Our reliance on the internet is so absolute that a lack of connectivity feels like the End of Days.
Being plunged into a world of offline non-connectivity can seem quite frightening – at the very least, it’s going to be an inconvenience.
That’s true whether you’re working from home, trying to place an online shopping order or simply unwinding after a long day.
Broadband outages occur for numerous reasons, but these are the leading causes:
- Network issues. Your broadband provider may have a problem. The O2 network was without data for almost 24 hours last month, all because of a lapsed security certificate
- Hardware damage. Perhaps the line leading into your property has been damaged or severed by storms, building works or vandalism
- Software issues. Broadband routers are rarely appreciated until they start to fail, but their firmware does occasionally get corrupted, while internal components may wear out
- Device-specific issues. If your laptop won’t go online, check other devices are also offline. If they’re still connecting, you’ve narrowed the fault down to a specific machine
- Malware. A malicious software file might be blocking your connection – possibly to use your bandwidth and processing resources for bitcoin mining or DDOS attacks
- Admin. Your chosen payment card could have expired, or maybe you forgot to notify your provider about a change of circumstances, causing them to suspend your account.
Remarkably, people occasionally report broadband faults to their ISP because a specific website isn’t working.
Google loads faster than most other websites, and it’s never offline, so this is the best site to attempt a connection to.
If Google won’t load, there’s certainly a problem.
Identifying the issue
The first step in identifying a possible cause for your broadband outage involves a quiet moment of contemplation.
(If your primary internet connection is through a desktop or laptop computer, use this time to run a deep antivirus scan, investigating whether malware has infected the system.)
Think about recent events – a new debit card being delivered, an extension being built next door, heavy storms last night – to see whether there may be an obvious trigger for the outage.
If nothing comes to mind, turn off WiFi on your smartphone and use 4G to do a search for your broadband provider’s name, followed by the word ‘outage’.
Broadband providers are usually pretty quick at publishing service issue updates, but you could also try looking at downdetector.co.uk or istheservicedown.co.uk.
These third-party websites monitor everyone from Aol to Vodafone, while some sites also look for outages among service providers like YouTube, Fortnite and Xbox Live.
You could even speak to immediate neighbours, in case the problem extends throughout your building, street or suburb.
If services are listed as working normally in your area, and your neighbours are browsing away merrily, the problem usually lies closer to home.
Testing your hardware
Start your investigations by attempting to make a phone call. Do you have a dial tone? If not, the phone line is down and your issue involves either Openreach or your provider.
If there’s a dial tone (or if your internet connection is provided by a cable company like Hyperoptic), reboot your broadband router and any internet-connected devices.
Confirm your IP address through System Preferences (Mac) or Command Prompt (PC).
A valid address will start with 192, whereas an address starting 169 indicates a router problem.
If an IP test doesn’t reveal anything untoward, try swapping or replacing the microfilter used to connect your broadband router into the main phone socket.
(If you don’t have a spare, replacements can be bought online for a couple of pounds.)
Ask the experts
If you’re still unable to establish a connection on any device, it’s time to ring your ISP’s technical support line.
They’ll probably ask you to hardwire a device into your broadband router, so ensure you’ve already connected a computer using an Ethernet cable.
Take notes on who you spoke to and what was said, in case you need to phone back at a later date.
Finally, try to stay calm – any subsequent complaint or compensation request will be undermined if you’ve lost your temper while reporting the problem.
Every broadband outage has a solution, even if it’s not as immediate (or as straightforward) as you’d wish it to be.