back to article ISPs failing 13m Brits on broadband speed, claims consumer group

Fast and reliable broadband connections remain a distant dream for far too many Brits, researchers at a consumer group claimed on Friday. It's estimated by Which? that around 13 million households across Blighty are saddled with slow access to the country's networks. The issue was compounded by poor service, the outfit added …


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  1. JurassicPark

    GigE over Coax

    My network manager implemented GigE over copper in our datacentre (ripping out the fibre). Why can't Telco's implement this for consumers? Is it a distance issue?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: GigE over Coax

      Yes, your GigE won't work over the 1.5kms that ADSL often requires. The maximum length is 100m, a bit limiting for those of us not next door to the exchange.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: GigE over Coax

      Distance is the issue with copper/coax. Virgin Media is fibre to the cabinet but they have coax from the cabinet to the house, which is usually less than 100 metres. In some areas they daisychain cabinets together with coax too but they have amplifiers in the box to boost the signal.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: GigE over Coax

        Which is how FTTC works, and hence is capable of faster speeds.

        1. AndrueC Silver badge

          Re: GigE over Coax

          [Cable/coax] is how FTTC works, and hence is capable of faster speeds.

          Not quite. Cable is a ring circuit so suffers from every property on a street (or an entire neighbourhood) sharing a single coax cable. Capacity of coax is good but suffers when it's contended, especially on uploading. Uploading relies on TDMS and one thing with another is why cable products generally can't match BT on upload speed.

          BT's FTTC is a star network so every termination point has a dedicated cable to the cabinet. Swings and roundabouts.

    3. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: GigE over Coax

      Yes, 1000baseT is rated for a maximum cable length of 100m.

      I'm moving house next week, in to a block served by hyperoptic, they run fibre to each block and then 1000baseT from the central point to each flat.

      1. rhydian

        Re: GigE over Coax

        Another problem is that you'd increase your copper usage by 400% if you used regular 1000BaseT as a phone line is only a single pair.

        For all its faults (which are mainly "it's not FTTP") FTTC is the best "transitional" technology we can use at the moment to upgrade the regular phone network. Doing FTTC upgrades means that a lot of areas are having their first upgrades since ADSL came in over 10 years ago and their first major wiring work for over 20.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I must be one of the lucky ones

    Had VM (formerly Telewest) fibre broadband since 2004. Had 2 outages totalling 30 minutes (that I know of). One was because they'd "forgotten" the serial number of the cable modem (I'm sure they do this deliberately to flush out unpaying customers). The other was a network issue.

    It's the basic package (30MBs IIRC), and it's always worked up to that. Can download a 400Mb file in under 90s.

    Funniest thing, is we live in a poorer part of Brum (it qualified for the stamp duty relief as a deprived area) and a lot of my more mansion dwelling colleagues have much worse service.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I must be one of the lucky ones

      Had a few outages a year with Virgin but had sluggish performance for half of every year I was with them.

      Disconnects and max speed are often commented on but latency and web page viewing speed is rarely mentioned. Most regular people don't need above 20MBs but would benefit from latency and faster DNS lookup improvements rather than more raw speed.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I must be one of the lucky ones

      I'm lucky enough to be in a VM cable area and get excellent speeds (as advertised) with only 2 known outages in the last 3 years (one a network problem which was fixed within couple of hours, and the other due to rain water collecting in the cable duct outside my house - fixed within 3 days).

      I occasionally have to reboot the router and change my wifi channel to avoid conflicts, but the service quality is leaps and bounds above any other ISP i've used over the last 15 years(*).

      (*) most notably Orange, who sent me a *physically damaged* router (I could see the damage on the case and also the motherboard through the ventilation holes). Five days of calls and escalations before they would allow me to send it back and get a new one. Obviously, there was no option on the diagnosis sheet for "parcel dropped off the back of the van and kicked around the warehouse prior to delivery"...

    3. rhydian

      Re: I must be one of the lucky ones

      "Funniest thing, is we live in a poorer part of Brum (it qualified for the stamp duty relief as a deprived area) and a lot of my more mansion dwelling colleagues have much worse service."

      The thing is that those less expensive parts of cities are the easiest to wire up for cable/fibre. All the houses are closer together so less cable to run and you can serve more paying customers from the same kit.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Hadn't thought of that, thanks.

        20 years ago, when I lived in Harrow, Videotron cabled our street. It was a very labour intensive process. Ahead of the cabling team, by a few days, were the sales team ;) At the time I had a friend who was buying a house a mile away. It was a new build little estate, and they hadn't laid the roads or pavements yet. You would have thought a cable company would be in like a shot. Hell, *I* could have cabled the whole 200 houses in an afternoon.

        They're still waiting for cable ....

        1. rhydian

          Re: @rhydian

          It depends if Videotron had a wayleave to put ducts in or not on the estate. If the developers hadn't made one available or if BT were laying the ducting then no go.

          Even these days its hit and miss if VM will cable up new developments or not.

        2. lorisarvendu

          Re: @rhydian

          @AC - Exactly my situation. Diamond Cable doing Long Eaton in 1997. Packed up tools and left while one street away from me. Never came back. Finally 17 years later I have the kind of fibre speeds I would have got then, if I'd lived in the next street.

