If broadband’s really a ‘postcode lottery’, why switch? Guest blog from Julia Kukiewicz

If broadband’s really a ‘postcode lottery’, why switch? Guest blog from Julia Kukiewicz

If you believe a recent spate of stories, it’s nigh on impossible to keep up with the Joneses’ broadband. Based on research released by Uswitch, it was widely reported that UK broadband speeds are a “postcode lottery??? in which neighbors are more or less doomed to receive wildly different speeds, even in city centers.

It has legs, of course, because it’s partly true: it is possible that properties that are physically close will be able to receive very different services. On a larger scale, like postcode areas, which is what Uswitch compared, it becomes increasingly likely that households will be served by different exchanges which makes it all the more likely that there’ll be a large gap in averages.

Moreover, unlike, say, Ofcom’s large scale broadband speeds research, a survey like Uswitch’s – which took its results from just over 900,000 speed tests conducted through their website – doesn’t take variables like home hardware and time of day into account when calculating speeds.

However, the ‘lottery’ moniker – which strongly implies that households suffering poor speeds can’t do anything about it – is inaccurate and damaging.

Poor broadband speeds can be improved in the vast majority of cases. Those with access to fibre, somewhat of a lottery itself, are unquestionably on top but that’s not to say that location is all.

If we took that attitude with other services we’d never retune our TVs, yet in the case of broadband many are happy to take the edge off the internet equivalent of a permanently fuzzy screen by periodically cursing BT.

Survey after survey has found that households believe they wouldn’t be better off with fibre broadband or, erroneously, that they can’t receive it. Take up of fibre services remains worryingly low.  To give Uswitch credit, they did bring up all these issues in the original press release and even made special mention of the low take up of fibre broadband where it is available.

It’s a shame that the way the story was reported became part of the problem: a disincentive to households that could really benefit from trying to improve their broadband speeds.


Julia is Editor of the consumer site Choose.net, which covers broadband.