Coping with a temporary broadband outage

Wednesday, 24 October, 2018

Regrettably, temporary broadband outages are a fact of modern life.

Until 5G is rolled out nationwide, there will be occasions when we find ourselves stranded on the information hard shoulder.

When this happens, it’s tempting to panic and imagine civilisation has ended.

In reality, temporary broadband outages can last anything from a few seconds to a few days – and their memory soon abates once you can post photos of your lunch on Instagram again.

Coping with an outage will be less stressful if you understand what’s gone wrong and why, before formulating a plan to deal with the consequences…

The causes of temporary broadband outages

There may be a number of reasons why your wireless router has stopped working.

You don’t require a Belgian accent and an ornate moustache to identify one of these common causes:

  • Billing and payment issues. Perhaps a debit card has expired, or your overdraft has been reached. Non-payment leads to service suspension – sometimes without prior warning
  • Construction work. If your walls are gently vibrating, there might be a digger in the street outside. It’s quite common for roadworks to impact on local broadband distribution
  • Repairs at the local exchange. Those green Openreach cabinets on the pavements occasionally experience faults, overloads or even fires – all affecting connectivity
  • Wiring issues into your property. This is less common, but the connections from Openreach cabinets occasionally fail, while internal wiring could also degrade and break
  • A dead router. Any electrical item can experience total failure, especially one expected to perform 24 hours a day. Don’t assume those flashing lights are telling you the full story
  • Theft. Incredibly, Openreach invest millions of pounds each year on cable theft prevention strategies. Even bolting things down doesn’t always stop a committed thief
  • Adverse weather. High winds may force phone lines or electricity cables down, cutting individual connections or power to local cabinets. Flash floods represent another issue.
  • Sometimes, the cause of an outage will never be revealed, remaining a mystery for evermore.

    Regardless of the causal factor, however, a more pressing issue quickly arises…

Trying to stay online during a temporary broadband outage

This isn’t as illogical as it seems, since there are several ways to remain connected to a greater or lesser degree:

  1. Switch to 4G. Many mobile devices can connect to 4G as well as WiFi. Tablets and phones are limited in some respects, but they will keep communication channels open.
  2. Investigate tethering. With a little hardwiring and some settings adjustments, it’s possible to hardwire a smartphone to a PC or Mac, sharing its 4G connectivity with the computer.
  3. Speak to neighbours. Whether you hot-desk in an office or work out of the spare room, neighbours may still be online. It might be possible to access their WiFi for a short time.
  4. Find a public WiFi network. There are security issues here, and you may need to be a paying customer. But café or library WiFi is fine for tackling essential online tasks.
Neil Cumins author picture


Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!