/ Technology

Where the streets have slow broadband

UK flag on keyboard

Do you live in Wheatley Road in Essex, or Erw Fawr in Wales? If you do, the results of a Uswitch survey suggest that you’re getting some of the slowest broadband download speeds in the country.

The average download speed in the UK is around 17Mbps – pretty much fast enough to do everything you need the internet for, from streaming HD movies to gaming online.

However, Uswitch’s survey suggests that some people are getting average speeds of 0.6Mbps – nowhere near fast enough to reliably watch Netflix or BBC iPlayer. In fact, it would take more than 15 hours to download a high-def movie at those speeds.

Broadband speed guaranteed

Inevitably the reasons for this are likely to be a lack of high speed broadband infrastructure in those areas (a lot of the addresses listed are in rural parts of the country), and it’s hard to quickly solve those issues. However, part of our Broadband Speed Guaranteed campaign would see companies forced to be upfront about the speeds you can expect to achieve when your broadband deal is up and running. If your house is only likely to get online at very slow speeds, your provider should be up front about it.

There’s nothing more annoying than being sold a package at, say 15Mbps, only to find out that once it’s been switched on you’re struggling to get more than 1 or 2Mbps. Our campaign would ensure that providers give you a written speed estimate – a range and a pinpoint – at the outset of the contract. But more than that – if you can’t regularly achieve the minimum speed they quoted you, you should be able to get out of your contract, penalty-free. This will leave you free to look for a cheaper deal somewhere else.

So far more than 27,000 people have signed Broadband Speed Guarenteed petition, but we want more of you to support us to show providers how big an issue this is for people. Have you been sold a faster broadband package than you’ve ever been able to achieve?

anthony moody says:
25 April 2014

Why should those who receive slower BB speed pay the same as those who have much higher
speed. this is a rip-off by the BB companies.

alan says:
25 April 2014

I don’t agree.
I’m rural and average 0.6Mbs, but actually pay more than residents in the town as my provider does not have their own equipment in my local exchange.
No other provider has their equipment installed either and BT is very expensive and just as slow

25 April 2014

Even 1 or 2 Mbps would be a wonderful improvement for people along my road in rural Norfolk. Our official service is 500Kbps but I have rarely found it reaches 135Kbps, sometimes just grinding to a halt! My Camera Club sometimes sends out images in attached documents of 2 or 3 Mbs and my email system just stops so that I have to go to Yahoo and check what size of file is blocking the system and remove it!

We are at the end of the road about 8 km from the exchange and you don;’t check your emails or go online when the kids along the road get back from school because you won’t even connect!

What I object to is that we have to pay the same rate as everyone else for our service. Streaming is our of the question and even the most straight forward YouTube film is usually jerky and best accessed at 2.00am when no one else is using the system.

Deirdre P says:
25 April 2014

Your broadband ‘service’ should be paying you for your time and patience!

Here here. We get a rubbish service, so why should we have to pay for it? Perhaps if those who regularly get less than 1Mbps (or perhaps even half that) couldn’t be charged for it then more resources would be put into improving these very low speeds?

Michael Palmer says:
25 April 2014

0.5 Mbps and constant drop offs. Fiber optic cable came to the school in our village but then transferred to a school up the road half a mile away. They get up to 60 Mbps .BT refused to connect our village as not commercially viable despite government funding for rural areas in East Sussex.

Some rural communities have come together to finance use of a JCB to dig channels so pipes may be laid in which fibre optic cables may be placed. It is a lot cheaper than asking BT to do the entire work.

Les says:
25 April 2014

My provider is utility warehouse, who have a pretty good reputation and I started with them because of Which? Recommendations. I live in London and, when I checked, was getting 4 Mbps. I contacted UW about this and they improved it to 6 Mbps. It seems fast enough for what I use it for, but, from what you say in this article, nowhere near what it should be, especially in London.

RichardParish says:
25 April 2014

I am with AOL and most of the time can only get between 0.5 and 0.2 mbps download speed, despite being told that that we should receive approximately 3.7. We have been reporting this for months. AOL claim that the fault is with BT, who supply the line, and BT say that it is AOL. Eventually, all that AOL could suggest was that we should go to one of their competitors, who should be able to provide a better service. I have had my AOL email address for around 15 years and the disruption both personally and from a business point of view will be huge. It is about time that consumers received an accurate description of their broadband speed and the service they pay for!

Jane says:
26 April 2014

We changed from AOL due to appalling service about 5 years ago. (There was an immediate improvement in performance.) My husband has kept his AOL email and just logs in online. Maybe you could do this? That is how AOL keep people for so long – the worry about email addresses.. Good luck,

Jane says:
26 April 2014

I also should have added a lot of the problems seemed to be due to the out of date router we had from AOL – yet they never suggested upgrading it. We are in a rural area so speeds not great but much quicker and MUCH MUCH better customer service from Zen. We were fed up of dealing with Asian call centres. Only got to speak to someone in Ireland when we had already decided to leave…

If you wish to stick with AOL persistence counts.

First, do ALL the homework you can on the connectivity available via your exchange. Start here http://www.telephone-exchange.co.uk. If it is 21CN WBC enabled AOL/TalkTalk are putting their own equipment into such exchanges I believe – they have at mine – but they will not inform you – ask to be switched from ADSL to this faster service.

Otherwise, second, just raise a complaint. Hopefully this will get you connected to the Level 2 technicians who have the authority to take matters forward Usually a ‘Brightsparks’ engineer will authorised to call to inspect your equipment. Make absolutely certain that all your equipment in the house is fully functioning. Any fault found will see them bill you £150 for call out fee but free if nothing wrong in the house found. AOL did change my router to their latest at the time but I saw no performance difference.

