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Broadband outage: what to do when your internet is down

What happens when your broadband goes down? What can you do about it? And how long will you be offline? Our research highlights the best and worst locations in the UK for broadband outages.
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Woman looking very frustrated at their broadband connection

There are few things more frustrating than your broadband going down. What would you do if your broadband went out for over a day? Would you be able to work? How would you keep in touch with friends and family? And what would you watch on TV? Does anyone still have a DVD player plugged in these days?

In this guide, we’ll take you through how to check if there’s an internet outage in your area, what the common causes of outages are, and what you can do if your broadband goes down.

What is a broadband outage?

A broadband outage is a problem with your provider’s network that causes you to lose your internet connection. This is usually contained in a particular area, but it can sometimes affect customers nationwide.

Outages don’t always just affect your property in particular as there are many parts of a network beyond the line that connects to your house. An outage could be a fault with internal systems run by the provider, between the provider’s broadband exchange and the cabinet on your street, or even due to high internet traffic in the area. All of these issues would mean multiple customers would be affected at once.

But an internet outage could also be specific to your own home connection too, such as an issue with the cable that connects to your home, or another hardware error on your property.

Broadband outages in the UK

According to Uswitch's latest research, 11 million consumers experienced broadband outages of three hours or more between summer 2021 and summer 2022. With more than half of UK workers still working from home, this can have a huge impact. In fact, it's estimated to have cost the UK economy £1.3 billion, showing that the importance of a stable broadband connection is incredibly important as our working habits evolve.

Different locations across the UK have had varying levels of disruption caused by broadband outages. This year it was Nottingham residents that were hit hardest by broadband outages, spending the longest time offline over the course of the year and losing 9.2 million hours of broadband access annually.

Our latest research revealed which UK locations have suffered the most broadband outages and which ones were stuck offline for the longest.

Table: The places reporting the highest total home broadband outage time in 2021-22

Updated 28 June 2022
RankCityAverage downtime 2021-22
1Nottingham70.2 hours
2Southampton45.8 hours
3Manchester38.8 hours
4Bristol38.7 hours
5Cardiff27.3 hours
6Edinburgh22.4 hours
7Liverpool17.2 hours
8Newcastle15.3 hours

Ernest Doku, broadband expert at said that Misfiring home broadband can quickly become a huge annoyance, given that video calls have become essential for many remote workers. 

“Stable broadband should not be the thing that you worry about when you are trying to impress a new employer. Bosses will not be filled with confidence if their first impression is buffering and internet dropouts.

“When people reach the point that their bosses are commenting on their connection issues, it’s time to consider an upgrade. You may find that better service often comes at a cheaper price when you have been with the same provider for a number of years. 

“Competition is rife in the broadband industry and the price gap between standard fixed-line internet and full fibre services - which offer more consistent connectivity and superfast download speeds of up to 1Gb - is now minimal.

“Many households who took out a broadband deal during lockdown in the 2021 January sales will now be reaching the end of their contract, so it’s the perfect time to shop around, especially if you rely on your home internet to do your job.”

Keen to switch broadband to a more reliable provider? Check out our latest broadband deals.

Why is my broadband not working?

If your home internet has gone down due to a broadband outage, it could be due to a number of factors.

What causes internet outages?

  • Faulty lines: Sometimes the cables or equipment on a broadband network will get damaged or stop working. This could be due to extreme weather, vandalism, wear-and-tear or a number of other factors. It’d mean that the lines that are vital for transferring internet data to your home will be out of operation until an engineer fixes the issue.

  • High internet traffic: When more people than normal are using the internet at once, like downloading a large update of a popular video game or streaming a big sporting event, there can be ‘congestion’ of the traffic passing through the network. This causes the internet to slow down significantly and can appear like it’s not working until the network can process all the extra data.

  • Fluctuating internet speed: Broadband speeds can vary by a large amount very quickly. The flow of data through broadband cables is rarely consistent for long, so sometimes a big dip in internet speed can momentarily cause websites, movies or games to stop loading properly for you. Those on full fibre connections will see this less often because fibre cables are much more reliable, but they’re still subject to momentary blips.

