TalkTalk “free” broadband… here’s the catch

This content is 18 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Carphone Warehouse subsidiary TalkTalk‘s free broadband has always sounded too good to be true to me.

Now, one of my colleagues has just alerted a large chunk of our company’s technical staff to the fact that TalkTalk throttle VPN access as if it were peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic. Powerless to cancel his 18-month contract, TalkTalk refuses to do anything to help my colleague as they state that VPN access is for business use and that they offer a residential service.

It seems to me that, for telecoms in general and specifically for broadband, you get what you pay for. I recommend PlusNet – not always great customer service (but not that bad either) but a reliable connection, both when I was on dial-up and since I switched to broadband a few years back. If all you need is a hosting provider, then get in touch with my friends at ascomi.

Anyone else having trouble with TalkTalk might be interested in the Less TalkTalk: More Service – unofficial, unaffiliated TalkTalk blog, although be warned that there are lot of frustrated (and some illiterate) people over there.

27 thoughts on “TalkTalk “free” broadband… here’s the catch

  1. Holy crap on a stick! They throttle VPN access? There’s some connection between that and the MTU fix I think.

    Typically the only time I’ve ever had to modify the MTU on a machine was over a VPN and using VNC. Never, ever, ever for regular browsing.

    It also explains why my NFuse connection is extraordinarly slow. Who says VPN access is just for businesses? A lot of my friends use it to access their home networks because plain text is bad.

    (I run the Talk Talk Hell blog)

    Thanks for posting this. :) I’ll update accordingly very soon.

    Heh. About the spelling/grammar. I try not to edit the comments when I repost them. I find that I lose a lot of raw rage that way.

  2. Here’s an update on my colleague’s issue:

    “TalkTalk have confirmed that they are creating rules on their network to include TCP Port 10000 and UDP Port 500 (which are used for our VPN access) to be treated as P2P traffic so therefore restricted. This is an ongoing process so if you’ve not got the problem already as a TalkTalk customer then you may soon have.

    Symptoms of the problems:

    • Outlook sending and receiving endlessly with no e-mails, then e-mails arriving late at night from earlier in the day, (throttling rules are subject to daytime hours).
    • [Corporate intranet] extremely slow or timing out.
    • Internet without [corporate] proxy (going directly through your own broadband connection) [has no apparent performance issues].

    I have managed to extract my broadband from TalkTalk and keep my existing Phone Package 3 intact (without incurring charges), this has been achieved for the following reasons:

    • Broadband is free so therefore not a contractual condition.
    • They are changing terms of the connection which you may deem unacceptable.

    [I’ve also] been given my MAC number to move my broadband [service] without any issue [and] have subscribed to PlusNet on the recommendation of several [colleagues] who enjoy the service.

    [It probably helped] by getting a little heavier with pressure on them through an official Ofcom complaint and raising the issue through TalkTalk’s high level complaint procedure. If anyone needs to do the same then here are the numbers.

    • Ofcom (First port of call): 020 7981 3043.
    • TalkTalk high level complaints: 0800 049 5743.


    • If you are thinking of going to TalkTalk then donÂ’t take the free broadband.
    • If you’re with TalkTalk and get the symptoms above then use the above process to move ISP.”

    (Thanks to Tony Cox for allowing me to republish this information).

  3. Hi Mark

    I think this comment needs to be clarified. The TalkTalk broadband offer you refer to is specifically aimed at residential customers. Virtual Private Network facilities are by definition used for businesses to communicate across the web in privacy.

    Would it be fair if your friend were using all that bandwidth for business, while his neighbour – who just wants a basic service for his family – struggles to get online?

    I have no particular axe to grind, but Internet access for business and pleasure must be separated in the interests of fairness. The vast majority of ISPs will say the same.

    Business users generally receive preferential rates anyway. Why take away an opportunity for the common man/women to experience the benefits of the online community as cheaply as possible for the sake of profit?

    Regards, Aaron

  4. Hi Aaron,
    Thank you for your comments; however I do not share your views.

    My colleague and I both work for a large IT Services company with many thousands of workers who occasionally work from home (e.g. 1 day a week, plus evenings and weekends – we don’t have the luxury of a 37 hour week). This work often involves VPN access back to the corporate network for secure e-mail and access to corporate applications (generally web-enabled) but is not bandwidth-intensive. To install a dedicated business line would be cost-prohibitive and also a waste of resources as we already have broadband connections at home. To travel to the office for such access would be unproductive as well as contributing to this country’s increasing transportation problems (social, economic and environmental). Aside from this occasional access to business systems, the rest of our Internet usage is very definitely residential.

    You asked “would it be fair if your friend were using all that bandwidth for business, while his neighbour – who justs wants a basic service for his family – struggles to get online?” – let me answer that question with another – would it be fair if my colleague, who pays the same as his neighbour, is unable to get a reliable connection to download some e-mail and submit a timesheet whilst his neighbour’s teenage son uploads and downloads large volumes of music and video from a P2P network? If the neighbour truly does just want a “basic service”, then the fact that ADSL is contended will mean that my colleague’s VPN access will be no better or worse than his service – unless the ISP deliberately downgrades the priority of the VPN connection (or another class of data) on their network.

    As for business rates being lower than consumer rates – that’s not my experience. My connection is on a business tariff and is actually rather expensive compared with what I could pay for a basic 2Mbps service. I’m actually being charged a premium for using less bandwidth than many residential users! It seems to me that residential tariffs are charged at a lower rate because there is greater competition at that level of the market.

