More than 20 million people across the UK have faced broadband outages lasting three hours or more over the last year, according to a new report from Uswitch.
The comparison site’s annual broadband outage study found the top reason named by internet users for the disruptions they suffered was an issue confirmed by their provider, followed by router problems or planned maintenance in their area.
Uswitch said the number of people affected by outages had risen from around 12 million the previous year to 21.7 million over the last 12 months, with Southampton named the worst-hit city, ahead of Newcastle, Birmingham, Liverpool and Nottingham.
With the increase in hybrid working, the report said workforce productivity has also been hit over the last 12 months, with 15% of those affected saying they had been prevented from working as a result of an outage – with Uswitch estimating those disruptions cost the UK economy just over £2 billion.
As a result of such problems, broadband disruptions have now been cited as a bigger frustration to the public than traditional issues such as roadworks, public transport delays and late deliveries.
Noting rises in broadband prices earlier this year, Uswitch telecoms expert Ernest Doku said many consumers now appear to be paying more for less.
“Despite major price increases earlier in the year, if anything the issue of broadband outages appears to be getting worse,” he said.
“This isn’t acceptable in a cost-of-living crisis, especially considering the ongoing reliance on home internet for many UK workers.
“It’s also concerning that there seems to be a significant disparity in customer experience between customers in London and those around the country, who have to settle for less.
“The good news is that there is a lot of competition in the broadband market, including smaller providers offering faster speeds at competitive prices – so there’s never been a better time to vote with your feet if you’re unhappy with your service.
“These new broadband challengers, including Community Fibre, Gigaclear and Hyperoptic, offer an alternative to the mainstream internet service providers which rely on copper wires and fibre cables from Openreach or Virgin Media’s infrastructure.
“Our customers say they will often choose these newer networks for their impressive reliability and customer service credentials.”
In Southampton, where the highest levels of disruption were reported, the average resident was unable to get online for just over 63 hours over the course of the last year, with the residents of Newcastle – the next worst-affected city – offline for 57 hours.
In contrast, London residents suffered on average 13.5 hours of offline time.