Networking

New report shows most people still hate their broadband provider, opens door for new disruptors

Slow speed, bad Wi-Fi signal, and high prices soured many customers' views of their broadband provider, which could make it easier for providers like Google Fiber to win them over.

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Image: iStockphoto/m-imagephotography

At the risk of sounding like a telemarketer, I'm going to ask you a question: Would you recommend your broadband provider to a friend? If you answered no, you're not alone.

According to a report released Tuesday, nearly two-thirds of broadband subscribers wouldn't recommend their provider. The 2016 Incognito Broadband Consumer Quality of Experience (QoE) Survey, put out by Incognito Software Systems, found that only 34% of subscribers liked their provider enough to recommend them.

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If you're like many other American consumers, this news doesn't come as a distinct shock to you. In our hyper-connected age, almost everyone has had a bad Wi-Fi experience. But, it goes deeper than that.

In 2014, cable and broadband companies hit a new low in the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI)—ranking even lower than airlines and health insurers. And, in 2015, they were still ranked dreadfully low.

So, what gives? Why do consumers dislike their providers so much?

According to the report, it has to do with a variety of factors that make up what is known as the quality of experience (QoE). In a blog post explaining QoE, Incognito Software Systems CEO Stephane Bourque said that there is no consensus on exactly what constitutes QoE, but there are some factors that can be measured to better understand it.

These are the factors that Bourque listed:

  • Real-time bandwidth congestion
  • Historical data and trend analysis
  • Capacity growth planning
  • Subscriber self-service portals
  • Identification and analysis of top users
  • Proactive identification of potential network issues
  • Alerting customers of potential quality of service (QoS) issues
  • SLA-based QoS analysis
  • Identifying and eliminating errors in the back end
  • Tailoring offerings or add-ons based on subscriber consumption history
  • Fraudulent access blocking
  • Support call volumes

Despite the availability of tools to measure such metrics, Bourque's post said that more than half of providers aren't sure if they're measuring for QoE, or they aren't measuring it at all. Despite this, though, more than half of providers thought they were meeting the expectations of their subscribers and more than one-third of them felt their QoE was above average or excellent. If we consider "above average or excellent" as synonymous with "likely to recommend" than the responses of the providers actually match well to the responses of subscribers, but it is still a low number.

For subscribers, speed is the biggest issue. Of those surveyed, 45% of respondents said that speed was the determining factor in whether or not they would recommend their service provider to a friend. The report did not mention whether or not that meant speed options available or if the advertised speed met the actual performance of the service, but 33% said they'd be interested in changing providers if it meant faster service.

The second biggest factor among subscribers was Wi-Fi reliability, with 31% claiming it would make or break a recommendation for them. Among respondents, 28% said they would be willing to drop their provider for one with more reliable wireless access.

Additionally, 21% said pricing and service bundling options were the factors that influenced a potential recommendation. Despite speed and Wi-Fi reliability ranking higher than pricing in terms of recommendations, 39% choose pricing as what they could change about their current service if they could only change one factor.

Despite all the dissatisfaction around broadband service providers, only 10% of respondents made a switch in the previous year. However, 31% said they had considered changing providers.

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The growing dissatisfaction with incumbent providers is contributing to a market that is ripe for new connectivity options. The most prevalent of these is, of course, Google Fiber, the gigabit internet service that the search giant debuted in Kansas City, Kansas in 2012.

While the initial goal of Fiber was unknown, it seems to be shaping up as a real business opportunity for Google. However, its mere presence has already sparked some action from incumbent providers to offer faster speeds at a similar price so they don't lose customers. AT&T went as far as to sue Louisville, Kentucky over its potential involvement with Fiber.

There are also a few smaller companies that are looking to provide an alternative to the big name broadband providers. For example, Starry is hoping to provide gigabit internet over the air by using a different signal.

As the world becomes increasingly connected, and ever more digital, one thing's clear: The war between internet service providers is just getting started.

What do you think?

Do you love or hate your broadband provider? Tell us why in the comments.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. A recent Incognito Software System survey, found that only 34% of subscribers liked their broadband provider enough to recommend them to someone else.
  2. Survey respondents listed service speed, Wi-Fi reliability, and pricing as the main determinants of whether or not they'd recommend their providers.
  3. Broadband providers have hit major lows on the ACSI survey lately, and new options like Google Fiber are bound to continue to shake up legacy providers in the ISP market.

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is News Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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