Broadband.co.uk Blog: News

Regular Broadband-related news and comment from the Broadband.co.uk team.

All posts labeled News:

News stories relevant to broadband in the United Kingdom.

Woman with a laptop

Six out of 10 people still know little about gigabit broadband

Posted by Andy Betts on in News

While many of use are waiting patiently for the chance to install gigabit-capable broadband in our homes, for millions of others the picture is rather different.

As many as six out of ten people have little or no awareness of gigabit broadband, and of those that have, many don't know why it would benefit them.

Those are among the striking findings in a new study by GigaTAG, a body made up of Which?, the CBI and the Federation of Small Business, brought together by the government to come up with ideas to increase the take-up of faster internet.

They discovered numerous reasons preventing consumers and businesses alike from adopting gigabit broadband, and have produced a series of proposals to tackle each one.

Their research found that:

  • 59% of people questioned have not heard - or have little understanding - of the term "gigabit-capable" broadband
  • 47% felt they just didn't need faster or more reliable broadband
  • 41% said they didn't know how gigabit-capable broadband was different to what they currently had
  • Half were not keen on paying extra, or were concerned about affordability in general
  • 44% of those whose internet usage had gone up during the pandemic were interested in upgrading to something faster

The often complex and technical nature of the topic also served as an obstacle, especially for some vulnerable groups.

And there were also concerns about signing up to new, long-term contracts, and a reluctance to switch - with the process being seen as too much hassle. In fact, it's already a lot easier to switch providers than many people realise, if you're moving between providers that use the same network (such as Openreach, which provides the majority of broadband services in the UK). From December 2022, the process will become easier still, and enable fast and seamless switching to different networks including Virgin Media and the many full fibre providers.

How to increase adoption of gigabit-capable broadband

The government's aim is for at least 85% of the UK to have access to gigabit-capable broadband by 2025. Currently, around 37% of the UK can get it, which includes 21% who can receive full fibre. The rollout is set to accelerate over the next few years.

GigaTAG have come up with a number of recommendations to help improve the situation.

They suggest that common and consistent terminology should be used to describe the various broadband technologies. This could include a "gigabit-ready" mark, or perhaps even a traffic light system that shows how a broadband package's speed rates, like one that is currently used in Italy.

They recommend that a "gigabit toolkit" should be produced for use by local authorities to help explain the benefits of faster broadband, along with skills training for businesses. The government should also run an information campaign nationally when the time is right, they say.

And the affordability issue could be addressed through the possible introduction of an employer-led scheme to make gigabit-capable broadband cheaper, especially in the light of increased working from home. There should also be a targeted voucher scheme for lower income groups, like one that's already in place in countries like Greece and Italy.

In the meantime, if you're thinking of switching providers and want more information, you can give us a call or get us to call you at a more convenient time.

Or if you're keen to see if gigabit-capable broadband is available where you live, use our postcode checker and find the best deals available to you right now.

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Fibre wires in a cabinet

More than one in five homes can now get full fibre broadband

Posted by Andy Betts on in NewsGigaclearVirgin MediaTrueSpeed

UK broadband is getting faster. The average download speeds broadband-using Brits are getting has risen by a quarter over the last year, while more than one in five of us can now access a full fibre connection.

Those are the big findings in new research from Ofcom, which also shows that gigabit-capable broadband is now available across well over a third of the country - and it has grown by nearly 40% in just three months.

The spring update to the industry watchdog's Connected Nations study has shown how rapidly the UK's ultrafast broadband infrastructure is developing.

As of January this year, nearly 11 million homes - some 37% - were able to access a gigabit-capable service. That's up from 7.9 million last September. This change was driven largely by a major upgrade to Virgin Media's cable network, which brought these faster speeds to an extra 2.8 million homes.

Full fibre coverage is now up to 21% - nearly six million homes - with the growth coming from the larger infrastructure operators such as the BT-owned Openreach, as well as smaller, more targeted local providers like Gigaclear and TrueSpeed.

The picture is also improving for people outside of these coverage areas. Ultrafast broadband, which Ofcom define as having download speeds above 300Mb, is now available to 17.7 million homes (61%), while 96% of the country is able to get an internet connection of at least 30Mb.

