Choosing Suppliers

Broadband nightmares: The internet company that paid extra for a connection

9 min read

30 September 2016

Deputy Editor, Real Business

As part of our broadband campaign, aiming to have the voices of SMEs struggling to do business online heard, we talked with Broadband Genie editor Matt Powell about his own aggravating Internet experiences.

Having the right broadband has often been cited as one of the key ingredients to boosting business growth. This need for a good Internet connection raises the question: Is the standard of broadband services good enough?

It’s a question we hope to answer by interviewing firms across the nation, with broadband comparison website Broadband Genie being first in line. Editor Matt Powell answered a few questions Real Business had, recounting his own experience on the journey to securing the broadband setup the company has today.

(1) Please describe your company in your own words.

Broadband Genie is an independent switching site providing consumers and businesses with practical help, advice and price comparison for home broadband, mobile broadband, phones and TV services.

(2) Where does broadband fit into your business?

Broadband is at the core of our business. Beyond it being central to our comparison product, we rely on broadband every day to do our job.

(3) Would you consider it to be vital?

It’s absolutely vital. If the broadband goes down in our office you will know in seconds as the screaming and shouting starts from the frustration of not being able to work. Without broadband we can’t access our site, work in the cloud or even use our office phones – it’s critical to our business.

(4) What type of broadband/supplier do you use?

Three months ago before we moved office the setup we used looked much like your average home setup. Initially we had one ADSL line from BT (we don’t have fibre in our area) which was coming through an ASUS router. But as the company grew the connection quickly became sluggish. In order to counter this we ended up getting another ADSL connection installed from Plusnet Business.

We’ve actually now moved office and one of the key considerations before the move was the broadband. Fibre broadband again wasn’t available, but because of the issues we faced last time we decided to pay Virgin Media extra to install a fibre line for us. Alongside this, we got a specialist IT company to install a professional network infrastructure, including ethernet sockets, Wi-Fi access points and VOIP phones. I highly recommend any business needing a fast and stable connection do this.

(5) What difficulties have you faced with it?

Where do I start! One of the biggest issues for us, and many other businesses, was that fibre broadband wasn’t available in our area. It’s easy to think slow broadband is something that only affects rural areas, but this isn’t true as many urban businesses still run into problems. We’re based in central Cambridge and access to fibre is still patchy in 2016! The solution at the time would’ve been to pay Virgin or BT to install a fibre connection, but this just wasn’t viable for us so we opted to get two slower ADSL lines installed. And only having access to ADSL lines caused all sorts of issues for us, from everything to staff productivity being hit to some technologies such as Skype being banned because it would kill the connection. It was incredibly frustrating.

Another problem we encountered with all of our office moves is the installation of the broadband. All three installations took three months or more, which in my opinion is far too long. We’ve also been unlucky enough to have three offices where the internal cabling had been cut by the previous tenant, which means getting our broadband connection to the office has been a nightmare. For our most recent installation we went with Virgin Media Business, and luckily the firm is open to installing the internal cabling which saves time and money.

Continue reading to find out Powell’s opinion on how broadband service could be improved.

(6) Has the speed of it let you down?

Up until we had fibre installed it was an enormous hindrance. ADSL broadband just isn’t up to the job for businesses these days. It’s incredibly frustrating to try and do you work when it takes ten minutes to upload a 5MB file or an age to simply access a website. It was more productive to work from home where most of us have superfast fibre broadband.

(7) How do you feel the service could be improved?

I think all round there needs to be improvements. If I could improve one thing, it would be customer service. The quality of service you receive from an ISP varies massively depending on who you speak with. There’s nothing more frustrating than when you’ve got a problem and the person you’re talking to on the phone seems completely clueless.

Beyond that, I think all businesses need to have access to superfast broadband. We’re at a point now where your business is at a serious disadvantage if you don’t have access to good broadband. It really should be be a priority to get the rest of the UK up to speed.

(8) What do you feel about the state of UK broadband?

It’s going in the right direction, but there’s still a lot of work to do. My biggest concern is the growing divide between areas and the emergence of a two-speed economy. The government is talking about a Universal Service Obligation (USO) where there will be a legal obligation to provide households with access to broadband speeds of at least 10Mb by 2020. This is a step in the right direction, but you do have to question whether 10Mb will be enough in 2020.

There have been suggestions that satellite broadband can be used to plug the hard to reach areas with slow broadband, and whilst this may be a suitable for some, there are some big disadvantages to a satellite connection compared to a standard fibre link.

My other concern is the reliance on fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) connection compared to the much more robust fibre to the premises (FTTP) option. We should be making sure that where possible FTTP is being installed as standard.

This article is part of our Real Business Broadband campaign, which seeks to provide a mouthpiece for business leaders to vocalise the broadband issues preventing their businesses from reaching full potential. We’d love to hear your take on the debate and where you think the UK needs to make drastic changes. Get in touch via email (shane.schutte@realbusiness.co.uk) or join in on the action using #rbBroadband.