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Your rights if you’re fed up with slow and patchy broadband at home

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29/04/2020
The coronavirus lockdown has led to millions of people working and studying from home, and for these people a fast and reliable broadband connection has never been more important.

However, research from switching service Broadband Choices found that internet searches for terms such as ‘slow broadband’ have risen by more than 60% over the past few weeks.

Increased demand has put pressure on networks – especially during peak times such as first thing in the morning when people log on. However, you don’t need to put up with considerably slow internet throughout the day.

Here, the experts at Broadband Choices explain your rights if you’re fed up with your slow or patchy connection.

What are my rights if I’m continuously getting slow internet connection?

If your download speed is far lower than what you’ve been promised, you have a right to complain, and even cancel without penalty if Ofcom agrees that it’s particularly bad.

If you’re unhappy with your service, your first port of call should be to contact your provider to see if they can resolve the issue.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic has put an unprecedented strain on the UK’s internet infrastructure, meaning it can be reasonably expected that internet speeds may suffer, despite providers’ best efforts, and resolving complaints may take significantly longer.

Despite the Covid-19 crisis, customers still have the right to switch their provider, with most switches still going through without issue.

Will I have to pay a penalty to leave my provider mid-contract?

If you’re currently within your minimum contract term which is usually the first 12 or 18 months of your agreement, then you may need to pay an exit fee, which can sometimes costs hundreds of pounds depending on how long you have left on your contract. However, there are some instances where you can switch fee-free:

  • you’re out of your minimum contact term
  • your provider has raised your monthly bill above RPI
  • your provider has not done enough to resolve your issues
  • you’re not getting the internet speed you were promised

How can I check my internet speed?

You can check your speed quickly using a broadband speed checker to test your connection.

Can I still switch my internet provider during the Covid-19 crisis?

The vast majority of switches and upgrades are still going ahead despite the announcement by Openreach, which maintains the UK’s main internet infrastructure, that they’re temporarily suspending home visits.

Customers of brands currently using the Openreach infrastructure, which includes suppliers such as BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Plusnet, should be able to switch to another Openreach-based provider without interruption for both regular broadband and fibre services.

Those looking to join or move away from Virgin Media for their internet may encounter a slight delay with the switching process if an engineer is required. However, any delays should be minor and not prevent the switch from going through.

Is there a risk my service will be disrupted during the switch?

According to latest information the vast majority of switches are going through without issues, despite the impact of Covid-19. However in some cases you may experience minor delays, so it’s worth checking with your new supplier first. At present the only areas notably impacted are ultra-fast services and switches to and from Virgin Media. However, these are mostly still going through with minor delays.

There was a time where switching provider meant an awkward period without connectivity, however those times are in the past. Nowadays most households can switch remotely, without the need for an engineer visit.

That means downtime is a matter of minutes for most switches and a maximum of two hours or so if you’re switching from an Openreach to Virgin Media.

How can I find the best deal?

The best way to make sure you’re getting the best deal on your broadband is to get online and compare prices and speeds from a variety of providers.

Like many forms of utilities, loyalty doesn’t pay when it comes to your broadband.

As a general rule, if you have been with the same provider for more than 18 months, you’re likely paying significantly more than a new customer, so make sure you’re regularly comparing and switching to get the best deal for you.

How can I improve the connection on my video calls at home?

Video calls can be particularly impacted by an increase in demand as they rely on several different internet connections and servers to make them happen.

Simple ways to improve the quality of your calls include:

  • Turn off the video option unless it’s absolutely necessary to it have on
  • Schedule your calls for later in the day, avoiding peak hours such as 9-10am
  • Close any other tabs you may be running on your device which could be eating up bandwidth
  • Consider a back-up video conference solution in case your preferred choice struggles with demand

How else can I improve my working from home experience?

If you can, work from a space that’s away from the rest of the household. Ideally, plug your computer into a socket and into your router with a network cable, which is usually more stable than Wi-Fi.

Also, make sure your broadband package suits your needs. Consider the following:

  • Tech support – so you won’t be offline for too long if there’s a problem with your connection, your Wi-Fi, or even your computer
  • Extra security measures – to stop things like viruses, hackers and phishing
  • Additional phone lines – so you can have one number for your business that won’t affect the rest of the household
  • The fastest upload speeds – for a better connection for video conferencing, Skype, and sending files

Top tips to improve your internet connection when working from home

  • Try to schedule video conference calls at different times to avoid the ‘cyber rush hour’. Most people will set calls on the hour or first thing in the morning, so moving your video calls to avoid them should provide a more stable connection.
  • Turn off or disable the Wi-Fi on devices that may be connected to your network that you aren’t using, such as phones, smart speakers or unused tablets, as these can passively eat up your bandwidth.
  • If you have consistently poor connection in parts of your home, consider a Wi-Fi extender which can help boost your signal throughout your home.
  • Make sure your router is using the most up-to-date firmware, your internet provider should be able to help with this if it doesn’t already happen automatically.
  • Consider purchasing a third-party internet router. These can often provide significantly better Wi-Fi connections than the ones provided by suppliers, but requires a little technical know-how to set up
  • Make sure you’re on a package that’s right for your needs. As we become more connected, often our internet needs increase, so be sure to regularly compare and switch every year to make sure you’re getting the right package for the right price.

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