Access to full fibre May 2020 September 2020 January 2021
UK 14% 18% 21%
England 13% 16% 19%
Northern Ireland 49% 56% 63%
Scotland 13% 17% 20%
Wales 15% 19% 21%
Access to gigabit-capable services September 2020 January 2021
UK 27% 37%
England 25% 36%
Northern Ireland 56% 69%
Scotland 42% 44%
Wales 19% 28%

However, there are still some areas that are poorly served, with 650,000 homes unable to get a fixed line internet connection with download speeds of at least 10Mb. That's a little over two percent overall, with Northern Ireland having the highest proportion of underserved homes. Some of these homes may have access to alternative broadband services.

Access to 10Mb services May 2020 September 2020 January 2021
UK 98% 98% 98%
England 99% 99% 99%
Northern Ireland 94% 94% 94%
Scotland 97% 97% 97%
Wales 97% 97% 97%

In separate research, Ofcom also found that the average download speed users of fixed home broadband were getting in November 2020 was 80Mb - a massive increase of 25% compared to the year before. Upload speeds - essential for gaming, video calling and working from home - fared even better, rising by over 50% to an average 21.6Mb. The changes were largely the result of increased availability of ultrafast broadband packages, and happened in spite of the lockdown that caused a massive spike in the amount of bandwidth we all used.

The Government's aim is to roll out gigabit-capable broadband nationwide over the next few years. BT recently confirmed their intention to invest £12 billion into the plan, while the Government also announced the first part of their spending to cover harder to reach rural areas.

Are you ready to upgrade to a faster internet service? Our postcode checker will show you if gigabit-capable broadband is available where you live. Just enter your details and we'll take care of the rest!

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Openreach engineer

Full fibre rollout across the UK set to speed up

Posted by Andy Betts on in News

The rollout of full fibre broadband across the UK is set to be ramped up following a series of major new announcements. They form part of the Government's ambition to bring gigabit-capable broadband to the whole of the UK over the next few years.

This biggest announcement is from industry watchdog Ofcom. They've decided that they won't impose price caps on full fibre connections from Openreach, the BT-owned company that runs the bulk of the UK's broadband infrastructure.

While the prices they can charge to their customers - broadband suppliers like Sky and TalkTalk, as well as BT - have traditionally been capped (and often reduced) by Ofcom for slower fibre connections, there was a concern that doing so for the new fibre-to-the-home network would discourage investment. So they've decided to allow Openreach to set their own prices.

BT responded by confirming their commitment to invest £12 billion into the full fibre infrastructure, with a plan to bring faster broadband to 20 million homes by the end of the decade.

However, if Openreach can charge the broadband providers more for connections, some worry that those ISPs will have no choice but to pass on the costs to us, the users. And it is possible that full fibre will be more expensive, at least in the short term. Ofcom have introduced a number of measures to try and minimise the impact.

  • First, they will maintain price caps for the slower fibre connections with speeds up to 40Mb. This will ensure users can always access a cheaper option.
  • Second, they will allow Openreach to shut down the copper network in areas where full fibre has been installed so they don't have to maintain two networks simultaneously.
  • Third, providers will be given better access to Openreach's underground ducts and telegraph poles, to potentially half the cost of connecting new customers.
  • Fourth, Ofcom expect that around 70% of the UK will have a choice of full fibre networks, and they'll intervene if necessary to stop Openreach stifling investment from other companies, like Virgin Media, Hyperoptic and Gigaclear.

Full fibre for rural areas

While the BT investment will help to accelerate the rollout of full fibre broadband across the UK, it will only cover around three million homes in rural and more remote areas, where broadband infrastructure is already lacking. These hard to reach areas, which are not commercially viable, will be covered instead by public funding.

The Government pledged to spend £5 billion in the 2019 election campaign, and they've announced that the first £1.2 billion of this will be spent by 2024. The areas that will benefit from this money initially are Cambridgeshire, Cornwall, Cumbria, Dorset, Durham, Essex, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Tees Valley. Work will get under way next year.

After that, the next regions in line are expected to be Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Norfolk, Shropshire, Suffolk and Worcestershire.

And on top of all that, the Government has also announced that they're revamping an existing voucher scheme that enables some households in rural areas to get subsidies to install full fibre broadband. Worth £210 million, it will be targeted at the most hard to reach areas, along with a further £110 million to help bring full fibre to GP surgeries, schools and libraries in the same sorts of areas.

