The number of Britons who have experienced their internet connection failing for at least three hours has almost doubled in the last year, with irate consumers now ranking broadband outages as a bigger frustration than roadworks or public transport delays.
In the past year, two-fifths (41%) of all UK adults – 22 million consumers – have had their internet disconnected for three or more hours, a significant increase on the 12 million who reported disruption the previous year, according to a report by the price comparison website Uswitch.
A quarter of the British public said they had been left without internet for at least six and a half days over the past 12 months.
The explosion in working from home brought on by the pandemic means there is greater reliance on home internet connections. The study found that 15% of those affected by significant outages were prevented from working, which is estimated to have cost the economy £2bn in lost productivity.
Southampton has been identified as the worst-affected city in the UK, with residents losing on average 63 hours of online activity over the past year. Broadband customers in Newcastle, Birmingham and Liverpool also suffered significant disruption.
This compares with just 13.5 hours offline on average in London, one of the best cities in terms of internet connection stability.
With the UK’s biggest telecoms companies pushing through inflation-busting bill increases of up to 17% earlier this year, the biggest round of price rises in more than 30 years, Uswitch argued that many broadband customers were paying significantly more for less.
Many of the UK’s mobile and telecoms companies have been accused of fuelling “greedflation” by pushing through mid-contract price increases well above the 6.8% rate of inflation.
“Despite major price increases earlier this year, if anything, the issue of broadband outages appears to be getting worse,” said Ernest Doku, a telecoms expert at Uswitch. “This isn’t acceptable in a cost of living crisis, especially the ongoing reliance on home internet for many UK workers.”
Only 22% of consumers received compensation from their internet provider for the disruption, with 48% not aware that, under rules enforced by the regulator, they could be entitled to compensation.
With 73% of survey respondents saying that they find broadband outages frustrating, the problem now ranks above roadworks (72%) and delays to public transport (70%) in the hierarchy of British consumers’ grievances.
Only rude customer service (82%) and queue-jumping (82%) came out higher in the frustration list.
“The good news is there is a lot of competition in the broadband market, including smaller, disruptive providers offering faster speeds at competitive prices,” said Doku.
UK cities with worst internet disruption
1. Southampton – 63 hours
2. Newcastle – 57 hours
3. Birmingham 47 hours
4. Liverpool – 44 hours
5. Nottingham – 33 hours
Note: Average downtime per resident in hours over the last 12 months.