Broadband outages in the UK - what to do when your broadband goes down C icon
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When the internet goes down, it can affect everything from your wireless devices to your ability to work or study from home.

According to Uswitch, more than 21 million people had a broadband outage of three hours or more in 2022-23. If you’re affected, here’s how to diagnose the problem and get internet access even during an outage.

man looking concerned at his laptop during a broadband outage

If your broadband has stopped working, it may only be your property that’s affected or it could be a wider internet issue in the area.

  • If it’s just your own internet that’s down, this may be due to a fault with a cable or something else at your property.
  • If several homes in your area are affected, there’s likely to be a problem at your internet provider’s end. It could be a system failure or even problems caused by the weather.

Broadband issues can also occur when too many people try to use the internet at the same time, for example during a big sporting event. This is known as network congestion and usually means you’ll experience slower internet speeds than usual for a brief time.

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An internet outage is the complete or partial failure of internet services. It’s usually caused by a problem with the internet in your area, although there may be a fault with your hardware, such as your router.

A full-exchange outage affects multiple properties. It’s usually due to the network going down at the exchange itself. This means it’s up to Openreach, Virgin Media or the relevant independent fibre broadband provider involved to fix the problem. You should still contact your provider if this happens.

Depending on where you live and which provider you’re with, you may experience a temporary drop in broadband speed. But it might not always be a complete outage. If you’ve recently changed provider, it can take up to 14 days for your new broadband speeds to level out.

Tips for checking for broadband outages, including major internet outages in your area:

  • Check your provider’s website for an outage map. Most have a dedicated area for service issues. For example, Community Fibre in London has a service status indicator on its website and Sky Broadband has the same, plus a customer forum. BT has an outage map on its website where you need to enter your landline number or be logged into your BT online account. Many broadband providers also have a live chat option on their website or app.
  • Check your provider’s social media, particularly X, formerly Twitter, which is often updated in real time. Smaller providers, such as YouFibre and Astound Broadband, post very regularly. 
  • Use a service called Downdetector on your mobile phone to check if the internet outage is affecting other homes in the area. It’s a crowd-sourced way of detecting broadband problems in real time through user reports and social media alerts. Downdetector aims to show all UK internet problems today. It also covers more than 45 other countries.
  • Check if it’s just a problem with one app. The most popular apps communicate outages with their users. For example, when Jennifer Aniston joined Instagram the app was famously overwhelmed. From time to time, apps may have scheduled downtime for updates. Don’t have mobile data to check your provider’s website? You can phone them. If they’re aware of a major outage, there may be an automated message. If you need to go to the library to use their internet to contact your provider, take your account details with you.
  • If you’ve got a local WhatsApp or Facebook group, ask if anyone else is having broadband issues. That way you can find out quickly if it’s a provider supply problem.

When your broadband is down, and it’s just your home that’s affected, first try to diagnose the issue:

  • Turn your router off and on again.
  • Check everything’s connected properly and nothing’s been dislodged, for example, by any recent building works.
  • Check the microfilter is working. This is the small white box that plugs into your main phone socket and allows your phone and broadband to work at the same time. You can buy a replacement for a few pounds.
  • Check there’s nothing big or heavy between the router and your devices. Routers should be placed centrally in your home and not near big metallic objects, such as microwaves.
  • Update your router if it’s old or damaged. There may be a charge from your provider for this, but you can try to haggle.
  • Use your mobile phone data if you need to keep working, studying or streaming. This is useful if you have a large mobile data allowance, but it’s not a long-term solution as costs can rack up.
  • If the issue goes on for a week or more, you might consider getting an internet dongle. 
  • If you’re on good terms, ask a neighbour if you can hop on to their Wi-Fi, assuming it’s working.

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