/ 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?

Comments
Profile photo of rarrar
Member

If you have a BT supplied phone line , switching is easy and there are almost no costs.
If you have gone for a LLU supplier then switching away from them could involve getting a BT line reconnected – very expensive.
I’ve switched a couple of times with no hassle, but the issues and costs with LLU provided services puts me off using a LLU provider.

Profile photo of Catherine West
Member

Hi rarrar thanks for your comment – you’re right the switching process can be more complicated if you aren’t switching to and from a service supplied on a BT line. I think this is a real concern. LLU services often offer faster speeds or lower prices so it’s not in the consumers best interests if this is prohibiting switching.

Profile photo of xrayspex
Member

Make it clear that by “LLU” you mean Full LLU (MPF) where the provider takes over both your broadband and phone line, making it difficult to switch your broadband in the future.

The main Full LLU providers are: TalkTalk always, Sky with Phone and some resellers.

However most LLU providers are Partial LLU (SMPF) where your phone line remains with BT (even when you may pay your line rental to the broadband provider) and it is simple and free to switch using the MAC (Migration Authorisation Code) Process.

Profile photo of colin c
Member

My provider has always been pretty reliable, so there’s no real urgency for me to change. I have my own domain name, so switching to a new email address isn’t really a problem. However I sometimes consider switching to one of the Which best buy providers, and yet always chicken out. Why? I know it should be relatively simple and painless, and I feel technically competent enough to do it, yet I worry that Murphy’s Law will kick in and what should have been a simple operation becomes a nightmare. Stick with the devil you know.

Actually what will provoke a change is if my ISP’s parent company continues to bombard me with emails and cold phone calls offering to bundle my broadband with my line rental, which I don’t want. (Opal, sorry TalkTalkBusiness – are you listening?)

Profile photo of richard
Member

I can only say – Many years ago I was very disappointed with the BT connection – so I changed to NTL as soon as it was laid – Never regretted it.

A number of my friends were also disappointed with their Broadband Suppliers in the last few years – all changed suppliers without difficulty – but all are Computer nerds (as I am).

Profile photo of alistair
Member

Just in case it helps anyone out there. I am planning to get out of my talktalk account asap, to get onto 02 as my ISP. They have [for quite a while] offered 3 months free to new subscribers, though this is due to end on Feb 28th. I went into an 02 shop today, the sales assistant informed me that if I take up 02 [but have not started using] 02 as my ISP that they will defer my free 3 months untill such time as I am ready to start with them.
Hope that makes sense. Their add on landline sounds quite good for me too, as I seldom use my landline!
Alistair

Member

I am with Talk Talk and have just looked into switching to O2 as they score so well price wise in the latest which guide. To switch my landline and broadband package from talk talk O2 would charge me £25 for broadband and then £45 for phone switch. O2’s basic broadband is £13.28 added to this the landline charge to match what I currently get from talk talk takes the monthly cost over what I currently pay to talk talk – so I am staying put (I don’t have problems with service from talk talk). The 3 months free from O2 seems to only apply to the broadband aspect – not to the landline charges.

Profile photo of dave d
Member

I switched from BT to The POst Office for ‘phone and Broadband over 2 years ago.
I did this because of BT’s policy of charging for payments made by any method other than Direct Debit.

The Post Office has a very poor technical support service (in fact I’ve recently complained to Which? about this) but they are not significantly worse than BT in that area, and in terms of speed of connection (which is not brilliant but I am on the very edge of the exchange area) and reliability they are rather better than BT.

Price-wise I get a better deal on my land line (which i do use extensively) and the Broadband is slightly cheaper, but only by pennies.

I don’t do on line gaming and I don’t spend hours downloading videos or music; if I did I might perhaps find that neither BT nor The Post Office were really up to much. I do host my own website so I regularly upload updates – this is satisfactory.

So what I’m saying is basically that I don’t change because apart from, Technical Support (which thankfully I hardly ever need being a “computer nerd” as someone else has put it) what I get is satisfactory value, reasonably good service and does what I want without loads of bells and whistles I don’t want.

I suspect that this applies to a great many people who don’t switch?

Member
Phil Wagstaff says:
22 February 2011

If I leave Virgin cable I end up with a slower broadband speed considerably slower than my current 10mb, and extra set up costs to boot. No matter how Virgin keeps inventing increased charges it’s still the only game in town if you do not live right on top of the telephone exchange. I’m not a gamer but I even so I find 10mb frustratingly slow.

Member
Mike Elliott says:
22 February 2011

I recently started a new broadband contract with BT Broadband. The sales site estimated that I would be able to receive a download speed of around 16Mb/sec. I was pretty unhappy to find that after installation I eneded up with more like 7Mb.

So, I went through the support routine with the online support desk, very helpful but ultimately didnt acheive any higher speed. They did run plenty of online tests and insisted that this was the fastest my line would support.

