Revealed: the best and worst ISPs – calculated using Twitter

The broadband provider rankings takes a twist as university language algorithm scans over 300,000 tweets

twitter logo on a laptop

Tuesday, 24 November, 2020

Twitter is often seen as a confrontational bearpit, populated by trolls, Russian bots and deposed Presidents.

Yet strip out the excess, and Twitter remains an incredibly useful communication tool.

Its brevity forces people to be concise. Its immediacy is great for direct communications. And its content can provide rich seams of information when viewed holistically.

This was recently proved by analysing tweets sent to the UK’s main internet service providers.

In total, over 300,000 tweets were scanned using the TensiStrength platform, developed by an academic at Wolverhampton University.

The results made interesting reading…

Fear and loathing in 140 characters

TensiStrength works by scanning text and allocating scores based on factors like the degree of stress and relaxation it identifies in words and syntax.

It examines text for the use of words related to emotions like anger, anxiety and frustration.

An overall score of -1 suggests very little stress has been detected, whereas -5 implies the person who wrote that content might benefit from a lie down.

(That’s a state of mind many people who’ve endured outages or consistently incorrect broadband billing will be all too familiar with.)

Last month, an analysis was undertaken of over 305,000 tweets published in the first nine months of this year, all of which contained the handle of an ISP.

The best and worst Broadband providers

Before naming and shaming the ISPs whose customers are most likely to be agitated when contacting them, it’s worth noting that sample frames varied hugely in size.

Bottom of the pile was Shell Energy, albeit from a compact sample frame of just 267 tweets. Over a third of messages linked to their account ranked as either -3, -4 or -5. Conversely our own verified customer reviews of Shell broadband rank them among the best – clearly showing the potential for disagreement with this method!

Post Office broadband performed almost as badly from another small sample frame, while Plusnet just scraped below the 33% threshold when 4,600 tweets were studied.

Sky performed poorly with a 3/4/5 ratio of 31%, while Virgin Media scored 28% from a sample frame of over 68,000 tweets – placing it just ahead of TalkTalk.

Perhaps surprisingly, less than a quarter of tweets namechecking BT ranked in TensiStrength’s top three stress brackets.

Monopoly holder KCOM also achieved a highly creditable 20.4% score across Hull and the East Riding.

The top three places were claimed by full fibre specialist Hyperoptic (13.4%), Sky offshoot NOW Broadband (14.2%) and recent BT acquisition EE (%).

What does this tell us?

Clearly, running random tweets through a free language detection utility doesn’t definitively identify the best and worst ISPs.

TensiStrength doesn’t take context into account, and it can’t consider the extent to which ISPs encourage tweets instead of other communication channels like live web chat or SMS.

Nor does it evaluate subsequent correspondence which might have satisfactorily resolved a stressed tweet.

Even so, it provides an intriguing glimpse into which ISPs you’re most likely to find yourself in a robust discussion with on social media…

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!