As of the end of last year, 18% of the UK - around 5.1 million premises - had access to full fibre broadband, an increase from 10% a year earlier. The growth has seen the emergence of some new, regional broadband providers, like Community Fibre in London, or TrueSpeed in the South West, alongside the national players.

To see if you can get full fibre, or to compare the best broadband deals, use our postcode checker to see what's available where you live.

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Christmas Broadband

Upgrade your broadband and TV in time for Christmas

Posted by Andy Betts on in NewsFeaturesExpiredNOW BroadbandTalkTalkSkyBTVirgin MediaPlusnet

Christmas is going to be a bit different this year.

Even with the hope of relaxed restrictions, it's likely that for many of us, large family gatherings will be replaced by virtual get-togethers, and nights out at pubs and parties will be swapped for nights in with a boxset.

And what does this mean? Our internet connections are going to be more important than ever.

So why not treat yourself to an early Christmas present by upgrading to a fantastic new broadband deal? If your current contract is coming to an end - or maybe it ran out a while back and you haven't got round to sorting it yet - now is the perfect time to start shopping.

There's loads of festive offers on right now, and if you act quickly there's still time to get connected before the holiday season kicks off.

You can even sign up to a premium TV service, so you can catch the latest movies, the hottest new shows, and enjoy the Premier League's hectic Christmas schedule.

  • Sign up to Virgin Media by 9th December for guaranteed installation by Christmas. You can get both broadband and TV, and activation is free - saving you £35!
  • You can still get Sky TV bundles up and running in time for Christmas.
  • For other TV and broadband bundles, check out the latest deals from BT and TalkTalk - TalkTalk packages still come with the promise of no mid-contract price rises.
  • Plusnet have seasonal offers available until 16th December.
  • You can get NOW Broadband with a range of TV Passes, covering your choice of entertainment, movies and sports.

When choosing a new broadband deal, always make sure you pick the right speed for your household. Put simply, the more people in it, the faster you need. So while one person making a video call or watching Netflix can get away with a relatively low speed, a few people all doing the same together will need much faster.

And keep in mind any large downloads you need to make. For example, games for the Playstation 5 or new Xbox consoles typically start at around 50GB, and can be double that. To make things a little easier, schedule these downloads to happen overnight, so they're ready and waiting the following morning.

You'll have to hurry if you want to get your broadband set up in time for Christmas. Use our postcode checker to find the best broadband bargains available where you live right now.

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BT Group logos

BT, EE, Plusnet and John Lewis announce mid-contract price hikes - what can you do?

Posted by Andy Betts on in NewsFeaturesEEBTJohn LewisPlusnet

Make sure you read the terms carefully when you take out a new broadband deal: there's a growing trend for some providers to sneak in new clauses promising significant mid-contract price rises.

The four BT Group brands - BT, EE, Plusnet and John Lewis - have now all announced new policies to allow bigger price hikes on their deals. They will see annual increases equal to the consumer price index (CPI) inflation rate - plus an extra 3.9% on top.

Previously, ISPs would typically peg their rises to the CPI, or in some cases promise none at all.

Plusnet, for example, have effectively replaced their heralded fixed price guarantee with the guarantee of at least one - and potentially two - price rises over the course of a broadband deal.

BT, meanwhile, no longer offer contracts shorter than the two-year maximum that Ofcom allows. That means you'll be paying at least 7.95% more at the end of your deal than you were at the start.

Here's what they've announced:

  • BT and EE are using the CPI published every January. The price rises go into effect from 31st March each year, and apply to customers who signed up after 1st September 2020.
  • For the 2021 increase, Plusnet and John Lewis are using the CPI published in April and applying the increase from 1st June. After that, they're using the CPI published every January, and adding the increase to bills from 1st March. It affects customers who signed up from 7th October.

If you're on an older deal and still within your initial contract period you won't be affected by these changes until the time comes for you to renew. If you're out of contract you will be affected, although you should never stay on an out-of-contract deal for long.

So how much more will you be paying? For reference, the CPI rate for December 2019 was 1.3%, so that's the rate by which your price would have gone up on most deals. Under the new policy, that increase would have been a hefty 5.2%.