Completely by chance I bumped into the BTCare alias on Twitter. They responded fairly quickly and even arranged for an engineer visit to my house to investigate. After isolating my internal extension wiring and fitting a new main socket my downstream ADSL rate was up to around 12.5Mb/sec. This speed still wasnt useable from a computer but after a couple of further ‘tweets’ with BTCare this went up to around 11Mb useable speed.

Dont give up if you think things arent as they should be.

Member
Eyelid says:
22 February 2011

I see the last correspondent found 10mb frustratingly slow; how about half a meg, and even that speed is hardly attainable! I use BT broadband for simplicity, i.e. I’ve always used BT landline, and their HomeHub wireless works well, but I’m on the end of the rural line at 7km from the exchange and so it is very slow. What is even more frustrating is that a few years ago a fibre optic cable was laid down the main road below my farm (I think it’s a main line down from London to the coast i.e. Hastings) but I can’t access it. There’s not even mains water down the road but they have inaccessible fibre optic cable……..
Normal e-mailing even with photos seems to work ok but streaming films or iPlayer stuff can be unwatchable because of the intermittency. I’ve investigated satellite broadband but it’s very expensive and doesn’t support Skype. SO there’s no point in changing broadband supplier because it won’t be any faster, and like other correspondents I don’t want the inevitable hassle. Roll on decent rural broadband……

Member
Thebusker says:
22 February 2011

Here in the country side, we have sheep that are more assertive than Ofcom. We’ve recently managed to get up to 2Mb but that’s about the limit for the 19th century infrastructure here. Despite threats from Ofcom and the Welsh assembly, BT have done nothing to progress our entry into the 21st century. I looked into transferring my service but whoever I could have gone with ultimately has to supply their service down the same tube – so no benefits – and the packages are all really tuned to average out in the end. We will only see benefits when regulators actually do their job – free market does not exist!!

Profile photo of holman
Member

I am most unhappy with my broadband service but I have not moved. Why not? For the simple reason that my problem is not with my service provider, Plusnet, but with BT. Moving to, say, Zen looks like a good idea but Zen and Plusnet and EVERY service provider would come down the same line (technically, same virtual path) and BT runs it. Not only that, but the relevant clause of the contract between BT and EVERY service provider says the same thing … a service advertised as “up to 8Mbps” is within contract if the speed is above 0.2 Mbps. Yes, 0.2 Mbps.

I need BT to reduce the number of customers on my “virtual path”. If I knew which ISP would have the greatest clout with BT to achieve that, I would move.

Profile photo of Catherine West
Member

We agree that broadband speed advertising can be very misleading. We’re currently responding to the Advertising Standard Authority’s consultation into the use of ‘up to’ speeds in advertising and are pushing for a system to give consumers a much better idea of the speeds they will actually get in reality!

Profile photo of gkbernstein@metronet.co.uk
Member

I have been using PlusNet for a long time. I am happy with the service I receive and the price they charge me. I see no reason to change, providing the good service and value continue.

Member
Sirgeoffrey says:
22 February 2011

What is the point in switching when the speed is often, as in my case determined by the BT network, which other suppliers use, irrespective of the retailer? In our case BT are using a copper lines for 400 + houses and Ofcom in its stupidity and ignorance and maybe laziness does not force them to guarantee minimum bandwidths e.g by forcing them to provide fibre to the kerb. Until we get a decent regulator, who penalises them for providing slow bandwidth and does not let any provider charge the same price irrespective of the bandwidth actually provided there will be less competition than there should be and a very poor, reminiscent of 3rd world service

Profile photo of peter t
Member

I agree but in the rush to give us choice I suspect that it unfairly penalises BT. For 22 years I lived at the end of nearly 11Km of copper wires with, according to my BT engineer, over a thousand joins in it. Result? my broadband never got above 1.5Meg which all things considered was not bad. I also had a WAN connection via LN Communications which gave me 2.5 Meg also reliable. With all the unbundling that has gone on BT will in the end just be left with people like me in a small community where the cost of getting fibre to the village let alone the kerb far outweighs any revenue they will derive, this is the problem with letting the market decide, all the fibre operators outside BT have mopped up all the lucrative areas where they can generate revenue and are unlikely to extend their networks much as it makes no economic sense.

Why should BT be penalised? Why not all the fibre companies who are making a nice living out of only supplying high density areas? The privatisation of stuff like this becomes a self fulfilling prophecy, all the best bits are grabbed by commercial operators and the former state supplier is left with all the non profitable bits which are uneconomic to upgrade, we then criticise them for poor service. I am not a great supporter of state run businesses, but if the market is to decide, then all I can suggest is move to a town with fibre, that’s what a market economy does, it is not interested in high speed broadband for everyone, just those from who they can make a profit. .

