/ Technology

When switching goes wrong – could you cope without the web?

How long could you survive without broadband at home? A week? A few days? Or would you be twiddling your thumbs within a few hours? If you knew switching would cut you off, would you still go ahead?

I know my house would grind to a halt without our regular fixes of catch-up TV, Facebook time-wasting and a range of other critical web-based tasks.

More seriously, many people rely on the internet at home for far more important everyday activities than I do. For example, those who live in isolated places and rely on the internet as a link to the outside world, or those who run a business or work from home.

The bother of breaks in broadband

It’s therefore rather worrying that a recent survey from ThinkBroadband.com has revealed that 20% of broadband users who have switched providers experienced a gap in service of more than a week.

Our own most recent broadband survey of 11,963 Which? Connect panel members showed that the situation is even worse, with nearly half (49%) of respondents being left over a week without a connection while switching their providers.

For all of us, it’s important that switching broadband provider is as quick and simple as possible. After all, risking extended periods without a connection is certainly going to put people off moving to a better deal. Earlier in the year, we asked you what had happened when you switched broadband, and there was a big variation in the timescales involved.

Happily a number of you had a swift experience like Rarrar:

‘I switched ISPs three times in the last few years – always been painless with internet down for no more than 30 minutes’

Countdown only had a brief spell offline:

‘At 7.30am on the appointed day I lost my phone service, but it was back on by 9am. The broadband service took a little longer but was operational by mid-afternoon.’

Some weren’t so lucky though, as commenter John D Limbert was eventually connected with one provider after ‘approx three weeks’, when their previous efforts to switch to another provider had failed as well.

Which? investigates

Here at Which? we’re currently conducting research to take a closer look into exactly what happens during the process of switching broadband provider. The time it takes will be just one of the truths we hope to uncover. We plan to share the results with Ofcom, who are currently reviewing how switching processes work in broadband and phone services.

Have you experienced delays when switching broadband provider, or did everything run smoothly? And if you did get disconnected, how did you manage without it?


I am wanting to change broadband/phone supplier. No-one will do the change in less than 4 weeks!!! Absolutely ridiculous for this modern technological age.

Trying to switch from BT to Sky has been a nightmare. Our phone line was disconnected on the day of the switchover and it has been a week now. The only people who are allowed to resolve it are BT Openreach. We wanted to move away from BT due to their lack of care and willingness to over charge. I argue with Sky who are prompt at getting back to me, but they hit a brick wall because their updates on the situation rely on BT Openreach. The situation is ludricous

We went from Now TV to BT. It’s been 8 weeks without broadband and we keep getting the same run around from BT blaming BT openreach…..I’m going to have a nervous breakdown!! We already have fast fibre so God knows what’s going on??

Jamie Thomson says:
7 July 2021

I have had the same experience when moving from Talk Talk to Sky. It has been AWFUL. I gave four weeks notice to cancel Talk Talk then joined Sky. I am still with Talk Talk. Sky have said I need to cancel my cancellation, and Sky have tried six times to access the line but to no avail. It is the worst experience that I can ever imagine. I’m self employed and need broadband but no one seems to care. Can’t explain how much I would recommend to avoid Talk Talk. Sky haven’t been much better as all they have said is “we tried” in a text message. If I wasn’t doing all this chasing I don’t imagine Sky world be pursuing things. Poor poor service from both providers.

