Broadband News

Which? survey puts broadband alongside food and water for importance

Which? has been lobbying over a number of broadband issues for sometime and as part of this it commissioned a survey of 2,000 people around broadband, and while we don't know the location of the people the sample is described as nationally representative.

The headline from the survey is that 90% described broadband as essential, and this was higher than running a car (68%) or even a TV (73%). Interestingly running water scored 97%, food 97%, energy supply 95% and adequate housing 95% are the only items to score higher than broadband, takeaway food was at the bottom with 13% saying it was an essential

"This research underlines again just how important broadband is to our everyday lives. Yet many of us are still experiencing persistent service interruptions and a large proportion of the population can’t access usable speeds to carry out the most basic tasks.

The government must urgently press ahead with its reforms to give us the faster and more reliable broadband connections we all need.

Alex Neill, Which? Director of Home and Legal

What is likely to get a great deal of coverage is the poll also found that 3 in 10 were getting speeds below 10 Mbps (Mega bits per second), and actually that is no surprise since our monthly speed test results show that if we eliminate obviously Wi-Fi devices such as tablets and mobiles, 39% have a speed of 10 Mbps or slower. Including mobiles and tablets only adds an extra 1%, but drops the mean speed from 26.7 Mbps to 24.3 Mbps.

It is pretty simple as to why so many people are reporting speeds under 10 Mbps and it is not because of a massive failure in the coverage statistics, but simply that millions are yet to upgrade to the faster services, the reasons for this slow upgrade rate will be varied, but the extra cost of the faster services has to be a significant one. Also it is possible that for people where broadband is just another monthly bill rather than an obsession they may not even know that a faster product is available, and the constant drip feed of bad broadband stories may convince some that the new faster services are just a waste of money.

The survey also looked at other issues and with 68% reporting a problem with their broadband in the last 12 months the knee jerk reaction is to say UK broadband is incredibly broken, but think about it for a moment, we know that many people equate problems with their Wi-Fi to also be a broadband problem and identifying whether a video is buffering due to a problem with your broadband or provider rather than the service itself is much harder.

Automatic compensation for broadband faults is something that is overdue, but this is as much a retail problem as it is a wholesale one, though for people with vertically integrated providers this might be simpler. Where compensation will become much more complex is compensating for slow speeds that dip below sales estimates, the danger being that providers will simply spread the cost of compensation across the customer base and providers may simply switch to giving lower speed estimates to ensure minimal compensation is needed, or refusing to take on customers which may mean some people are stuck on years old services.

Of course it could be said that a pure fibre future would solve all this, but speed slow downs are possible with FTTH/FTTP since it is still a contended service and not immune to fibre breakages. The challenge is getting everyone to upgrade to the new services, if something like 80-90% take-up was a foregone conclusion then there would be no need for the BDUK roll-outs as commercial operators would be chasing the revenue. B4RN with its high levels of community engagement and rolling out in areas where people may be using dial-up or satellite connections is reported to have a 60% take-up, thus highlighting the scale of the task faced even when pure fibre is deployed.

"It’s no surprise that broadband is viewed as essential: the UK has a strong and leading digital economy and our members are continually innovating and investing in their networks. The UK broadband market is very competitive and Ofcom statistics show speeds and quality are improving year-on-year. However, we recognise that more can always be done to improve services, which is why billions are being invested in our broadband infrastructure from a wide and growing range of providers across the UK."

James Blessing, Chair of the Internet Services Providers’ Association

Comments

If Which? produced a survey that showed 30% of their respondents had speeds below 10Mbps, while SFBB is available to over 90%, what do you think their response should have been?

a) Check they did get a properly distributed, random, set of respondents?

b) Conclude that a lot of people need to be advised to upgrade?

c) Blame BT and the government?

We know they chose (c). A proper consumer advice org would surely have chosen (a) then (b).
...

  • WWWombat
  • 11 months ago

I also note that the language of the press release entirely forgets to mention that the 10Mbps (which might become a right) isn't forced on people. Those with slower speeds might be perfectly happy, and refuse to upgrade (at their cost) through choice.

Did they check to see how many of their sub-10Mbps respondents actually wanted to upgrade?

  • WWWombat
  • 11 months ago

The speed estimates are already pessimistic, here we're estimated at 1-2 Mbps, but actually getting 3 mbps

  • brianhe
  • 11 months ago

It is a fact that the take up of ultra fast broadband is down to affordability versus need. We have recently had FTTC enabled and we have upgraded, but most of my neighbours will not pay what is 100% increase to upgrade.