I suspect that the part privatisation of Royal Mail will have the same effect, cheaper faster mail if you live in a big city, for the rest of us in the end probably more expensive mail and I suspect ultimately, a drive to the local town to collect your mail

Profile photo of tonymm
Member

Hi, My SP is OK but the thing which I don’t agree with is this distance business from the
Telecoms centre. The further you are from this means you get slower braud band. Why should
someone like myself receive a slower reception than others who are closer to the Telecoms centre
but we both pay the same for the service. Very unfair, and it looks as if there will be no improvement
in the near futere.

Regards,
Tony moody.

Member
Mike Elliott says:
22 February 2011

But thats a limitation of the technology itself, the farther the copper wire connection to the exchange the lower the broadband speed can be acheived with it. Electrical resistance and signal noise increase over distance.

This is why BT Infinity super fast broadband is able to deliver faster speeds, by bringing the fibre connection closer to your house, or in some cases directly to your house the speed of the service can be dramatically improved.

Profile photo of xrayspex
Member

Physics!

Member
Richard Rozmanowski says:
22 February 2011

I have been a broadband user for the past 8 years and my TalkTalk (Tiscali) 20Mb service in the BT 0208 393 telephone exchange has deteriorated over the past year and today it is 0 .5-0.6Mb up/download. I also take the phone and line rental from TalkTalk and have my own Belkin router.
What is the point of changing suppliers when surely it is the BT exchanges at fault. Accoring to my understanding my only option is Fibre Optic and I appear to have ONE choice: Virgin! Previously I found Virgin.net (broadband) and their mobile phone service quite expensive and not very good. 2 years ago I took the full SKY HD sports package with free broadband, BUT I was advised by SKY that they could not offer the broadband as my telephone & line rental was paid to Tiscali!

Last year I wrote to OFCOM to complain about TalkTalk (Tiscali) and they replied that they cannot do anything as I should follow their complaints procedure. Catch 22.

SELF REGULATION IS A CHARTER FOR CHEATS!
This rubbish of a service could NOT exist in some European countries as any new business has to be licensed and comply with minimum regulations particularly to do with VAT and customer/employee care.

I understand that the BBC need fodder for their programmes BUT this is a civilised country and its about time politicians had the guts to say stop to the directors BONUS greed and legislate.

Member
CChapman says:
22 February 2011

Switching email providers needs to be made as easy as switching mobile phone numbers i.e just like you can now keep your same mobile phone number you should also be able to keep your same email address, when switching ISP providers.

This is technically possible. There is no technological reason why it cant be done. The only reason that most email/ISP companies refuse to do this is purely and simply down to anti-competitive behaviour.

Incidentally BT do apparently have a facility that allows their customers to take their email address with them if they switch to another provider.

We are unfortunately stuck with Virgin Media ADSL who provide an absolutely lousy and overpriced service – but as we definately dont want to change our email address we are held hostage be them.

Member
DAVID MAHONEY says:
22 February 2011

I use AOL and can’t understand why they are so poorly rated.I get broadband, all uk calls at all times..except premium numbers, for about £13.50 per month plus 1/4ly BT line rental.OK I lose connection a few times per week but can you better that.Most providers restrict calls to evenings and w/ends!

Member
Ron Baynes says:
22 February 2011

I am not very satisfied with the speed and reliability of my broadband connection through TalkTalk but I don’t know how to tell if it would improve if I switched ISPs. I see from Which? info that customers of some ISPs are more satisfied with broadband speed and reliability that the customers of other ISPs but I still have a lot of uncertainty about whether a switch would bring about improvement if there is the possibility that my poor experience is due to the limitations of the telephone line.

Member
M A Punch says:
22 February 2011

You are forgetting there is usually a punitive financial penalty for switching if you are on a long term contract. You can’t just decide to leave and that has to be a major factor because the penalty will negate any savings that you can make by switching.

Member

I wish BT would update their old wiring on telephone poles and cables under the footpath these cables could be 20 years old, yes installing new cable could be very costly to BT but it would improve line quality and speed of your connection no matter who your broadband supplier is as most require you to have a BT line to your property, over the years I have experienced crackles and broadcast radio interference, so this is why I am using 3 network dongle less problems and I can change to another provider like Vodafone by plugging in another dongle within minutes. I know Cable like Virginmedia is another option but I don,t want to be locked into a contract.

Mew

Profile photo of pjp
Member

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.

Member
Mike Elliott says:
23 February 2011

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.

Member
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.

Member
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.

Profile photo of Catherine West
Member

Thanks to everyone who’s left comments. It’s really useful for us to hear the issues that mean you either don’t want to, are put off or simply can’t switch supplier. Keep them coming!

Member
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?

Member
Mike Elliott says:
24 February 2011

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.

Mike

Profile photo of ChrisGloucester
Member

“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.

Member
Mike Elliott says:
25 February 2011

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.

Member
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….

Member
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.

Member

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?

Member
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.

Member
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!

Member

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.

Profile photo of xrayspex
Member

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!

Member

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.

Profile photo of xrayspex
Member

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.”