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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.