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Around six out of 10 consumers in the UK have experienced some kind of problem with their home broadband connection in the past year, including poor connections, dropouts and low speeds, according to consumer rights organisation Which?.
On behalf of Which?, pollsters Populus conducted a nationally representative online survey of 2,084 households between 21 and 22 December 2016, and found high levels of consumer dissatisfaction, with 38% of those who experienced connection issues saying they had been prevented from carrying out one or more online activities.
The survey also suggested 19% experienced a negative financial impact, and 31% had difficulty accessing online banking or paying bills as a result of broadband connection issues.
“There is nothing more annoying than your internet cutting out when you’re streaming your favourite programme, or when you’ve spent ages filling your online shopping basket but your connection is too slow to get you to the checkout,” said Which? managing director of home services Alex Neill.
“Far too many people are experiencing problems with their broadband across the country and we want to help people to fix it.”
As a result, Which? has launched its own broadband campaign, including a speed checker, free advice on how to improve speed and service without having to contact the provider, and a complaint tool if all else fails.
Dan Howdle, telecoms analyst at Cable.co.uk, said the Which? findings were not wholly surprising, but pointed out it was important to realise that what a user might cite as a broadband problem covered a wide variety of issues, from occasional buffering at peak times to days-long local or national outages.
“Depending on the severity of the problem, customers may be within their rights to switch to another provider. Ofcom rules offer a get-out clause if the provider has failed in providing an acceptable level of service,” said Howdle.
“Just as consumers are required to meet monthly payments, providers are obliged to deliver the service we pay for – failure to do this is a breach of contract and may mean you can vote with your feet without fear of cancellation fees.”
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Steve Holford, chief customer officer at Hyperoptic, said the Which? survey demonstrated once again the need for investment in full fibre services.
“The simple fact is that much of our broadband infrastructure depends on copper telephone wires – some of which are 140 years old. Even a large proportion of so-called ‘fibre’ services still depend on copper to deliver the last stage of connectivity.
“This outdated technology is limited in speed and capacity and isn’t fit for today’s digital world. The onus needs to be on investing and supporting fibre-to-the-premises roll outs that will give consumers the internet experience that they deserve, as well as preparing the UK economy for the future,” said Holford.