          1. Graham Marsden

            Re: @rhydian

            This evening, having just got back from holiday, I was catching up on El Reg when Virgin Media decided to go tits up for half an hour and I kept getting messages that Firefox was unable to resolve the address.

            After about 30 minutes of this I tried phoning their helpline only to get told that it might take them 5 mintues to answer my call.

            Fortunately at this point it started working again, but such events are not uncommon with VM.

    4. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: I must be one of the lucky ones

      My 60mb i nNorth London with VM gets its 60mb. Soon it will be a free upgrade to 100mb they say. I hope it won't go pear shaped. We suffered from the dodgy VM Superhub at one time, until they accepted the problem was the hub and sorted out the firmware.

      Customer service is another matter; Lousy website information that omits vital facts, front line staff who have not been informed that there is an issue whe one occurs and reliance on overseas script followers who don't know when the script has got past its limitations.

  3. Irongut

    You get what you pay for. If you pay the likes of TalkTalk less than £20 a month for fibre you will get shit service. Try looking for a decent ISP (no not PlusNet) and pay them the going rate instead of some ludicrously priced deal and you might actually get engineers in this country on support rather than call centre workers in some typhoid hell hole.

    "We also found three in 10 (31 per cent) who contacted their provider with a problem said they did not get a resolution at all"

    This figure will also include people like my father who will insist on calling his ISP for problems using MS Office and suchlike. It delays him calling me though so not all bad I guess.

    1. monkeyfish

      Or more precisely, you don't get what you can't pay for. Outside of inner cities, fibre is simply not an option available to you. Otherwise I would have switched many years ago.

      1. rhydian

        Depending where you are fibre is being rolled out in some rural areas thanks to subsidy. The problem is 90% of rural lines don't even go near a cabinet so in effect the network has to be rebuilt.

        1. Terry 14

          I can upgrade to fibre (BT), but my speed will drop from 4 Mbs to 2Mbps11

          1. AndrueC Silver badge

            I can upgrade to fibre (BT), but my speed will drop from 4 Mbs to 2Mbps11

            That's unusual. Presumably you're a long way from your cabinet. I have heard that VDSL isn't as good at long distances as ADSL. I'm a bit surprised though - FTTC should give 8Mb/s up to 3km from a PCP and your ADSL speed suggests a 4km line in the first place.

            That's a slightly odd arrangement it seems having your PCP so much closer to the exchange than your property. Are you on an outlying settlement eg a farm?

            1. rhydian

              With some fibre rollouts Openreach have dealt with direct exchange lines by building a cabinet outside the exchange (as in pretty much in front of it)

      2. AndrueC Silver badge

        Outside of inner cities, fibre is simply not an option available to you

        Really? I live in Brackley and we've had FTTC for two years now. I believe the latest figures from Ofcom say that over 70% of UK properties have access to 'fibre broadband'.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        O RLY?

        I'm in a village about 6 miles from York - my 35Mbps connection (Sky Fibre, with the cabinet about half a mile away) begs to differ.

        Given that 10 years ago I couldn't get ADSL in any shape of form in the same location, I'll take it.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a bit more complicated than just ISPs...

    As I do a bit of domestic IT work on the side I get to see a lot of broadband installs and most of the problems are down to the same old issues:

    1: The congested 2.4GHz band

    Loads of people tend to stick their router on to "auto" or whatever it was set to as default. Most of the time the "smart wireless" or whatever doesn't actually do anything so most people on the same street end up on the same channel

    2: Crap internal phone wiring

    Some of the bodges I've seen with internal phone cabling are beyond belief. Just the other day I was helping someone with a new broadband install and found that the phone extension they'd had installed by an electrician had in fact been wired in using untwisted 6 core alarm cable. Add to this the fun and games of various GPO/BT/Openreach installs over the years and it's amazing that some people get broadband at all.

    3: Crap external phone wiring

    This is a massive problem in rural areas. The lines are long and have been in place since Noah was a GPO apprentice. If your lucky there's no crap aluminium in it so you'll have a fighting chance.

    The big problem however is Openreach's response to domestic line faults. Their response time is usually 3 days minimum, and that's in the case of a physical line fault affecting voice. If you have a fault that's just affecting broadband then these aren't prioritised, and if Openreach can't sort it they'll simply leave it as it is.

    Oh yes, and woe betide you if there's a major fault (e.g. poles down or a cable dug up). There are still communities and businesses in North Wales with no phone service after high winds in January and February.

    and finally

    4: Openreach themselves

    Openreach are quite simply the worst of the four major utilities (even worse than water, gas and electricity) when it comes to network maintenance and response to faults. What's worse, as an end user your not allowed to contact them, instead you have to try and explain the issue to a foreign call centre operative who can't spell your address.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The ISP needs to be responsible too

    You do get what you pay for but the ISP shares responsibility too. If you pay peanuts for a service then you'd expect congested lines and backhauls because the ISP will be keeping its costs right down and oversubscribing. If you pay a decent amount but still have this happening then the ISP is not doing their bit.

