UK ISP’s – What’s going on?

I’m afraid this post may appear as a bit of a rant. I won’t disagree I’m annoyed with what’s gone on with my internet, the way it was sold and, at least initially, the way the whole “complaint” was handled, but now that my parting with TalkTalk Business is arranged, it’s led me to think more deeply about how broadband is sold and operated in the UK.

For now, let’s keep Fibre to the Cabinet out of the equation, it’s a different animal, and at least for me, subject of another rant, I still can’t get it since BT Openreach have decided that by some criteria my cabinet in not to be upgraded. At least for now.

So, my requirement? From the outset, I’m happy to pay a premium for a better service. And by better, I mean one that has at least some guarenteed levels of service during the evening and weekends when the whole world is streaming, torrenting, gaming etc. In the past, this has always meant signing up for a “business” service. And that usually meant being physically connected to different hardware in the exchange. Hardware that was 20:1 contended as opposed to 50:1 contended. The result was that yes, in the evening, the service certainly did degrade, but it was still usable.

Every ISP I’ve been with (bar Sky since they don’t do it), I’ve always paid top dollar for a better service. I was with Plusnet for ages, but after many years, I had a problem that meant I was left disconnected for serveral hours at a time. Even they acknowledged the only way to get that fixed was to shift provider and get onto a different dslam. That worked, I switched to Sky, my connection remained solid, but because Sky are Sky, they don’t support a static IP address, plus, even though it was sold as ADSL2+, my upload never got above 500kbps. Previously with Plusnet I’d been getting 1Mbps. So Sky got binned, and I moved to BE broadband. Again the best service they had. I’ve nothing but good things to say about BE. I don’t ever recall having an issue. A very reliable service, 10Mbps / 1Mbps, good enough in the evening, and static IP address too. Life was good. Until Sky took them over and made it clear they’d close them down and move everyone to Sky.

No way I was going to back to Sky, so I had to move elsewhere. In the end, I plumped for BT Business broadband. I guess it was sort of ok, but nowhere near as good as BE. My speed gradually fell to around 6Mbps / 600kbps, and at times the service in the evening was poor.Their hardware, the BT home hub was possibly the worst piece of kit I’ve ever had the misfortune to work with. Totally unconfigurable, dumbed down. Its DNS cache server which you got no choice but to use, frequently fell over rendering my entire network unusable. So, hardware was replaced with Netgear, and things improved, but still issues in the evening. Plus, BTwere not cheap. At all. I felt I wasn’t getting value for money.

At this point, I turned to TalkTalk business. The switch was painless, the price, £25 a month for both broadband and phone seemed particularly attractive. And during the day, I couldn’t fault their service at all. However, in the evenings, it’s a completly different story. In short, it’s unusable. I had three conversations with their tech support, and all told me the same thing. Something I found particulary disturbing. And that is that as a “Business” customer, you only get prioritised during business hours. Out of business hours, you’re in the pool with everyone else. To me, that’s not Business Broadband. If I’m paying for business, I expect it 24/7. I’m sensible enough to know that during the evening, things will slow down, but the service should be still usable. I don’t expect to get my service de-prioritised at 5pm.

At that point, I knew my relationship with TalkTalk would be short lived. Less than two weeks to be honest. After having raised a formal complaint, I got agreement on a termination fee that wasn’t the full value of the twelve month contract. I’ve already signed up with Zen Business Office, here’s hoping it’s a good as the reviews at Think BroadBand. I hope it’s going to deliver what I expect. Sure, it’s expensive, but I don’t care if it works.

But I then thought a little deeper. And it now appears that “things” are managed differently. Apparently contention ratios are a thing of the past. Even BT state that everyone is in the same pool. BT explain it here. So how do you “buy” yourself a better service? Lord knows. If Zen doesn’t work out, I’m really getting to the point of thinking, if the service you get delivered is so buttock clenchingly piss poor, regardless of what you pay, you may as well pay as little as possible?

We’ll see.

M.

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