to pay. So, some providers do actually give what they promise. I am also very much aware that many factors can affect bb speed, not least the ability of the BT Openreach engineers to obtain a good connection at the cabinet.

i am with plusnet.. i was getting 5.89gb dowload speed ..now i moved to fibre i get nearly 38gb they told upto 40 gb.. in ashington my area .. but normal asdl was a joke i thought ..it kept dropping out …and it still does at times broadband completly disconnects for some reason..

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Really envious of you Mark. I’m with Plusnet getting under 6 gb s. Naively got excited when BT installed superfast cabling to our house free of charge. Then found that only BT services can be connected to it as it goes directly to the exchange rather than through a box. The cabling was pitched to us as a Government initiative to get people in rural areas faster speeds. BT should not be allowed to hold the monopoly on supply like this. After seeing Which results on BTs customer services there’s no way I’m switching providers!

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Gillian says:
7 March 2016

I am currently paying £30 per month for Sky phone, broadband & TV – my broadband is very slow only 1mb & 0.9 for downloading! I was told by the local council that the exchange has been renewed but unfortunately our broadband speed will remain the same! How can these companies charge the same amount for those of us that do not receive decent broadband speeds? Its like you paying for your weekly shop & the company then only letting you take away a quarter of what you paid for. Something has to be done to compensate those customers who fall into this category!

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Mike says:
7 March 2016

Hi. I have recently moved from Sky to BT with the intent of upgrading from a DSL to BT’s fibre service. BT guarantee 13 MB as the minimum, but I get just 5 to 6Mb,. Reason being that contrary to their own -pre-sale line test, their network where I live – in Surrey suburbia – is in fact not capable of delivering anywhere near that as it requires the use of c. 1km of copper wire between the BTfibre network and my house, by which time the signal has dropped to DSL levels! In effect this experience has led me to believe that in my road there is in reality only 1 provider that can provide a fibre based service that reliably delivers to its publicised levels.

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Mike, your problems seem so mike like mine and its ironic we both get a maximum of 13mb.

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Rebecca Thomas says:
9 March 2016

I’d been with Plusnet for ages and was happy with the service I was getting, even if my line was limited to 2.5mbps. After the local council lobbied for fibre, and this was installed to the cabinet, I looked around for deals. Unfortunately BT came out with the best offer – and I say unfortunately because the level of service I have received has been far, far below what I would expect. I’m currently on Infinity 1 and 80% of the time it is fine, although with 37mbps down and 6mbps up I don’t expect constant buffering for the other 20%. I have tried and tried to get BT to do something about the problem, however each time you call you speak to yet another member of ‘customer services’ in BT India, who does not understand the issue (or much English) and, inevitably, just wants you to turn the router off and on again – if only it was that simple!
The reforms Ofcom are contemplating sound good, although many issues are not as simple as a total loss of services. It is these problems, like mine, that drag on and on without rectification or even acknowledgement, and will not be subject to any form of compensation or even better industry reforms to get them fixed. All I can say is at least we now have a choice, because when my contract ends I will be leaving BT!

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Until SKY Fibre is run to the house, we will never get good speeds. The advertising is confusing as it allows you to believe that SKY fibre is the same as Virgin Media, it is not, I know, I have just changed to SKY. The broadband is very much slower. My BT cabinet is 40 feet from my house, I wonder how slow it would be if I were a mile away.

Arthur Streatfield says:
10 March 2016

BT still have monopoly instincts and will seek to maintain dominant control of the majority of the UK market for as long as it can. I believe the only way to create real competition is to offer incentives to smaller providers, many of whom are making real inroads into rural areas (ignored by BT as unprofitable), to come into urban areas. We also need to get away from the copper wire which BT is wedded to.

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Peter Hall says:
14 March 2016

We have “BT superfast broadband” at home, but it has been getting increasingly slow, to the point of being unusable, and I am resorting to using my phone as a hotspot, because Vodafone 4G is much faster. This means I am paying twice!

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Fastnet close Eastbourne. Thank you I get fed up with trying to get answer from BT

Can I mention postives … a different way of receiving broadband in the Peak District, and places around is a broadband wireless supplier W3Z. I have 20Mbs continuously , VOIP phone and a Mobile Phone booster .. Superb service and NOTHING to do with BT
The BT / BDUK offering is 4Mbs, and no mobile supplier can be bothered to supply the area as few people live here ..