    I have ADSL from Andrews & Arnold and love it. They have a policy of not being the bottleneck and provide live graphs of line activity so you can see what's going on. Their pricing is good but the point is I know now that my ADSL is running as quickly as BT's back-end will allow, whereas with a different ISP I'd have no idea if they were rate limiting, NATing, oversubscribing or whatever. I suspect most ISPs are juggling some or all of these to manage costs.

    1. Bob Dunlop

      Re: The ISP needs to be responsible too

      Yep another happy A&A customer here.

      Was amazed when the ADSL speed was trippled to almost 11Mb/s by changing the wholesale line supplier from BT to TalkTalk. Same exchange, same copper wire. Just shows how happy BT are to sit on their a**e and leave whole communities with poor service.

      1. Dazed and Confused

        Re: The ISP needs to be responsible too

        > Yep another happy A&A customer here.

        Me too, been with them for years.

        But in my case the only option is BT for the cabling and they don't seem to give a stuff. For Christmas they decided that doubling my network latency would be a good idea. Complaining doesn't do any good, Openretch (sic) don't care about latency times and will only look at changes in bandwidth of over 50%.

        So once the packets get to A&A they're good to go, until then you're in the lap of the Openretch

  6. Roland6 Silver badge

    ISP Service Guarantee

    "that ISPs should provide customers with a guaranteed broadband speed and stick to that promise so that customers get the service they have paid for"

    Whilst not a guarantee, some ISPs already offer a service level commitment - Zen for example will quote an expected line speed and a minimum downstream speed, if the service you receive is significantly different, they will get BT Openreach to investigate and seek to resolve the issue. Interestingly enough many performance issues get resolved merely by using a reasonable DSL router...

    1. BlartVersenwaldIII
      Thumb Up

      Re: ISP Service Guarantee

      > Whilst not a guarantee, some ISPs already offer a service level commitment

      ...and as with Zen, it's usually the sign of an ISP that gives a hoot about its users' experience. When I signed up with BeThere for their 24Mb/s service in the pre-Murdoch days, I was told they'd expect my line to sync at 18Mb/s down and 1Mb/up - which it dutifully did. Swapped in a Draytek after I'd confirmed the bundled router was working and that got me as far as 19/1.1Mb/s. For a brief period of time the line went down to only about 3Mb/s down, I filed a fault and it was fixed with a reboot of the DSLAM ten minutes later. One of the benefits of running an LLU I guess is that OpenReach were only involved in lighting up the copper.

      No such luck of any promises with Sky as far as I can tell. Any other ISPs out there that provide similar indication of how the line should be performing?

  7. AndrueC Silver badge

    Service quality needs addressing, yes. AAISP are good at it (within the limitations of BT's framework) but even they struggle to get the right people to sort things out. For most other ISPs it's just an exercise is buck passing. As usual the low cost of the service is a major factor. The margins on residential broadband are so thin that good service is bound to suffer. Then you have the ISP/BTw/BTor split and it's recipe for failure.

    But Which? also moaned about speed and wanted a speed guarantee from ISPs for connections. That's a none starter. The only way to guarantee anything is to require an engineer to come out and give a quotation. Even then you can only guarantee the speed to the cabinet or exchange. Maybe to the POP and for LLUOs to the ISP's servers. But that's unhelpful. Guaranteed speed to where you actually want to go is impossible. Those places are nearly always outside your ISP's network so completely beyond their control. An effective speed guarantee is impossible - for exactly the same reason no-one can guarantee the journey time from London to Edinburgh.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Well, there is one way to do it - guarantee the minimum speed that's considered not to be a fault.

      To be honest, I really don't see what's wrong with the "Up to" speed claims, provided they're supported by equally prominent text explain that the actual speed depends on something over which the ISP have no control.

  8. Alexis Vallance

    I'm 5 minutes walk from Deansgate in Manc city centre. I can only get 2.5meg because the exchange is about 2 miles away.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward



    1. Disgruntled of TW

      Re: Correction.

      @SRS - yep. This is a BT Openreach problem. They are the monopoly, and they hide behind retail customer facing ISPs presenting a level of service so poor that the ISPs can't even put lipstick on the pig.

      1. hoola Silver badge

        Re: Correction.

        Same old problems that everyone conveniently ignores.

        1: LLU - Every cheapskate provider wants to chuck a switch in the exchange and claim they offer an ADAL service.

        2: Nobody other than BT is prepared to invest in the infrastructure, why, because it is too expensive.

        3: Consumers have no concept of the requirements inside their homes with shoddy wiring that is not the responsibility of BT.

        1 is a Government OFCOM fiasco, not the fault of BT.

        2 is the same, the only places where there is anything other than BT investment is where the return is quick and high.This is Royal Mail all over again, let all the high margin services be creamed off by competitors and then force Royal Mail to do everything the privateers don't want. They are laughing all the way to the bank. BT are in an impossible position, hamstrung by regulation and forced to provide services to other companies. Openreach are only a monopoly because it is completely unviable for any other company to provide a universal service in urban and rural areas.

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