/ Technology

Why are we happy to put up with bad broadband?

Annoyed man head-butting laptop

Our recent broadband satisfaction survey found that even the unhappiest customers don’t always leave. Eight out of ten of those with the worst performing provider (AOL Broadband) have never switched. But why?

If a service isn’t brilliant, but doesn’t really cause too much trouble, I can see why switching might not seem like a priority.

But as our satisfaction survey shows, even those of us who are really unhappy with the service we’re getting don’t make the effort to leave. Now that sounds a bit odd to me – so what’s stopping us?

Why won’t you switch?

We recently heard from lots of you who agreed that using your internet service provider’s email address can put you off switching. But the most common reasons not to switch are fears that something will go wrong, and concerns about the effort involved.

I think it’s unfair that providers can use these advantages to keep unhappy customers with them. A good step in the right direction would be to make the switching process itself as easy as possible. Thankfully, if you’re moving from one ADSL service to another, the current process should be fairly simple.

But it’s a different story if you’re trying to swap more than one service (like your TV and broadband) at the same time.

There’s a future issue to consider here too – as more people take up superfast broadband, switching from these could be a much more complicated process, new networks are being installed for which switching processes have yet to be developed or agreed.

Efforts to make it easier to switch

Ofcom’s currently looking into what needs to be done to make switching easy and hassle free. It also wants to make sure that the switching process doesn’t get in the way of providers competing to offer lower prices and greater choice. Well that all sounds ideal to me!

We want to make sure that your views are represented in Ofcom’s current review of broadband switching – so tell us about your experiences, good and bad.

If you’re unhappy with you broadband service, what’s keeping you with them? And what do you think broadband providers could do to make it easier to switch?


I, like several people commenting above, live in a rural community. The problem with my service is therefore not the ISP but the infrastructure. One regulation change that might result in a little more investment would be to make the ISPs reduce their charges on slow lines in proportion to line speed. So if BT give your line a service profile speed of 1 Mbps then you should only pay 12.5% of the “up to 8 Mbps” broadband charges.

mmm, one problem with that is that its the lines that would be paying the lowest amount that would need the greatest investment generally speaking.

Mike Robbins says:
23 February 2011

Generally, it is clear that poor up/download speeds are a factor of the local line capability. I, like many of the correspondents, are at the limit of effective cover from the local exchange. I am very dissatisfied with the speed I get[well under 0.5Mbps], but changing ISP will not solve that. One negative aspect of changing an ISP is that you can never be sure that you will get an improvement in speed, service or whatever and it would help if you could easily retain your current email addresses.

Susan Purvis says:
23 February 2011

Have had the same telephone number for over 20 years. Have switched from BT toTesco to Talk Talk, with no trouble. However… want to go from talk talk and find that I cannot take my much loved phone number with me because it is an LLU, even though it was an original BT number. I want to move to Orange with whom we have all our mobile (and rarely had a problem with their customer service incidentally) and therefore can get a discount but have been told that we have to have a new number. To avoid the new number we need to sign up with BT again and the shortest term offered is 18 months though Talk Talk say we can take the number to Plus net or Virgin. Surely we should have been told the implications of switching if switching back at a later date would not be straight forward? Incidentally line speed would be faster away from talk talk – not much but about .5 meg.

ChrisTranter says:
24 February 2011

I’m with TalkTalk and have been in discussions endlessly (and fruitlessly) with them for months over declining speeds through the day.Thet keep promising to do something to increase the speeds so how could they achieve this with the same BT lines-am I right in concluding that the more customers they get for an area the lower the speeds would be for everyone?Changing my Tiscali email would be a nightmare for me
Should I change to one of the Which recommmendations or will I suffer the same fate of declining speeds as customers build up in an area?

Hi Chris,

There are two main things that would effect your broadband speed. The first, as has been discussed above, is purely limited by the technology and physics and is influenced by such things as your distance from the telephone exchange, the quality of your telephone connection to your home, the quality and amount of internal phone extension cables you might have.

The second thing is related to contention ratio and is directly influenced by the broadband provider. The contention ratio governs how many other customers you share the broadband infrastructure with. A ratio of 20:1 is better than 50:1 generally speaking but obviously the user experience depends on what load those other customers are placing on the bandwidth. If you are all sitting streaming iPlayer video from the BBC then you’ll notice a slower available speed.

You can measure your speed at a given time using the speedtest.net website. The actual ADSL broadband downstream rate (the maximum speed your connection could use if nobody else were sharing it) can be found on the configuration screens of your broadband router although this can sometimes be tricky to find and usually requires an admin logon to your router.