Towards the end of July 2015, I received BT flyer through the mail which advised me that Fibre Optic Broadband had arrived in my road, namely Mill Road. Imagine the excitement in our household, having experienced under 1.0 mbps for many a year.
On 1st August 2015, I contacted BT using the number listed on the card 0800 121 4506, and spoke with a very helpful male named Daniel, who helped me climb down from the wall, after being on hold for between 35 -45 minutes. I asked Daniel about the product and he advised me that we would be able to receive between 5-10 mbps as opposed to the usual 20 mbps, due to the area we live. I decided to place the order which was discounted because of previous issues.
Our new Home Hub 5 arrived, followed by a number of emails. I arrived home from work at about 6pm on 18th August 2015 (Upgrade day) with much excitement, and who wouldn’t with the promise of much improved broadband speeds. No more slow downloads or freezing internet 🙂
In my inbox was an email advising me that everything was ready. My son tested the broadband speed and it came up with a figure of 2.20 mbps. We naturally thought that this was strange, so I decided to call BT, and was eventually put through to a female representative in India. I explained our situation, and to my amazement she informed me that she would check. She came back saying that Fibre Optic broadband was not rolled out in our area. Whatever was going on? Did I just hear what she said correctly? I explained that she had got her facts wrong, and after a few minutes she conducted a test on our speed, where she stated that it was 2.20 (we would receive between 1-3 mbps). I nearly hit the roof! I had been told on the phone previously that my internet would be much faster, and now I’ve been told that is not the case. Is this not miss-selling a product?
I asked to be put through to an English Customer Service rep’, however after waiting about 10 minutes, the call was answered by Raj (Technical helpdesk manager in India) I explained to Raj that I wished to discuss the matter with someone from the UK, and was eventually put through to Charlotte who discussed my complaint, and offered me money off of my invoice/bill as a good will gesture. My call to Charlotte cut out, and rather than call BT back to discuss the outcome, I waited for a call back. Sadly it never arrived. since entering our Contract with BT we have suffered a porr mbps , usually around 2.50, along with a broadband cut out upon receiving every incoming telephone call.

We eventually moved to Sky……..
On the evening of Wednesday 16th March 2016, my sons Sky package went live . My son contacted me and asked me to visit the address to check what happened: Sky had provided a broadband service with:

Speed (download) 7.5 mbps estimated
Upload 964.3 kbps

When we completed an actual test ,the actual figure was 9.46 download speed!

No alterations to the telephone line have been made. My son simply set the Sky equipment up in place of the FOB of BT (home hub 5)
How can BT claim to be the best?

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i have noticed that where i live we are with plusnet because talk talk are a rip off and BT want money up front so i told them to shove it why should we have to pay for engineers coming out and repairing our broadband when they didnt do anything the internet was just as worst and the crackeling got worst on the phone and yet talk talk still wanted £50 for each engineer visit its gone from exspensive to exstreamly exspensive

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Nigel says:
19 March 2016

How will these recommendations stop providers from deliberately understating the line speed available in order to avoid having to compensate customers? My current service from BT give me 8mb but on trying to switch I was told “your line only supports 1-4mb”… this seems like a deliberate ploy to get round having to supply a similar level of service…

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2 years ago, I moved 3 miles from one side of the city(the sprawling metropolis of Lincoln) to the outskirts. The difference? A reduction from 35mbps down to 7.1mbps.
The county council have a plan in place to improve line speed with BT but have ‘done my exchange cabinet’ …..

Another issue is how BT say I only have a 2 Mbps line speed, but when I pushed to get the super router, I achieved a 7mbps speed.

And finally, being told that the line speed will organically speed up after a few hours is just bizarre, it’s an inorganic metal/ optical fibre system, so how can this just’improve’?

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We currently in in north peckham, and our average speed is around 1mb, and it can go lower. Sometimes it can struggle to send emails. We pay market rate, with absolutely no ability to access a refund, demand better service, or even find out when our area might be enabled to join the 21st century. Does anyone have any suggestions as to any options we might have (I’ve tried Relish, our area isn’t covered).

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This comment was removed at the request of the user

Surprised TalkTalk so low in survey as I’ve found actual broadband supply very reliable with few problems over many years – I actually transferred from BT and found download speed improved 33% over same piece of copper. Haven’t had to use customer service so cannot comment at all on what seems to let them down.
As for BT/Openreach, they promised Fibre connection here (London S suburbs) about 4 years ago and we are still waiting – and waiting, What is BT doing with all this government money? Really time to separate the two and commit them to aggressive targets.

SCE says:
21 March 2016

If your router allows it, take regular screenshots/notes of the line statistics like SNR/Attenuation/Noise Margin or whatever it’s labeled as in your router. Comes in fantastically handy when trying to identify intermittent issues and the ISPs love it too, since engineers can correlate issues to their own equipment logs.

21 March 2016

BT promises broadband speed of 1-3meg. This is utter rubbish in West Wales – we are lucky to get .22! There is no other choice but BT as other companies have to use BT’s equipment anyway. We pay for a service which does not exist, and we cannot function with this level of grindingly slow access. It’s not BROADBAND – it’s ELASTIC BAND.

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