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Slow broadband causes widespread stress, campaigners claim

A report compiled for the ISP-led Fix Britain’s Internet campaign has said that millions of people are experiencing stress and anxiety because of slow and unreliable broadband

One in 10 UK adults – about four million people – claim to have experienced stress and anxiety due to slow or unreliable broadband connections, with many reporting extreme behaviours such as angry outbursts or breaking down in tears, according to a report released by the Fix Britain’s Internet campaign.

Fix Britain’s Internet  – a collaboration between internet service providers (ISPs) Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone alongside the Federation of Communication Services – was launched at the end of July 2016 to help consumers and business owners get their voices heard as Ofcom consults on the future of BT and Openreach.

The study, which was conducted on a weighted sample of 2,000 adults by researcher Bilendi on 26 and 27 July, appeared to suggest that prolonged periods of broadband-induced stress could have a long-term impact on mental wellbeing.

“The tortoise-like speed of a poor broadband connection doesn’t just a waste our time, it can also be detrimental to our physical and mental health,” said neuropsychologist David Lewis, founder of Brighton-based research unit Mindlab International.

“My own lab’s research has proved that when internet connections slow to a crawl in the middle of completing an online task, we experience significant increase in blood pressure and heart rate, impaired reasoning and decision-making, growing anxiety, intense frustration and even incidents of ‘computer rage’.”

The survey found 56% of people had complained at some point of being unable to perform online tasks that are now considered fairly basic, such as streaming video-on-demand (VoD), chatting on Skype, or shopping online.

About 25% said the frustration was comparable to public transport delays, and one in seven believed slow broadband induced “the same level of stress as being on a long-haul flight next to screaming children”.

Fix Britain’s Internet said that a quarter of adults were unhappy with their internet service, and one in eight thought their service was actually getting worse, with 60% saying they had been let down by their ISP in the past month.

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Most apposite. This morning I was on a Skype call where we spent 30 minutes wrestling with problems caused by the slow speed of the person who initiated the conference call - before giving up and getting another participant to initiate. That worked better save for one who spend the entire conference trying to get in. It may save travel time and money (the participants were scattered across the from the Welsh Borders to London and Cambridge and from Southampton to the Lake District) but blood pressures certainly rose.  Meanwhile ever more consumers are experiencing the gaps between service claims and experience of delivery.    
It seems that the advertised speeds are merely a taunt, not a fact. I doubt we'd willing accept, say, light bulbs that delivered a fraction of their rated wattage. Or crippled cars that sputtered along well below the posted speed limit. Or superhighways that reverted to washboard dirt roads every twenty kilometers.

I suspect the slowdown is no more than an attempt to extract higher fees for full advertised service. While I'm loathe to call for government intervention, the private sector seems incapable of resolving this problem to the benefit of anyone except the private sector.