The Bank of England's target for the CPI is even higher at 2%. Of course, with the uncertainty that comes from the UK being in the middle of the biggest economic slump in 300 years, it's hard to predict what that rate will be in future. Needless to say, negative inflation won't result in a discount as that 3.9% will stay in place regardless.

What can you do?

Ofcom rules state that you can quit your contract without penalty if your broadband provider introduces "unexpected" mid-contract increases. But by announcing these plans, and writing them into your contract, they won't be classed as unexpected, so there's no escape.

What you can do instead is ensure you factor in the changes in your monthly charges when you're comparing broadband deals. And also keep in mind the date you sign up. If you take out one of these deals in February or March you'll be hit by an immediate price hike.

This move makes genuine fixed price guarantees more valuable than ever, especially if you're signing up for longer than 12 months. TalkTalk, italk and SSE are among the suppliers still offering them, so if you want clarity over what your bills will look like over the next couple of years they're worth checking out.

If you're ready to find a better deal on your broadband, use our postcode checker to see what's available in your area.

 
 

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Person using a tablet

These are the places with the best and worst broadband in the UK

Posted by Andy Betts on in News

What are your broadband options like where you live?

If you live in places like Hull, Birmingham or Milton Keynes (or at least the right parts of these places), chances are you're pretty happy. But if you're in rural Scotland or Northern Ireland, or in the West Country, your internet coverage might be seriously lacking.

Comprehensive data released by industry watchdog Ofcom breaks down the level of broadband coverage in every area, and reveals massive differences across the UK.

It shows that while some parts have almost blanket full fibre coverage, others have a small but significant number of premises that cannot even get a 2Mb fixed-line connection.

Let's take a look at the numbers to find the best and worst places for broadband in the UK.

The best broadband coverage in the UK

Ofcom's data is split into multiple groups of varying sizes, from local authority right down to postcode level. It shows both the percentage and exact number of premises in each area that can access broadband of certain speeds. The data was collected in May this year.

It's all presented in a series of fairly unwieldy spreadsheets and PDF files, but you can check it all out if you want see how your area fares.

Using the data for each parliamentary constituency - which splits the country in 650 regions - we can see that in 49 areas, 99% of premises have access to at least 30Mb broadband. In 30 areas, 90% of premises can get at least 300Mb broadband.

The 10 constituencies where the highest proportion of premises have access to superfast broadband (30Mb or over) and ultrafast broadband (300Mb or above) are:

Rank Superfast availability (30-300Mb) %
1 Gosport 99.8
2 Luton North 99.8
3 Glasgow North West 99.6
4 Gedling 99.6
5 Bootle 99.5
6 Leicester West 99.5
7 Nottingham North 99.5
8 Birmingham, Hodge Hill 99.5
9 Liverpool, West Derby 99.5
10 Swansea West 99.5
Rank Ultrafast availability (over 300Mb) %
1 Kingston upon Hull North 98.8
2 Kingston upon Hull West & Hessle 97.6
3 Kingston upon Hull East 97.4
4 Birmingham, Yardley 97.0
5 Birmingham, Hodge Hill 96.8
6 Bristol South 95.5
7 Luton North 94.8
8 Birmingham, Perry Barr 94.4
9 Worsley & Eccles South 94.1
10 Leeds North East 93.9

 

The figures for full fibre are inevitably a lot less impressive. In total there are 17 constituencies where two-thirds of premises can get gigabit broadband. Here's the top 10:

Rank Full fibre availability %
1 Kingston upon Hull North 98.8
2 Kingston upon Hull West & Hessle 97.6
3 Kingston upon Hull East 97.4
4 Coventry North West 78.0
5 Milton Keynes South 77.7
6 Wallasey 77.1
7 Birmingham, Yardley 76.1
8 Worsley & Eccles South 73.9
9 Belfast North 73.5
10 Haltemprice & Howden 72.5

 

It's no surprise that Hull comes out on top in these figures, since the city has a unique broadband setup. For historical reasons Hull has no BT presence at all - not even landlines - and there's just one broadband provider in the form of KCOM. The company has invested a large amount of money in the region's infrastructure.

The worst broadband coverage in the UK

It's not all good news. The data also highlights the areas where fixed line broadband coverage is woefully lacking. Never mind full fibre broadband, homes in some parts of the country don't have access to even a basic broadband service.

