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BBC Watchdog: Ninety per cent of UK homes may never get advertised broadband speed

Never get the broadband speed you are paying for? You are definitely not alone, according to a recent BBC Watchdog investigation.

BBC Watchdog found that 90 per cent of people in the UK are getting a speed below the top speed advertised, yet only nearly a third of people in the UK complain about it to their internet service provider (ISP).

There is perhaps a good reason why people fail to bother. Just one in ten saw a complaint result in a connection speed increase, with a ‘similar’ number of those who complained witnessing no difference whatsoever.

The BBC’s Watchdog team asked ‘selected families’ across the UK to use a broadband speed tester to see how fast their connection really is. White boxes were also installed to test speeds several times a week, providing it with a snapshot of the problem.

Under-performing broadband speed is a problem for many households in the UK – and one that is unlikely to go away anytime soon. Current rules stipulate that an ISP can advertise a top speed if just 10 per cent of the population can actually receive it.

“Consumers should be getting the broadband speeds they are paying for and I want to make the nation aware of these ‘up to’ speed claims,” Watchdog’s Stephen McGovern said in a statement.

Research from Watchdog revealed 42 per cent of those aged 18 to 34 were getting  a slower speed than they paid for. USwitch broadband expert Ewan Taylor said the problem goes beyond slow loading times.

“Slow broadband connection can have a real impact on peoples’ lives,” he commented. “Students might not be able to download coursework material, miss out (again) getting that Glastonbury ticket and be unable to stream the latest Black Mirror or whatever it is their friends are all watching. You can end up feeling really cut off.”

There are ways to improve the situation. “Enhanced broadband speed can be achieved by a few simple steps, which can have a massive positive impact on our daily lives,” McGovern added.

Tips include ensuring your router is off the ground, using an Ethernet cable to plug directly into your router (this can help with stability, too, as wireless routers can be unreliable at best) and using a range extender, although this will mean extra cost.

For complaining to your ISP, keep tabs of your speed over a period of a week using the likes of or Recombu’s own speed test tool and take screenshots of the results. Try different times, too, for a bigger picture and use this evidence when contacting customer service. Keep cool throughout.

The full results of the investigation will be on the Watchdog show at 8pm on Wednesday the 9th of November, 2016 and then iPlayer.


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