  • jabrady10
  • 11 months ago

My mother's neighbour was complaining about her broadband as she said her computer kept saying "no signal" when she turned it on. It often took several attempts to get it working.
This sounded a bit odd, and after a little questioning it became obvious it was the screen saying "no signal" as the PC hadn't started up properly.
Anybody who has ever worked in support on complex systems knows the problem of locating root source problems from user descriptions...

  • TheEulerID
  • 11 months ago

Hi Broadband Watchers.
Today's results on TBB CSO for Surrey Customers 450K is running at 1.18 under 10 meg and they Surrey have not spent the money in the OMR pot yet so it looks like some results may be incorrect. The OfCom results on TBB maps shows the takeup rate on the post codes which highlights old Which survey results. The responsibility is on the ISP,s to upgrade the service not BT/Openreach.

  • Blackmamba
  • 11 months ago

@Blackmamba None of our maps are showing Ofcom data, https://labs.thinkbroadband.com/local/postcode-search does show the Ofcom 2015 data for a postcode when someone does a postcode search.

We would map the Ofcom data if the error rate was not so high.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 11 months ago

So if people have to choose between food, water and broadband they are going to have to think about it? Seriously?

  • steve14
  • 11 months ago

One aspect that we're butting up against in our village where Gigaclear is delivering commercially is cost.
FTTP is a luxury product at >£40 per month plus £200 installation and many households can't afford it.
Therefore households will stay on <2Mbps ADSL and the local BDUK outfit won't upgrade us to FTTC, because the area's already covered.
They won't feel like they have "chosen" not to upgrade however.

  • SLAMDUNC
  • 11 months ago

WWWombat: I took part in a parallel Which? survey, that one of Which? members. They were indeed thorough, and they are well aware of all of the factors affecting speeds - as they make clear on their online chat pages and in the magazine. They do indeed advise people to choose the speed option to suit their needs (which might be higher or lower than currently).

  • davidinnotts
  • 11 months ago

But it is clear that one of the problems is the speed of rollout of faster options; another is the clarity of the providers about what is actually offered for the price. So BT is certainly being lobbied for action, and so is Ofcom.

The quality of the commissioned surveys? Which? always choose one of the market leading survey companies, and they all follow the rules about sampling and sample size. Of course they do!

  • davidinnotts
  • 11 months ago

In this respect, Which? is not acting as a consumer advice organization - they do that wearing a different hat. Here, they are a watchdog, like Thinkbroadband - one of the few entitled to make 'supercomplaints'. Which is why Andrew Ferguson takes their work seriously.

  • davidinnotts
  • 11 months ago

Hi Andrew Staff
I have checked a few post codes that are showing on your site and the OfComs Data seems very reliable and ties in with the D Sides speeds and take up. I would think the OfCom data would be from Openreach traffic / availability record off the FTTC results which were taken in the late spring. As all ISP,s (500) have this access it is up to them to support their customers this will come more apparmount when G/Fast kicks in the new year.

  • Blackmamba
  • 11 months ago

@Blackmamba In terms of speeds shown based on the data from providers that part is OK, its the NGA/superfast/ultrafast information that has a higher error rate.

NOTE: This is Ofcom 2015 data, so from Spring/Summer 2015

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 11 months ago

@davidinnotts

The first objective with Which surveys is to get themselves in the news (a common tactic). It's in their interests to give the worse impression. So instead of asking, what speed would be available to you, they ask what speed do you get. That conflating the two (which they imply by the "something must be done" line is deceitful as many choose the cheaper, not faster option.

  • TheEulerID
  • 11 months ago

I am more than happy with 8Mbps connection (that is "upto 17mbps"!). I don't want to pay more for a faster service as I would get no benefit from it. OTOH my good friend has a 256k broadband connection and would happily pay more to even bring it up to my speed.

  • meldrew
  • 11 months ago

@davidinnotts
If Which? do the right things in their online chat pages and in the magazine, but fail to reflect that in their press releases, what would you make of it?

I'm pretty sure my description would include the words "lies", "deceitful" and "self-aggrandizing".

Should Which? be allowed to cherry-pick from the facts?

Should the "Head of Legal" be able to submit that "the government must urgently press ahead with its reforms" when the data it gives out doesn't actually back that up?
.../1

  • WWWombat
  • 11 months ago

If it really is "clear that one of the problems is the speed of rollout of faster options," why haven't we see them press for that instead? None of the government "reforms" are actually focused on that.

If the problem is in the "clarity of providers claims", where in the government's reforms at the Openreach level will that have an effect?

