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Best and worst broadband providers of 2017 revealed by Which? survey

The big broadband providers – TalkTalk, BT and Sky – were beaten by smaller companies in our latest survey of 1,800 broadband users

The UK’s biggest broadband providers are still disappointing on basic customer service, speed and reliability, according to the results of a Which? customer satisfaction survey.

The four biggest providers – Talk Talk, BT, Sky and EE – who collectively have a 72% market share, all scored poorly in our poll of 1,800 broadband users.

Out of the 12 broadband companies, TalkTalk sits at the bottom of the pile with a paltry 38% customer score. BT only does slightly better with 45%. Even the best of the big broadband firms – Virgin Media – earned a middling 52% customer score, while its big rival, Sky, achieved a score of just 49%.

For full expert reviews of each provider, head to our broadband deal reviews.

Best broadband providers

Lesser-known providers Zen Internet and Utility Warehouse washed away the rest of the competition with table-topping 86% and 81% customer scores.

The firms were the only broadband suppliers to earn five stars for customer service. An impressive 71% of Zen Internet customers rated it excellent, while 59% of Utility Warehouse’s did the same. These two along with John Lewis Broadband which came third, were the only firms where at least half of their customers rated the customer service as excellent.

Zen Internet and Utility Warehouse have both been awarded our Which? Recommended Provider stamp of approval, an award we only give to the very best companies.

In deciding which firms deserve our Which? Recommended Provider award, we take account not only of customer service but also whether they offer well-priced packages. Only those that earn a customer score of at least 70%, and offer packages at a reasonable price compared with the average can be recommended providers.

Broadband problems

There’s a reasonable chance you’ll face a technical issue with broadband: 21% of our survey respondents reported a problem with very slow speeds over the past year, 17% told us of frequent connection dropouts, and 14% had hitches with their router.

There are a few things you can do at home to help. It’s a good idea to place a router close to where you’ll be using the web, and put it on a raised surface instead of the carpet.

But ultimately it’s your provider that is responsible for fixing faults and keeping you up to date with progress. Our survey shows big differences in the quality of technical support. More than 70% of Utility Warehouse and Zen Internet customers rated theirs as excellent or good. Only 26% of TalkTalk’s found it to be either, and 18% described it as poor or very poor.

Some 8% of the broadband users we surveyed told us they had encountered problems resolving queries with their provider in the past year – but some providers are more guilty than others. As many as 20% of Vodafone and 16% of TalkTalk customers reported this.

Which? campaigns for better broadband for all

Your choice of provider can make the difference between using the internet being a painless pleasure or a frustrating faff. As ever, our survey has unearthed vast differences in the quality of service that is offered by the different companies big and small.

That’s why we’ve launched our Fix Bad Broadband campaign, to fight for better broadband connections for everyone.

Which? managing director of home services Alex Neill says: ‘Broadband is now seen as a modern day essential and people get rightly frustrated with poor service. Those who are currently with the providers performing badly should rightly complain and look to switch to one of the smaller providers if their service doesn’t improve.’

We’re calling on everyone to do our broadband speed test. This measures key elements of your broadband connection, including download speed and upload speed. From this, we’ll be able to gain a better picture of broadband across the UK – and find out whether providers are really delivering on their claims.

We also guide you through how to resolve issues and raise complaints with your provider, to help ensure you get a good level of service.

Broadband speeds

For the last few years, the government has been working towards greater access to ‘superfast broadband’ across the UK. The government defines this as download speeds of at least 24 megabits per second (Mbps).

The government’s aim is that 95% of UK premises will have access to 24Mbps download speeds by the end of 2017. Some 90% had such access by June 2016, according to telecoms industry regulator Ofcom.

Government schemes such as Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) aim to boost superfast broadband coverage across the UK. BDUK funds a range of local projects designed to improve access, and encourages private-sector investment.

As may be expected, there’s poorer superfast broadband access in rural areas than in urban dwellings. And by June 2016, 5% of UK premises still couldn’t get access to 10Mbps download speeds, with around 69% of those in rural areas.

On top of working to improve superfast access, the government has proposed a Universal Service Obligation (USO) that would give people the right to request a minimum download speed. At the moment it’s not clear what that speed will be – originally it was pitched at 10Mbps, but there are reports it may be faster. The USO is part of the Digital Economy Bill, which is yet to pass into legislation.

We’ve set up a new broadband speed checker and complaint tool so you can find out your actual broadband speed, complain if you’re not getting what you paid for and help us build a picture of the real speeds and problems people are experiencing across the country.

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