Some of the UK’s biggest broadband providers have let their customers down during the pandemic on reliability, speed and value for money, an annual Which? survey has found.
Almost three quarters of broadband users (71%) have used their connection more since the Covid outbreak but 69% said they had experienced an issue with their connection – a substantial increase on last year’s survey, the poll found.
Very low speeds (59%) and frequent dropouts (53%) were the most common problems experienced more often during the pandemic compared to beforehand.
Which? said an increased reliance on broadband over the past year meant customers were more likely to notice connection issues.
The “big four” providers – BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media – supply nine in 10 households and left many customers disappointed, the poll found.
Virgin Media, which has its own cable network in parts of the UK allowing it to offer some of the fastest broadband speeds, received poor ratings for connection reliability.
A third of its customers said they had experienced a connection outage lasting at least an hour in the past year and almost a quarter said their connection was slow to upload or download.
Overall, Virgin received an overall customer score of 53%, leaving it second from bottom in the ranking.
TalkTalk and Sky achieved scores of 54%.
TalkTalk had the highest proportion of customers who would not recommend their provider to others and Sky rated poorly for value for money, receiving low scores for connection speed, connection reliability and ease of set-up.
BT earned the highest score of the big four with 57%, pulled down by middling ratings across the board and a poor score for value for money.
Only John Lewis scored lower than the big four with 47%, with low ratings for connection speed, connection reliability and ease of set-up.
Zen Internet achieved the highest customer score of 70% after topping the ranking last year with 84%.
The survey also found customers who upgraded to fibre broadband often felt the benefits. Some 63% noticed faster speeds and 45% suffered fewer connection dropouts.
Although superfast fibre connections are available to 96% of the country, around a quarter of those surveyed said they still had standard broadband.
Which? head of home products and services Natalie Hitchins said: “Broadband providers must up their game and meet the challenge of providing fast, reliable connections and good customer service for millions of customers whose needs and expectations have risen over the last year.
“The industry and government must also work together to ensure more people have the chance to switch to faster and more reliable gigabit-capable broadband services in the years to come – or risk undermining the UK’s goal of becoming a world leader in connectivity.”
Which? surveyed 4,478 UK adults with a broadband service between December 14 and January 6.