If Which? genuinely have constructed a quality survey, then why didn't they bother to construct a quality report, and a quality press release from the data?
.../2

  • WWWombat
  • 11 months ago

I'm sure that Which? are quite capable of putting together some meaningful, helpful information for the discussion. We have problems, and there are discussions worth having.

But this press release is fodder for the worst of the Daily Mail readership. It helps *nothing*.

When they can come back with material that is thought-out and analysed like the one below, but with a consumer insight added, it'll be worthwhile.
http://www.commcham.com/storage/BT_RK_Report_2016.pdf

  • WWWombat
  • 11 months ago

WWWombat
Interesting report with some well thought out views. Only question is, was it biased to the procurers existing view, or did it inform their view?

  • jumpmum
  • 11 months ago

What a load of rubbish. I would like to prove that by giving them broadband but no food or water.

  • nervous
  • 11 months ago

@wwwombat

It seems to be that if not-for-profit organisations become too big then they lose sight at an operational level of their objectives. Look at the issues at Age Concern, the RSPCA and the RSPB foe example.

In this case it looks like the need for impartiality and judgement has been overridden by an operational decision to get press coverage

  • gerarda
  • 11 months ago

Hi Andrews Staff.
Thanks for your reply.I was only checking on Post Codes that have a low speed showing. I feel on your maps for coverage the post codes should be allercated to their exact GPS position and not doubled up because it may cover up Bridge Faults. If this is implemented Estate Agents would have a better understanding when selling property in that area and the buyer.

  • Blackmamba
  • 11 months ago

The postcodes are plotted to the exact lat/lng that Ordnance Survey use for each postcode.

As for doubling up - no idea what you mean, dense urban areas can have postcodes in same or overlapping even when using a smallish dot.

As for Bridge Faults pray tell how we know one exists.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 11 months ago

@gerarda
True. I guess it is getting harder to get airtime for your PR. Something needs to be done to grab attention...

The problem for Which? is that dumbing down to the DM level manages to play over the complexity that exists in the world of the internet.

  • WWWombat
  • 11 months ago

@jumpmum
You also have to factor whether the author crafted his document's view to match the desire of the funder.

But I don't think it can be denied that those represent a good set of views to take into account, though. You just have to add your own take on top of them.

So, that document represents a technology-based and society-based view. But it doesn't present a consumer-based view. Which? could provide that, but if it leaps to unsubstantiated claims from poorly-combined data, it loses credibility.

  • WWWombat
  • 11 months ago

slamdunc -- love to know what village

Posted by SLAMDUNC 2 days ago
One aspect that we're butting up against in our village where Gigaclear is delivering commercially is cost.
FTTP is a luxury product at >£40 per month plus £200 installation and many households can't afford it.
Therefore households will stay on <2Mbps ADSL and the local BDUK outfit won't upgrade us to FTTC, because the area's already covered.
They won't feel like they have "chosen" not to upgrade however

  • fastman
  • 11 months ago

@fastman - this was feedback from Quendon.

  • SLAMDUNC
  • 11 months ago

@SLAMDUNC
You may find it worth looking into the BT "Community Fibre Partnership" scheme as an alternative to Gigaclear. The upfront cost per household can be lower and the monthly charges should definitely be, plus there is at least a decent choice of ISPs.

  • New_Londoner
  • 11 months ago

slamdunc drop a mail to [email protected]

  • fastman
  • 10 months ago

Ironic, isn't it?

The reason Superfast Essex won't subsidise Quendon is because Gigaclear say they are doing it. But not enough people are willing to pay GC rates to meet the threshold ... so GC aren't really doing the area.

But, because SFE aren't funding it ... the best option for the residents is to call BT, and subsidise it themselves!

  • WWWombat
  • 10 months ago

wombat !!!! gigaclear provide digital exlusion as only the rich can afford it !!!!

  • fastman
  • 10 months ago

@WWWombat yes it is ironic on the face of it.

However it looks like Gigaclear have adopted a more pragmatic attitude and have dropped the rigid pre-build targets they previously had in favour of an expectation that they will attract the numbers over 5 years rather than all up-front.

It still means that we'll have a digital divide in the short term, but once FTTP prices come down over the next X years I'm hoping it should get more affordable. Is that realistic?

  • SLAMDUNC
  • 10 months ago

Important note the pre-build targets don't apply in areas with public funding, and some of those contracts did include a social inclusion tariff.

Seems Quendon has been caught out by Market Review clauses and no-one chasing/acting to revisit things.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 10 months ago

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