Nationwide, there are around 7500 postcodes where no premises at all can access faster than 2Mb broadband. Most of these are rural areas, and are found in all four countries of the UK. Some of these areas will be targeted under the Government's plan to fund investment in broadband over the next few years. These are the parts that are not financially viable enough for competition to drive the market on its own.

In addition, the Government's universal service obligation guarantees all properties should be able to get 10Mb broadband. If not, they will pay up to £3400 to upgrade the infrastructure and get it connected.

The constituencies with the highest proportion of properties unable to get 2Mb broadband are:

Rank Unable to get 2Mb %
1 West Tyrone 6.7
2 Fermanagh & South Tyrone 6.6
3 Penrith & The Border 4.0
4 South Down 3.6
5 Brecon & Radnorshire 3.6
6 Orkney & Shetland 3.6
7 Ross, Skye & Lochaber 3.5
8 Montgomeryshire 3.3
9 Argyll & Bute 3.2
10 Mid Ulster 3.1

 

On top this of this, there are many parts of the country that are under-served when it comes to faster broadband. Over a quarter of properties in some regions are unable to access 30Mb internet, while full fibre is essentially in non-existent in others.

Rank Unable to get 30Mb %
1 Orkney & Shetland 29.6
2 Fermanagh & South Tyrone 27.6
3 West Tyrone 23.5
4 Brecon & Radnorshire 22.9
5 Cities of London & Westminster 22.4
6 Mid Ulster 21.8
7 Central Devon 21.7
8 Ross, Skye & Lochaber 21.6
9 Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross 21.6
10 Carmarthen East & Dinefwr 20.5
Rank Full fibre availability %
1 Plymouth, Sutton & Devonport 0.1
2 Great Grimsby 0.2
3 Hazel Grove 0.3
4 Norwich South 0.3
5 Washington & Sunderland West 0.3
6 Rhondda 0.3
7 Blackpool North & Cleveleys 0.4
8 Hartlepool 0.5
9 Stourbridge 0.5
10 West Dunbartonshire 0.5

 

Of course, we do need to point out that some of these areas could possibly have access to high speed internet that's not been counted in these results, due to local initiatives from companies such as B4RN or Call Flow or wireless broadband services via a local mast. Many of these places are also able to get faster internet speeds with comparable prices and services to fixed-line broadband over the mobile network with 4G and 5G home routers from the bigger networks, like EE and Three.

Want to see how you measure up? Give our speed test a whirl to find out how fast your current broadband service is, then use our postcode checker to discover the best broadband deals in your area right now.

 

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Family using the internet

Over four million homes can now get full fibre broadband

Posted by Andy Betts on in News

The drive to bring full fibre broadband to the whole country is continuing, with the service now available to over four million UK homes.

Data from the latest Ofcom Connected Nations report shows that more than 14% of homes across the country - some 4.2 million - now have the option to buy gigabit-capable broadband. That's an increase of 2% since the start of the year, and 4% from a year ago.

This growth, along with the continued expansion of Virgin Media's cable network, means that 57% of the country now has access to "ultrafast" broadband, which can deliver speeds of 300Mb or more.

The picture is not consistent across the four nations of the UK, however. While 59% of homes in England can get ultrafast broadband, the same level of service is only available to 34% in Wales. Around 95% of the UK can access superfast broadband, with speeds over 30Mb. This is unchanged over the last year.

The figures break down like this:

Access to full fibre broadband Sept 2019 Jan 2020 Sept 2020
UK 10% 12% 14%
England 10% 11% 13%
Northern Ireland 31% 41% 49%
Scotland 8% 10% 13%
Wales 12% 13% 15%

 

Access to ultrafast broadband Sept 2019 Jan 2020 Sept 2020
UK 53% 55% 57%
England 55% 58% 59%
Northern Ireland 49% 52% 57%
Scotland 45% 48% 50%
Wales 31% 33% 34%

 

While there have been big improvements in the availability of the fastest broadband services, there are still considerable areas where the broadband options are very poor. As it stands, 2% of UK homes don't have access to even 10Mb internet (and in some cases it will be a lot lower than that). This figure reaches 6% in Northern Ireland.

