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2 Apr 2020

Is now a good time to switch broadband provider?

We explain the impact coronavirus has had on broadband switching, and whether it's still possible - or advisable

Home broadband has recently become more important than ever, with many of us using it to work or study at home. A new reliance on your connection may have made you reassess your service and consider switching providers.

Usually, switching providers can be a great way to save money and get a better service - but with broadband providers and networks facing an unprecedented level of strain, the landscape has changed. Those who want to switch may find that the process is different, or that it's not currently possible. Read on to find out more about who can and can't switch broadband provider.

Read all the latest news and advice on the Which? coronavirus hub.

Who can and can't switch broadband provider right now?

Openreach - the network that supplies the majority of the UK's broadband connections - has said that it will now only be able to organise in-home engineer appointments for vulnerable people who can't be helped by other means. In the majority of cases, anyone who requires a phone line in order to start a new connection now won't be able to switch providers.

This means that if you're currently with a provider that has its own network, such as Virgin Media or Hyperoptic, you might not be able to switch to providers that use the Openreach network - this includes popular providers, such as Plusnet, TalkTalk, Utility Warehouse, Vodafoneand Zen Internet. It may still be possible if you still have an active phoneline at the property - you can check by putting your postcode and address into your desired provider's website, or by plugging a phone into the line and checking for a dial tone.

Both Virgin Media and Hyperoptic are still permitting engineer visits, where necessary (while following social distancing principles), so it's still possible to switch to their networks if they're available where you live. Plus, if you've previously had a Virgin Media connection, an engineer visit won't be required.

Engineer in hardhat is using a tablet computer in

Meanwhile, some providers on the Openreach network offer deals that always require home installation - these deals are typically being paused. This means it's currently not possible to upgrade to full fibre deals such as BT's 'Ultrafast' service, while Sky's 'TV, Broadband & Talk' services are also currently closed to new subscribers.

But this doesn't mean that switching providers has become impossible. In many cases, the process is as simple as unplugging one router and plugging in a new one, particularly if you're sticking with the same time of broadband (standard/ADSL or fibre), but simply moving to a different provider on the Openreach network. If you're in this situation and a switch could mean a cheaper or faster deal, it's still worth exploring.

Upgrading from standard broadband to faster fibre broadband will also be possible in many cases, but will require a home engineer visit in others, so in this case it will have to be delayed.

Our advice and reviews can help with a range of broadband issues you encounter in the home. Read five ways to speed up and fix broadband to get started.

Contacting your broadband provider during the COVID-19 outbreak

Before you switch, it's a good plan to contact your new provider to check that there aren't likely to be any problems.However, it might be more difficult to get hold of providers as many are dealing with decreased call centre staff numbers. Several have also stopped telesales entirely, meaning you can only switch online.

For example, Virgin Media, the Post Office, Sky and SSE have all confirmed that they will not currently be offering telesales through their sites, in order to better allocate increasing call volumes among remaining staff to deal with issues such as customer support.

If you want to get in touch about a potential switch or non-urgent issue, consider using alternative ways of getting in touch - social media or online chat, for example - to make it easy for those with urgent issues to get in touch via phone.

Use our guide on how to contact your broadband provider to quickly find links to service status pages, online chat, social media accounts and troubleshooting tips.

What to do if you're having problems with your broadband

Openreach has indicated that the amount of traffic resulting from so many of us working from home is unlikely to be a problem. If you do experience difficulties with your connection, it could be a local issue or your home set-up.

If your connection is slow, there are steps you can take to ensure your connection is as fast as it can be. This can be as simple as changing the wi-fi channel you're using. Head to our guide on how to speed up slow broadband to get started.

If your broadband has dropped out and you're not sure why, use our guide on how to fix bad broadband for our list of tips on checks you can make to figure things out.

And if the lights on your router are flashing and you're not sure why, our guide on how to fix your router can help you interpret the warning lights and identify the problem.

If you're still keen on switching, use Which? Switch Broadband to discover broadband deals in your area.