Third, if Brightsparks cannot help a call for a BT Whosale engineer to investigate any line issues will be authorised. AOL, BT Retail etc have separate but similar contracts with BT Openreach. If you need to get this far, this is when you can use the expertise of the Openreach engineer’s advice if he finds ‘nothing wrong’.

Finally, if no improvements have been made thus far after all this investigative work, write to Ms Dido Harding, CEO of TalkTalk – the address is listed on the TalkTalk company website not the broadband sales website! She has an office that deals with such complaints and, as I discovered, ‘things happen’.

Once I was switched over to the AOL/TalkTalk equipment my speed went from an intermittenet 0 to 2mb to a relatively steady 5.6mb.

Good Luck and hope you find it all a ‘doable’.

Unfortunately, I think that AOL have software/policy issues as well – currently I have a complaint registered at the Ombudsman’s office for investigation.

E Nicholson says:
25 April 2014

I also obtain around 0.5mb download at evenings from 5pm onwards as the locals get home an fire up the internet.I am rural and as other pay full whack for an inferior service.Can we get this to stop somehow

I live in a rural area some 5 kilometers from our exchange. I signed up with talktalk in 2012 and for over 18 months did battle with them over my download speeds, at most 1mb and often below. I signed up for a second year when told that fibre optics would soon be available. However that did not happen and I said I wanted to be released from my contract. This was a long and painful process, but with persistence and hours on the phone I succeeded in leaving talktalk and received a refund for 5 unused months of my contract.
On advice given by an independent organisation on line I signed up with Sky who guaranteed a download speed of at least 3.5mbs. They took a lot of trouble setting up my broadband and achieved a speed of 4.3 mbs. I can now watch videos and use BBC iplayer. Sky costs me a bit more than talktalk but it is worth it as I avoid all the frustration.

It’s the drop-offs that annoy me. I can’t use VOIP, and many downloads restart from the beginning so that a large one can use eight to ten times its size from my allowance because it had to try ten or fifteen times before I was successful. There are no refunds for data lost by drop-offs.

Colin D Fox says:
26 April 2014

BT have performed brilliantly.
Recently moving to a rural Essex village is a lovely lifestyle so I accept I might have poor connections. We are a long way from the exchange and someone has to pay for the several miles of connection.
BT were polite but said that we would not be having fibre optics in the foreseeable future.
However, I went ahead with BT and actually the connection was good enough for me but films and catch up TV were not on. Within weeks of signing up BT improved the speed for the village which moved me from about 0.6 to 1.9 what a nice difference ! BT then opted to connect us to fibre optics and now I have plenty of speed for films, TV catch up and anything else. So well done BT, I am one very happy customer.

Ali says:
26 April 2014

Earlier this year I needed a new router to connect to AOL. Afterwards big problems with drop-outs, sometimes every few minutes. Helpline contacted and they tweaked the system, etc and advised me to keep a log of use and any problems. Did this and called back a couple of weeks later. Engineer visit booked and after some work and another new router, I now seem to have an AOL system that works. Faster too at 3.9mb compared with a previous 1.0mb. Its fast enough for my use – I do not download films, etc. Interested to find out that it was a Talk-Talk engineer who came to sort the problem, seems to be part of the same company.

Suzie Mitchell says:
27 April 2014

I manage to get 0.25 speed if I am lucky. Recently when speaking to BT again about the lack of speed or indeed the lack of internet, I am always told that it is due to traffic and that I am at the end of the line and far from the exchange. The customer service agent on the last call said that there way nothing more that they can do for me, except forego the cancellation fee so that I could cancel broadband. This would leave me with nothing. In the last year I have engineers out to check the line and each time they have said I should get at least one speed, and that there is nothing wrong with my line. I agree with others who have said why should we pay the same as others who enjoy exceptional speed. Oh and infinity is across the street but will not be coming my way. Oh happy internet days.

Pete Jones says:
27 April 2014

I echo every post here: 1mbs on a good day, 0.6 on a bad day and constant line faults BT are not interested because it isn’t financially attractive after they took the rural broadband money for bubbly at the shareholders meeting.

Brian says:
30 April 2014

I’m in a rural location. Usually I get a speed of between 3 and 4Mbs which my provider TalkTalk says is too slow – I should get better than 10. I complained, went through all the tests they asked for and finally got an engineer out. Online, TalkTalk maintained that the problem is in my house wiring. The engineer could not find anything wrong with it, and using his supernatural powers, ‘reset’ the speed at the exchange. I got 10Mbs – which lasted a couple of days then went back to less than 4. I started off complaining again, but all I get is that the problem must be in my house. Since 4Mbs is normally OK for email, banking etc I did not keep complaining – life is too short to keep going in circles. However there are days – like today – when things get much worse and I get only sporadic connection. When this happens, even the speed checker does not work. I suspect that this is nothing to do with hardware or cabling, but TalkTalk’s allocation of bandwidth at the exchange.

An interesting post. I would never have considered deliberate bandwidth restriction at Exchange level. I will keep this idea ‘up my sleeve’ for the progress of my case through the Ombudsman Service.

Our local exchange in the Yorkshire Dales is a BT only exchange. They have been bullied into providing ‘super fast broadband’ by the government and the centre of the town should now get 25Mbs. But outside the centre it is 2Mbs. (My son gets 100Mbs in Middlesborough). Proper competition is the only way to solve this. Whilst the exchange is BT only, nothing will change.