Unable to access 10Mb broadband Sept 2019 Jan 2020 Sept 2020
UK 2% 2% 2%
England 2% 2% 2%
Northern Ireland 6% 6% 6%
Scotland 4% 3% 3%
Wales 3% 4% 3%

 

The good news is that these regions are likely to be eligible for the government's new universal service obligation (USO). Launched in March, this aims to ensure that everyone will be able to access internet with speeds of at least 10Mb.

This doesn't come in the form of an automatic upgrade. Instead, customers can make a request to BT to see if they're eligible. If they are, and the cost of upgrading the network comes to £3400 or less, then it will happen without them needing to pay anything. If the cost comes to over £3400, then the customer will have to pay the excess if they want the work to go ahead. It isn't a quick process, though. The work should be complete within 12 months, but could take as long as two years.

If you're in a remote area with poor broadband coverage, take a look at our rural broadband guide to see what your options are.

To see if full fibre or ultrafast broadband are available where you live, use our postcode checker to see what services you can upgrade to.

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Broadband complaints

Vodafone still the worst large provider for broadband complaints, say Ofcom

Posted by Andy Betts on in NewsPost OfficeEEVodafonePlusnetTalkTalkSkyVirgin MediaBT

For the third successive quarter, Vodafone have been named as the 'big eight' broadband provider that generates the most complaints.

The unwanted title comes from Ofcom's latest complaints report for the last quarter of 2019. They show what while the industry average improved from 14 to 12 complaints per hundred thousand customers, Vodafone's number rose slightly to 27. That's around a quarter more than the next worst 'big eight' performers, Plusnet and TalkTalk.

Once again, the standout suppliers were EE and Sky with just five customers having cause to moan. They, along with BT, were the only companies to achieve below average grievance levels. Virgin Media made the biggest improvement, with their level of disgruntled users dropping from 20 in the previous quarter, to 14.

The data covers the UK's eight largest broadband suppliers, which all have at least 1.5% market share. Here's how they rank:

  Complaints per 100,000 customers Compared to previous quarter
EE 5 -
Sky 5 -
BT 10 -3
Industry Average 12 -2
Post Office 13 +3
Virgin Media 14 -6
TalkTalk 19 -3
Plusnet 20 -2
Vodafone 27 +1

 

The report covers October to December 2019. Its publication was delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak, and it also means that the data doesn't take into account the massive surge in broadband use during the lockdown. We'll have to wait and see what impact that had on customer satisfaction.

Customer satisfaction

Speaking of which, Ofcom have also released their latest annual Customer Satisfaction survey. The report, for the whole of 2019, shows that an overall 85% of users are happy with the broadband service they get.

Of the 'big eight', Plusnet came out on top with an impressive 93% satisfaction rate. This is in spite of them performing pretty badly in a couple of areas. Over the year they had the second highest number of complaints, at 100 per hundred thousand customers. They also had the second longest call waiting time. Anyone phoning Plusnet for support would have to wait an average three minutes 48 for the call to be answered. By comparison, TalkTalk would answer in just 39 seconds.

This was a rare win for TalkTalk, who came out bottom of the satisfaction chart at just 78%. Only 44% of their users were happy with how complaints were handled, too.

The Customer Satisfaction report ranks the leading broadband providers across a range of categories. Here are the winners and losers:

  Average Best Worst
Overall satisfaction 85% Plusnet - 93% TalkTalk - 78%
Customers with a reason to complain 12% BT, Post Office - 10% EE - 15%
Satisfaction with complaint handling 53% EE - 66% TalkTalk - 44%
Average call waiting time 2:10 EE - 0:26 Virgin Media - 4:26
Ofcom complaints per hundred thousand 52 Sky - 21 Vodafone - 115

 

Your broadband rights

You don't have to settle for poor service from your broadband provider. If you aren't happy with what you're getting, or you don't think you're getting what you're paying for, take a look at our guide to your rights as a broadband customer to find out what you can do. We've got some advice on how to complain to your broadband provider, too.

And, of course, when your contract is up, you don't need to stick around if your provider is not up to scratch. Check out the best broadband deals available today to see what your options are.

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Openreach connecting rural areas

Over three million rural homes set to get full fibre broadband

Posted by Andy Betts on in News

Millions of extra homes in rural regions are set to be upgraded to full fibre broadband over the next three years.

Openreach have unveiled plans to extend their gigabit-capable broadband network to a further 3.2 million properties across 251 market towns and villages.