Switched from BT to SKY (Had a fully working 80mb fibre connection) and have been left with no internet for nearly 3 weeks with no resolution date except “hopefully it will be fixed”. I have to chase SKY and SKY seem unable to put pressure on openreach. So far they have fixed 3 different faults on a line that was working before. Sky seem to give me a different answer every time i call and do not understand what open reach are doing. Very poor service from both companies. Cost us a fortune as not being able to work days from and and having to go into the office. We are rural so need the internet for mobile signal. So we have missed important emails. SKY words ” we do not offer any compensation” and i should be grateful that they are not charging me for the fibre (that im not getting)

Threaten them with ofcom. Advice given by their own sale staff

Jamie Thomson says:
7 July 2021

Awful. We’ve been the same

Order for switch to Broadband/phone from cable early June 2016. Paid for new installation. No Open reach line to house. So four engineers later (one did not even turn up) all coming to fit new socket but could not, diagnosing new pole needed to cross road or driveways still no line. Believe surveys done but you cant talk directly to Open Reach so how do you know? Then could not receive calls from mobiles. That was fixed but now no calls of any kind in or out. Number ported to new provider but no socket/line! So number somewhere but not connected to house. Catch 22 new provider says there is line but there isnt old provider wont provide service despite still paying for it. Nightmare over a month since original order but still no phone.

Currently switching from Sky fibre to BT internet, confirmation of order on 12th Jan, date of switch over of services 26th Jan………

Still waiting with no internet connection!!!!!

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Decided to switch phone and broadband from Plusnet to BT. Placed the order on 21 May 17 and given a date of 6th June 17 as a switch for everything.
The phone switched seamlessly but the broadband……
Its now 16th June, 10 days after the broadband was meant to switch and we still have no broadband.
I have made numerous calls to BT over this period and got told ‘an exception was generated’, this means it has to go back to the supplier which will take another 5 working days. I was last told that it would be fixed within these 5 days with today, friday 16th June being the absolute last day it would be working. Its no 5pm and I still have no broadband.

Absolutely shocking in 2017 that this is still happening. BT have been useless, absolutely useless

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Dinesh Kumar says:
17 November 2017

Just transferred from BT broadband (advertised as fibre) but speeds were limited to 8-14Mbps. Transferred to Vodafone. Seemless. Found out that Vodafone modems don’t support more than 8 devices as advised by customer service. Requested to cancel within the cooling off period. Cancellations team informed that a request will be sent in 48 hrs and then I will find out when the broadband will be disconnected. Email received same day saying that broadband and the landline will be disconnected in 48hrs. Called back to tell them that no ISP can provide phone or broadband within 10 days. Vodafone is not interested. Left without broadband and more importantly, without a landline for next 10 days. There is very little mobile phone coverage in my area and landline is an emergency services access option. However Vodafone is not bothered about it.

Steve says:
5 January 2018

I tried to switch from sky to bt to save some money.
BT cancelled my order twice without me saying anything and on the day it was due to go live sky stopped their service but BT failed to take up the line. Their excuse, the order is “stuck” in their system. We have now been 2 weeks with no phone and internet.
I have asked them to cancel the order and they have told me they have tried but the cancellation order has been rejected…
So I’m now stuck trying to cancel BT everyday and any new provider says it will take up to 2 weeks for them to take the line. Looks like we could be over a month with not internet.
And we are now having to top up mobile data as well.
I wish I had stayed at sky. Might have been more expensive but at least we were connected.

BT ,SKY ?? have you no sense I changed to ZEN with no problems at all they were very helpful too

Decided to switch broadband from supernet to sky. Sky took over the line immediately so we had no Internet access then told us our activation date would be exactly two damn weeks away!… Kids are having a meltdown

It seems to me their all the same Supanet cowboys tried to switch from them to Talk Talk within ten mins internet been cut off half hour later they picked the phone up told us if we stayed with them they would connect us back up if not we would have to wait 2weeks yet we payed a month up front tell me how can this be fair please please dont even think about going with Supanet they so rude on the phone please don’t waste your time Supanet they are the biggest bunch of cowboys you will ever meet there head office is in Cyprus

I have switched 4 times in the past few years and 3 of those occasions I’ve had a break for up to 2 weeks. In each case the open reach engineer who has ended up coming out to fix the problem told me that the engineers sent to make the switch at the exchange made a mess of things by connecting me up wrongly. It’s about time we had an always on service like the electricity with some large penalties for breaks in service.

simon farrell says:
18 November 2019

I requested a switch from Talk Talk to Sky and was given a date of the 5th November 2019.

