What’s causing your slow internet speeds? Could it be background noise from cars and trains? Perhaps interference from your household fridge? Or could it be caused by a tractor taking out the broadband line?
The simple truth is, broadband speed is typically dictated by how far your home is from the nearest exchange. But despite this, each of the excuses above were given to our mystery callers when they phoned major internet providers, posing as potential customers who’d like to know the speeds they might expect.
Our callers made 180 phone calls to 15 of the biggest internet providers, who are each obliged by Ofcom to give potential customers a likely estimate for the broadband speeds they can expect if they enter into a contract. This estimate should be based on the caller’s location, and must be offered up as soon as is reasonably practical during a phone call.
Irrelevant advice over the phone
Despite your home’s location being the main determining factor in the level of broadband speed you can enjoy, our callers were confronted with a cornucopia of excuses for why speeds can slow down. One call-handler from Eclipse said:
‘For example, [if] someone with a tractor going through a field took out a line, we wouldn’t be able to guarantee [your speed] because of those potential issues.’
A representative for Be told us that ‘any noises caused by machines, for example, refrigerators, trains, cars, may interfere with the broadband signal’.
So is there any truth in these claims? While household electricals and passing traffic can indeed create interference with your broadband, compared to the real issue of your home’s distance from the nearest exchange, these factors are largely irrelevant.
A spokesperson for TalkTalk put it best, telling one of our callers that ‘really, the only way you can get better speed is by moving house’. A different Eclipse call-handler also summed up the issue neatly, saying ‘the only way you can get faster speeds is either to move house or to change the laws of physics’.
Your rights when signing up to broadband
Some of the worst advice we received was when one AOL call-handler said they wouldn’t be able to provide a speed estimate until our caller had taken a contract out with them:
‘Once you take out a package with AOL and you set up for broadband, we will be able to tell you [your speed] afterwards.’
This is utterly unfair advice for anyone entering into a contract for a service. As a potential broadband customer, you are entitled to an estimate of likely speed for your home long before you sign on the dotted line.
Have you ever been given any poor excuses for slow broadband speeds by an ISP?