Broadband in the countryside is so poor that one in three families is struggling to use the internet in the evening, watchdogs have revealed.
At "peak time" between 8 and 10pm, some 7 million homes receive average internet speeds which are slower then the minimum "acceptable" speed for families, according to a report published yesterday by Ofcom.
This is despite them being signed up to contracts which advertise far higher speeds.
According to Ofcom a connection slower than 10 Mbs/s is inadequate for the average family, as it provides enough bandwidth for a maximum of one device to use the internet at a time.
However as the average UK household has an average of eight devices online at any given time, according to Internet Advertising Bureau figures, families attempting to connect multiple devices are experiencing problems such as buffering when streaming videos, as well as slow downloading and web browsing.
In a report published yesterday Ofcom said the average speed received by homes dipped to 9.8Mb/s between 8 and 10pm, which is when most people want to use the internet.
Experts said the slower service at peak times was down to too many people trying to connect to the internet at once as a result of telecoms firms "overselling" broadband deals.
Dan Howdle, a consumer telecoms analyst at Cable.co.uk said: "There's no doubt that this situation needs to improve as people often don't get what they pay for. And as things stand 5pc of the population will never get fibre broadband, which is required for faster connections.
"It is being caused by companies overselling broadband packages, which leads to too many people using the same line at busy times. Everyone is sharing the same route but there's a limit on the amount of band width they can use."
A Department for Culture Media and Sport spokesman said: "Headline "Up to" speeds can be incredibly misleading - customers need clear, concise and accurate information in order to make an informed choice.
"The Advertising Standards Authority has recognised that something needs to be done about the ways broadband speeds are advertised and we are pleased they are now looking into this. Too many people aren't getting the speeds they thought they signed up for, and it is vital this is put right as soon as possible."
Sharon White, chief executive at Ofcom, said in a speech yesterday: "While people tend to shop around on price, or for a particular product they like, they do not tend to make choices based on customer service; which means operators can get away with poor service.
"And millions of consumers, particularly vulnerable and elderly people, don’t shop around at all. This has created a widening gulf between consumer expectations and what the industry is actually delivering.”
According to Ofcom most consumers affected by insufficient bandwidth can resolve the issue by switching to superfast fibre broadband. Although the price of Superfast broadband which has a connection of at least 30Mbit/s, has fallen significantly since it first became widely available in 2008, it still costs an average of £4 per month more than standard services.
An Ofcom spokesman added: “We know how frustrating it can be for people who can’t get decent broadband so improving service quality is an Ofcom priority. We’re working with the Government on its plans for a new, universal right to decent, affordable broadband. We’re also encouraging investment in full-fibre broadband, by making it quicker and easier for providers to build their own networks to homes and offices.”