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UK broadband is a complete disaster under BT’s Patterson and Virgin’s Malone – should they be trusted with a ‘digital economy?’

It’s been interesting listening to chancellor George Osborne at the Tory party conference outlining his plans for a wonderful new age of state-of-the-art British infrastructure. He’s wheeled in Labour peer Andrew Adonis to head a commission into same.

Hmm. Having spent yet another day grappling with Virgin Media – and its forever collapsing broadband network – I wonder if George and his supporters can actually see the wood for the trees. Does George live in the real world?

It’s pretty clear that in a so-called digital economy functioning broadband is essential, but in the British economy it doesn’t. A big proportion of the country hasn’t got anything that works – ever – and most of the rest of us are lumbered with something that should work but doesn’t.

Virgin, now owned by John Malone’s US-based Liberty Media, is a shambles. I was told today that a 12 hour outage was the result of a slight increase in May temperatures (this in a dire summer) which buggered up the whole system. How?

There was an engineer on the case but they only work office hours. It came back on but, as I write this, the deadly arrow on the router is flickering away, which probably means it’ll be off tomorrow.

Gavin-2014013011035074BT, which controls the fibre network, is under pressure to separate off its Openreach business, which has signally failed to improve UK internet services – for ever. But BT poster boy CEO Gavin Patterson (left) has been loud in his protestations that they’re doing everything they can to improve the network (cobblers) and, by the way, it’s going to get even better. Only because they might lose the business.

Patterson would far rather spend his shareholders’ money trying to rival Sky Sports. Someone in government – or its agency Ofcom – should tell him to concentrate on his day job.

BT is about to buy EE’s UK mobile business for about £12bn. EE’s network is crap, heaven knows what it will be like with BT in charge.

So, essentially, there are lots of very rich companies around in the broadband/mobile sector commanding huge valuations and salaries for the bosses which are failing to deliver an acceptable service.

This isn’t the way free markets are supposed to operate. They’re supposed to stimulate competition and, therefore, better value for the customer.

In UK broadband the free market has completely failed. Maybe Jeremy Corbyn has a better solution..


  1. Whilst I can see that Mr Foster is generally frustrated with the current performance of his own Broadband Services he seems to be making a massive generalisation about the reliability and performance of everyone else around the country.
    My expectation based upon knowledge of Virgin Media is that the vast majority of its customers get the speed and reliability that they expect with a relatively small number of customers having performance issues or being impacted by faults/issues that require extended times to fix.

  2. I can understand Mr Foster’s frustration, I’m not a Virgin customer but have very similar experiences with my provider. My broadband works fine, unless it rains or BT engineers are ‘playing’ with the local sub stations. The reality is none of the companies are interested in anything other than the ever increasing line rental, but then I enjoy being paid for doing nothing.

  3. This year has been a nightmare dealing with BT since January; mistake followed by mistake etc., etc. The top management should be obliged to dial in to their customer service every day to experience the frustrating, time wasting, often useless conversation with someone in the wrong department – it isn’t up to me to know which f*****g department to talk to.

    One massive irritation is following arranging broadband for a house move made back in February (grrrr, very annoyingly delayed and mistakes made) my default browser is, you guessed it, BT. You would believe as its BT it would be perfect given they provide the cable to our house, the line is rented from them and they provide broadband. However at least 50% of the time when I turn on my laptop it can’t connect to the (BT) server and a message pops up saying “CAN’T CONNECT TO PROXY SERVER”. I think it should be changed to “POXY SERVER”.
    The BT top brass should read Lou Gerstner’s book “Who said elephants can’t dance” about how he turned IBM from a manufacturer to a solutions provider, fascinating cultural change to a customer focused business. BT take note.

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