It forms part of a £12 billion investment they've already committed to upgrade the network for another 20 million homes by the middle of the decade.

BT-owned Openreach provide the broadband infrastructure for most of the major broadband suppliers. The areas they're targetting in the latest announcement are in the so-called 'final third' of the country, the regions most at risk of being left behind as the UK moves towards faster broadband.

Many of these places still only have spotty internet coverage. The extra expense of installing new technology in more remote areas, coupled with a smaller population using it, makes them less cost effective for providers. Around 2% of UK properties are unable to access services of 10Mb.

The new locations are across the whole of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, from Penryn in Cornwall up to Thurso in the Scottish Highlands. You can find out if your town is on the list here.

Work is expected to get under way in the next 12-18 months.

Industry regulator Ofcom have proposed changes to their own rules to help make Openreach's plan financially viable. They will allow BT to recover their investment costs from their customers (the networks) through a wider range of services, including the new fibre services and the older copper ones.

Upgrading UK broadband was a major policy for the Conservatives in the last General Election. They pledged £5 billion towards the works - again with a focus on the less competitive regions - and wanter to deliver nationwide gigabit broadband within five years. This is likely to include 5G as well as fibre. The public money will come in addition to Openreach's investment.

Around 12% of properties throughout the UK currently have access to full fibre broadband, and the country ranks outside the top 30 for broadband speeds worldwide. While the promised upgrade was long overdue, it's potentially even more urgent now given the likely rise in the number of people who will be permanently working from home.

Good news, then, for rural communities. But it's still some way off. In the meantime, if you're out in the country and struggling with poor internet access, take a look at our rural broadband guide to find out what are your best options.

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Out of contract customers

Out of contract broadband users to save £270 million a year

Posted by Andy Betts on in NewsSkyBTPlusnetEEVirgin MediaTalkTalk

Coming to the end of your broadband contract? You could be set to take your share of a £270 million saving following a new agreement between Ofcom and some of the industry's biggest brands.

The deal will see EE, Plusnet and Sky join BT, TalkTalk and Virgin Media in cutting prices for vulnerable customers when their contract ends.

On top of that, EE, Plusnet, Sky, BT and TalkTalk have also all agreed to make New Customer pricing available to their existing users when they upgrade. It guarantees them access to the most attractive deals.

The changes will result in price cuts worth £270 million each year for the UK's nearly nine million out-of-contract customers, slashing the half a billion pound excess they normally pay.

The measures are the latest part of the industry watchdog's ongoing plan to ensure that everyone gets the best deal on their broadband by avoiding the often hefty price rises that follow when a user's initial contract period ends.

The benefits of signing a new deal or switching providers are well known. Yet as many as 40% of all users are still on an out-of-contract deal, paying an average of £56 a year more than they should be.

Ofcom found that Virgin Media have the highest proportion of out-of-contract users, at a massive 61%. Sky and Plusnet are also above average, with 42% still on old deals.

But EE's out-of-contract customers pay the most, at an average of £7.90 extra each month - or nearly £95 per year.

Research shows that older and vulnerable users are the least likely to switch, so they've been a large focus of Ofcom's campaign. Only last week they called on the industry to treat vulnerable people - including those with disabilities, health or financial problems - more fairly, to identify them more quickly, and to increase staff training.

Ofcom say that around a million vulnerable customers should save as much as £70 each per year as a result of these new rules.

Don't pay more than you need to

Other Ofcom rules came into force in February that require your broadband supplier to contact you when your deal ends. They now need to tell you how much you'll be paying if you remain on the same deal, compared to what you could pay if you took on a new contract. But you still need to act on it.

Even if you're happy with your current supplier, you shouldn't simply remain on your old deal. Do that, and the price will go up. If you're willing to sign a new contract with them you'll be able to get a much better price. You might even get other perks, too, like a new router, a speed guarantee, extra data on your mobile plan, and so on.

If you're open minded about switching, use our postcode checker to see what broadband deals are available in your area. Prices rise by as much as 50% when your contract ends, so you should be able to find a far better price than what you would pay if you did nothing.

Make sure you factor in the value of rewards like cashback. And remember that this is also your chance to bring several services together in a single bundle. Getting TV, mobile and landline calls from one provider will often bag you a better deal than if you get them all from different companies.

Sound like a plan? Then compare then best broadband deals now.

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