“Why are we happy to put up with bad broadband?”
Well not all of us are.
But the problem of poor speed is usually down to the phone line to your house rather than anything your IPS does.
Mind you I pay for an advertised up to 8 meg but never get more than two.
What’s really annoying is paying for this 6 meg I’ll never see until the line is upgraded. Ok it’s not the ISP’s fault but it’s not mine either so how come I pay for something I’m not getting?
My ISP is feeding me at 2 meg so that’s what I should pay for. Let the ISP pursue whoever for the cost of the other 6 meg.

maybe there needs to be some form of clause in broadband supply deals that penalises the provider depending on how far away the actual broadband speed you receive is from the estimate.

Eyelid says:
25 February 2011

You can try haggling with your ISP if your speed is low — they have an interest in keeping you, after all. I got £3 off per month, which was something, but even £13 a month is too much.

I’ve just noticed my download speed again, a message coming in — a staggering 8 -15 kbps! And that’s at 11.30 pm!

I thought I had the answer when I found out about mobile b’band and dongles; but guess what, no 3g here either. Out in the sticks we eat grass and sleep on straw if we’re lucky….

M Barton says:
9 March 2011

I was so frustrated with trying to get hold of a BT billing person in the UK, I told the person I was speaking to in BT that I was going to transfer to another provider. BT immediately cancelled our broadband. I would never go onto BT for anything again.

At present I pay BT for my telephone line, I pay OneTel(part of TalkTalk) for my preselection calls and I pay Sky for my Sky Unlimited Broadband.
Until this time last year my Broadband was with UKonline (excellent) then Sky closed it down and offered my present contract with a sweetener of 1/2 price for one year.
My Question: If I take my phoneline and broadband with TalkTalk will they change my number? AND more importantly, if I was not happy with TalkTalk and wanted to change to another provider, would I then be forced to change my number?

Eyelid says:
28 June 2012

There’s no point in changing ISPs if the problem is with the line and infrastructure and there’s no alternative line provider. If you live deep in the bush and far away from the BT exchange as we do here, where 640 Kbps download speed is the exception and line damage and damp connections make even the land ‘phone line unreliable or noisy, and 3G with a dongle is not available, then the only option for any practicable Internet connection is satellite broadband. I’m surprised there has been no discussion here about satellite services. Last year I had Tooway Direct install a dish and connection which so far has been very reliable, and not hugely expensive to run — initially £25 pm which I had to upgrade to £40 pm for an essential 16GB pm download allowance — I’m not sure that it delivers up to the advertised 8.2 Mbps but it does all that I need. Ok, £480 a year is not cheap, but it’s cheaper than walking to your local for three pints of bitter a week, so you have to decide on your priorities….. Another bonus of satellite broadband is that the dish can also receive HD (Freesat) TV with the appropriate module for a very small cost (£80 or so for the module and c. £100 for cabling and installation and no payments after that). I’m now waiting for this to be installed so I can’t report either way on it yet but I’m hopeful that it lives up to expectations.

David says:
30 June 2013

The first three comments pretty much explain why people are reluctant to switch. To me it looks like someone has spilt something on their keyboard and then wiped it off. I have absolutely no idea what they are saying, and I know that if I try to speak to my service provider he will speak in jargon and acronyms just the same.

I know that all I will happen is that I will feel used, abused, humiliated and embarrassed if I go anywhere near my provider.

If you think this is an exaggeration bear this in mind. I have Asperger’s and find talking on the phone to people I don’t know very awkward.

ps. I’m also a techno-dinosaur!

I have had my phone line with BT for 13 years and my broadband with Orange. If I transfer my phone line to the Post Office would I be able to keep my phone number and would my Orange Broadband still be available to me without the need to contact Orange?
I’m tired of paying £6 a quarter processing charges to BT and now they have introduced a £2 a month charge for the 1571 service that used to be free. Apart from needing a BT line for my Orange Broadband I only make about £3 of calls a quarter so paying around £12 a quarter for the 1571 service and processing charges is ridiculous.
Any advice would be appreciated.

Why not take your line to Orange? It should get you cheaper BB.

As long as your line remain’s BT WLR (Wholesale Line Rental) Orange BB will continue on it.

BT 1571 (& Privacy at Home with Caller Display) are being charged £1.75 pm from 4th. Jan.

3 x £2 = £6 not £12!

The £12 I referred to was the three x £2 payments and the £6 processing charge BT charge totalling £12 that I wouldn’t have to pay the post office if I transferred to them.
The good thing about the post office is that I wouldn’t have to pay my phone bill by direct debit as I would have to if I transferred it to Orange. I already have a direct debit with orange for my broadband and it suits me to pay the phone bill with cash.I would save quite a bit switching to the post office for the landline compared to orange and BT. If I could be certain that my orange broadband would continue without any hitch if I switch to the post office then I would do it today.

PO is in the process of switching their BB to TalkTalk, a Full LLU provider. However:

http://forums.thinkbroadband.com/postoffice/f/4261228-qa-on-the-changes-underway-at-post-office.html :
”1. Will voice only customers remain on a WLR Product?
Yes all voice only customers will remain on WLR. This means any broadband from other providers where you just have Post Office voice line rental will be unaffected.”