  • Home equipment issue: Your internet could also be down because of a hardware issue in your home. Broken, old, or poorly set up equipment can eventually just give out and may need fixing or even replacing. If you think this is why your home broadband is down, here are our tips on what you can do.

How long do internet outages last?

Usually, outages are dealt with quite swiftly and the network is back up and running in a reasonable amount of time.

But that isn’t always the case — some can last for hours, or even days, which can have a terrible impact on households given how much socialising, streaming, working and gaming takes place online nowadays.

An internet outage of any length can be inconvenient if it happens at the wrong moment, such as if you’re downloading something important for work or on a video call. So the length of your internet outage might just depend on the type of problem that’s causing it.

How to check if the internet is down in your area

The quickest way to check if the internet is down in your area is by searching your broadband provider on a site like Down Detector. You can report an issue with your internet provider and check if other people using your provider’s network are reporting an issue too.

downdetector image of instagram's performance

The website has a dedicated page for all UK providers, as well as the most popular apps and online systems, such as Twitter and Facebook or Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network. It’ll show you in a chart whether more people than usual are reporting an issue at the same time as you, and that should explain whether the issue sits with your provider.

You can also check your provider’s Twitter account or website to see if it has acknowledged any issues on its network. This will be where it shares more detailed updates on its network outages, as well as a rough timeline for when it’ll be fixed.

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What to do when your broadband goes down

First thing’s first, make sure it's a genuine broadband outage. You might be experiencing a problem with your home broadband equipment, rather than with your network provider. So check things like your router connections and power source. Then, check your device to make sure it’s connecting to the correct Wi-Fi network.

It may sound simple, but switching your equipment and devices off and on again will often solve the problem.

Replace an old router

If you’ve been with your broadband provider for a while now, you may have an older router. The longer you’re using it, the greater the chance that it will have a fault. Or at the very least, it won’t be as powerful as the newer ones on the market.

If you’re experiencing connectivity issues because of your Wi-Fi router, contact your provider and ask them to replace it. Just be careful that they don’t get you to pay or sign up for a new contract just to get one. If this is the case, you could just as easily switch to a new provider and get a new router for free.

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Contacting your provider when your broadband is down

If all is in working order at home, it’s time to reach out to your broadband provider to find out if the problem is unique to your household.

When you speak to your provider or check its website for outages, you should be able to learn if the problem is isolated to just your connection, or if it's part of a wider network issue.

Sky Broadband outage

Sky has a broadband service status checker on its website that you can use by searching your landline number.

Alternatively, you can report or learn about any Sky outages by calling the provider's customer services team on 0333 759 0956.

Virgin Media Broadband outage

Virgin Media’s Connect app enables you to check your Wi-Fi signal strength, and reboot your hub if you're experiencing broadband problems.

If you're experiencing an outage with the provider, you can visit the Virgin Media service status page to find out what the problem may be, or contact Virgin Media on 0345 454 1111 (alternatively 150 on a Virgin Media landline).

BT Broadband down in my area

If you experience a BT Broadband outage, you should first check the BT service status page to see if the provider is aware of the problem and is fixing it.

You can also contact BT on 0800 800 150 to report an outage or ask what may be causing it.

See our full guide on how to contact your broadband provider for more details.

Keen to switch broadband to a more reliable provider? Check out our latest broadband deals.

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Have a backup plan

In the event that your broadband outage is caused by damage to the network of broadband cables or other provider issues, you might be caught without broadband for a few hours, or even a few days.

In these cases, it’s good to have a contingency plan in place that allows you to keep working, streaming, scrolling and chatting online. Our research in 2020 showed that 37% of consumers who were suffering from broadband issues used their mobile phone data, either directly on their devices or by tethering it to a computer. A further 5% admitted to using their neighbour’s Wi-Fi connection instead.

Check out our latest mobile phone deals in case you think you'll need more data.

Mobile phone deals

Finally, more than a quarter of people just stopped what they were doing and waited for the broadband to come back online. So if you have errands to run, exercise to do or a book you can crack on with now would be a great time for those.

Keen to switch broadband to a more reliable provider? Check out our latest broadband deals.

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