How broadband became the UK’s most common argument

Bust-ups over the internet have intensified during a year of lockdowns and unprecedented restrictions on personal freedom.

Monday, 22 March, 2021

Sharing your home with anyone can be frustrating.

From HMO students to married couples, and from young parents to retirees, living together throws up many minor irritations on a day-to-day basis.

Living together often results in petty arguments, from the best way to load a dishwasher through to differing musical tastes and political persuasions.

And throughout the last year of restrictions, one topic has become more contentious than any other.

Arguments over broadband have soared in the last year.

And although the root cause seems obvious enough (lockdown), there are subtler drivers of this sea change in domestic disharmony.

Lock stock and two smoking mammals

According to a survey by fibre broadband provider Truespeed, broadband has become the domestic topic most likely to have smoke coming out of people’s ears.

Indeed, broadband underpinned a third of all domestic arguments.

Nor can this be blamed entirely on a lack of bandwidth.

Too many devices being online at once was the most widely reported complaint at 23 per cent, but phone use at the dinner table wasn’t far behind on 22 per cent.

This is a common phenomenon among Millennials and teenagers, who seem incapable of eating a meal without either Instagramming it or messaging their mates about it.

A further 15 per cent of survey respondents cited frustrations around children playing games while they were trying to work.

This is a direct result of both school closures and instructions to work from home. It’s hard to be productive as Gran Turismo 7 echoes around the house.

Thirteen per cent of arguments over broadband involved someone attempting to download a large file, and a fifth of parents have asked children to stop using the internet while they make a video call.

Band’ of brothers

For many of these squabbles, bandwidth represents the underlying issue.

Houses with high-speed internet won’t struggle with simultaneous access, file downloads/uploads or the number of devices connected at any given moment.

Arguments over broadband etiquette will continue to rage, but gigabit broadband connectivity clearly negates many of the flashpoints highlighted in previous paragraphs.

What it can’t do is fix space issues, with people piled on top of each other in homes never intended to serve as auxiliary workplaces, school campuses, leisure centres and entertainment venues.

However, there are ways to mitigate other broadband-related grumbles:

  • Encourage everyone to wear headphones while gaming, streaming or video calling.
  • Schedule large uploads and downloads (such as OS updates or cloud data backups) to take place overnight.
  • Use a wall calendar to flag up key video calls or online meetings well in advance.
  • Encourage people with smartphones to drop onto mobile data during periods of heavy WiFi use.
  • Create a home office in the house or build a garden office, as discussed in our recent blogs.
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!