Trying to get home without slipping on the icy streets will be how most people remember the beginning of 2010. My memories of those first few months of the decade, however, are of spending hours on the phone to my internet service provider TalkTalk (then Tiscali).
The connection repeatedly failed, which meant I had no internet or TV for days, but despite this TalkTalk refused to let me cancel the contract and continued to bill me as per usual. It was a Catch 22 situation: I couldn’t sign up to another provider as I was locked into a contract – unless I could prove I’d been left without a connection for 21 consecutive days – so I was paying for a service that much of the time I couldn’t use. Of course, I wanted it to work, but when it did fail I hoped it would be down for 21 days; neither happened. This went on for a good two months.
Finally, I got it sorted, but only after spending an hour a day for three weeks ringing the TalkTalk customer service line, which charged me an extortionate amount.
Unfortunately, TalkTalk is not the only rotten egg in the broadband provider basket, and getting a seamless service seems to be nigh-on impossible. In fact, figures from broadbandchoices.co.uk show that two-in-five broadband users feel let down by their provider, with slow broadband speeds one of the major issues. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the actual number is much higher, as everyone I speak to seems to have some kind of broadband horror story to tell.
So what’s being done about it? Not much, it seems.
The broadband providers are all blaming each other, each claiming they provide the superior service. But with average standards so low that doesn’t say a lot.
Meanwhile, the telecommunications regulator Ofcom is sitting on the fence, trying to please both the industry and customers alike and failing abysmally with the latter. Sure, it has announced tighter rules and regulations, but the problem is that these codes are voluntary and don’t have teeth.
As for the government, its pre-election promise that by 2015 the UK will lead Europe in superfast broadband (defined as 50Mbps or above) looks increasingly unlikely. A recent report commissioned by lobby group FTTH (Fibre to the Home) Council Europe predicts the UK will be the last nation in Europe to achieve superfast speeds.
Here at Moneywise, we’re fed up with customers having to pay for such inferior service – this should be made illegal. After all, you wouldn’t pay for a racing car that could only reach 30mph.
It’s time to put an end to these shady practices. We’re calling on Ofcom and the government to ensure the broadband industry stops charging customers for services they don’t receive, scraps ridiculous lock-ins or hefty early exit penalties if the service is below par, and provides broadband access to all. We also demand clear rules on switching between providers and a ban on misleading advertising by the broadband industry. Enough is enough.
Join our campaign against broadbandits by signing our petition.