As many as 27% of Britons have never changed their internet service provider, with 80% of people feeling misled by advertising form the industry, new research shows.

In a survey of 2,004 UK adults by a utility comparison site, more than three quarters of people considered broadband an essential utility in line with water and electricity, but few said they shopped around for better services and prices.

More than a quarter of people said they had never changed broadband supplier, and that figure rises to 40% for those aged over 65. This is despite the fact that more than a fifth of people complained that their supplier constantly raises prices and 16% feeling they currently pay over the odds.

The largest barriers for people switching services appears to be a lack of understanding the level of service they need and how broadband billing works.

Many people are under the impression that they need so-called ultra-fast 70Mbps broadband to watch movies or television on BBC iPlayer or Netflix, while the streaming services say they need just 3Mbps to watch standard definition (SD), 5Mbps for 1080P high definition (HD), or 25Mbps for 4K ultra-HD content.

Part of this misunderstanding comes from the confusing broadband advertising in the UK, where ISPs can advertise their services as “superfast” under various different definitions, and the “up to X” speeds claimed remain a mystery to most.

As’s Dan Howdle notes:

“Broadband remains the only service you can buy without knowing what it is you’re actually going to get…The current system is a lucky dip where everyone pays the same no matter what mystery item they ultimately pull out. Currently, you have to find yourself in the bottom 10% speed-wise in order to exit a 12 or 18-month contract without paying substantial cancellation fees. It’s a shocking state of affairs.”

This confusion has led to 80% of the public reporting that they found broadband advertising misleading, with over half describing it as “very misleading”.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has called for a change in the way broadband speeds are advertised to make sure that customers are not mislead. However, as the majority of ISPs run their connections through BT’s Openreach network, slow speeds are often more down to location than the ISP itself. So unless BT increases its investment in its network, or the government finally relents and forces a break up of the company’s long-held monopoly then the situation is unlikely to improve for those left behind in the fibre roll out.


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