The phone line switched on the 9th November, Talk Talk service has ended and no Broadband.

Sky keep saying Open reach have a computer fault. Each update pushes the date back a week.

Currently waiting for an update on the 21st November which might give me an actual activation date.

Why switch the phone line in advance of the Broadband and not the same time…….

Hi Simon – If you have a reasonable 4G mobile service you could ask Sky to lend you a mobile router, which would provide your computer with internet access via the mobile phone network. I’ve read that some service providers provide mobile routers when there is a problem.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Get on with it Ofcom says:
19 November 2019

My phone and broadband were due to change from Talk Talk to Now yesterday. I currently have no broadband and can only make outgoing calls. Rather bizarre. So now 7 years after this thread started the shambles continues. We need a government that will give Ofcom some teeth and encourage them to use them.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Peter Goggins says:
28 February 2020

I moved into a new house and got talk talk to connect me, on week 2 they told me I was connected .. but I wasnt , they told me the house had a telephone box inside .. but it diddnt , and they wanted me to pay for ‘having it’ after waiting 3 weeks and 2 ‘missed’ engineer visits they came a 3rd time engineers visit , only they never showed , I wondered if they had the right place only to see Openreach 200 yards down the road up a ladder to a house .. I asked if they were meant t be at my address , they thought they were

at present with Sky Broadband, tried 2 companies to switch to but cannot as they say my landline phone is disconnected and yet i am still using the phone on Sky as i am still in contract, baffled

I started the switch from Sky to BT Fibre two weeks ago. Sky wrote to say that I didn’t need to do anything as the account would close a few days after the switch had taken place. Woke this morning to no internet, or phone. Phoned Sky and my account is closed. Landline has switched to BT and will be live with them midnight tonight. However, BT not due to connect internet for 22 days. I’m working from home, its a disaster.

Stephen says:
18 December 2020

First BT ‘lost’ my order to switch from Shell, it took hours of phone calls to resurrect it. Then my service suddenly turned off a week before the due date, it turned out they’d switched the phone line and not the broadband, leaving us with no broadband. How can anyone think that’s a sensible thing to do. Through all subsequent calls, nothing was brought forward, in fact they delayed it further, so we are now over a week without broadband and forecast is 10 days. New router is stuck with Royal Mail for 2 days despite a ’24’ hour service. Wife has been livid, my stress levels have shot up. Unbelievably bad customer service at a time that we rely on the service for homeworking etc. We have had to apologise to our bosses and try and muddle through on a weak mobile signal. I have been standing outside in the rain every evening downloading things for the family at a hotspot. BT say they care but they really don’t, otherwise when they mess up they would pull up trees to put things right quickly. I shall take no pleasure in applying to the Ombudsman for the maximum possible damages once the eight weeks period allows. In the meantime the stress and arguments continue and run up to Christmas ruined.

Pavan says:
23 December 2020

The same thing has happened with me, after 2 failed orders and 2 months without broadband another order is being processed by Sky. How does open reach feel it’s acceptable.

Raj says:
29 April 2021

Wow, 5 years since this article and still the problems persist. I’m on day 10 with no phone or Internet and I’m waiting for an engineer to visit in just over a weeks time. Post office to plusnet, plusnet very unhelpful. It should be treated as an essential utility, does anyone care? Ofcom, government?

8 weeks and counting!!! We already had fibre broadband but wifi was poor in the loft rooms. We switched from Now to BT for better wifi. We’ve have had an awful time. Orders keep failing and BT keep blaming BT Openreach. We have 5 children who needed to learn from home, they love gaming, we cant watch TV ( no aerial) husband has an online business. I’m severely disabled so need the internet for food and medication. To top it off we all got covid and couldn’t leave the house. BT Openreach said we were not vulnerable?? I’m shocked!! Cant see an end in sight to this misery!!!