    I also contend that VPN is not, by definition, used only by businesses – for example, I use a VPN to access my home e-mail and personal files from wherever I happen to be. I’ll freely admit that I may not be a “normal” Internet user but it’s still not business use of a VPN.

    Internet access for business and pleasure must never be separated. To do so undermines the principle of ‘net neutrality. I pay for a certain amount of bandwidth per month. So does everyone else (including the content providers). That means that we all pay for what we use – why should that be constrained because one person’s traffic is deemed to be more important than another’s?

    Better sign off now, before the neighbours’ kids get home from school and the whole street’s broadband slows down ;-) .


  5. Hi Mark,

    I take your point! I was just suggesting that broadband suppliers and service suppliers in general tend to differentiate between business and home use.

    Your last line made me laugh, though!

    All the best, Aaron

  6. Having had TT telephone service for some time I foolishly signed up for TT advertised ‘Super Fast BB’ and went live 28/11/06 and as you would expect had nothing but trouble ie: NO SERVICE!! all over Xmas. I rang their ridiculous foreign call centres over and over. Eventually I cancelled my entire account on 1/1/07 informing them I had no intention of paying them for anything including the phone.At this point I had managed to secure Charles Dunstone’s email address and had a reply assuring me the matter would be looked into. I heard no more until 31/3/07 when I received a Final Demand for payment relating to my line rental/and calls, because of course the BB is free!Once again I emailed Mr Dunstone,within 24 hrs I had a reply and within 3 days an apology and my entire bill waived. My point is I have Mr D’s email address which I know you cannot publish….Shame. If everyone had it we ‘may’ get somewhere with these incompetent idiots!!!!

  7. I am always suspicious of things that are free. Its a good marketing technique for Talk Talk but then you can’t expect good things out of it. If you compare prices with other broadband providers then Talk Talk does not come cheap. In my speed tests also Talk Talk customers have one of the lowests speeds in the UK!

  8. We were existing onetel customers and were hard sold the ‘free’ broadband trial by a persistent talktalk salesman. 2nd line tech. support finally got us connected but the phone seldom connected and often died. iTunes & RealPlayer died:- fault with sound. Bailed out after 20 days, accepting direct debit of £22.54. Following month (August 07) hit for £71.35. Explanation requested, no reply. Back with Virgin BB now, up to 990k on a good day

  9. TalkTalk/CPW phoned Bank Holiday Monday: complete refund in the post: cheque received today Wed. 29/8 comprising 1 month’s TT3 @ £22.54 plus mystery overcharge of £71.35, total £94.46, a bonus of 67p Thank You. My sympathies are with you, TalkTalk staff, you are a victim of your own success. Perhaps one day in the future all ISP’s will use your system. Thanks again.

  10. I have stumbled across this site in an attempt to find out why the VPN connection on my laptop connects but is unable to bring through any emails to my Outlook. I am therefore suprised at what I read here, bearing in mind the hardsell I was given in the store and moved away from a perfectly working AOL facility to TT under the “we own them now anyway, so get the same for free”. It was made abundantly clear that my use for broadband was not endless downloading, it was just that my IT guys recommended it for home use so I could access my server and download emails thus saving a 50 mile round trip to my office on days when I didn’t want or need to travel in. I run a small 3 person business and keeping costs under control is paramount and this small saving of £17 per month, for “better, quicker and free” access seemed a no brainer.

    Would it surprise anyone to know I was left without email for a month when they made a mess of the GO LIVE date, was greeted by ever so polite, well meaning but completely ineffective “call centre” types, that had me on hold for endless minutes on numerous occassions who each time tried to talk me into the £40 service of the geek squad.

    Now live and working, I find I potentially have a white elephant on my hands and do I have a solution, I seem to think not looking at what is said here. I have started with a gentle enquiry through the “Contact Us” page and will eventually go through High Level Complaints if needs be. The last thing I need is to change ISP from a personal level, I’ve only just told everyone the new email address but if I can’t access email from home then I have no choice and will feel incredibly badly advised and missold to instore.

    Grumpy and annoyed I will end my rant and hope for good news…

  11. If Customer Service lets you down Charles Dunstone wants to know, , and High Level Complaints WILL be tasked to sort it. We returned to Virgin & BT after an unsuccessful Talk 3 Int trial in June but have just been mistakenly billed for some July calls. Heather Sealey of HLC emailed and phoned us to apologise, all sorted. The are a million talktalkers out there, one day it’ll be fine!

  12. Thanks for the email address Clive! After 2 disastrous months with TalkTalk (only got phone calls/line rental – just thought free broadband bound to be a bit of a con…) where I basically had the line but couldn’t make any calls (not registered according to the lovely Scottish lady reading her message), I took to email Charlie and no more than 24 hours later well-mannered and very efficient Geoff Thirlwell called me to apologise, refund previous bills from Onetel (that I had to use given that I couldn’t use them) and credit my TalkTalk account. The line got working within the 24 hours (Geoff probably worked his charm on one poor engineer…) and life is good again!
    Try it, it works!!

  13. Just received my welcome pack from Talk Talk and it turns out that the Free Broadband is not and shall not be available in all areas (e.g. my area) and they are proposing making a monthly charge of £15.00 for broadband This system of operating is devious in that I would be locked in for 18 months if I accepted the new terms. I am now back to square one.
    It is becoming more and more difficult to find businesses that operate in an honest and straight-forward manner today. Have any of you had similar experience with Talk Talk?

  14. i have had major probs since joing talk talk in july 07 systems failing unreliable(still is( foreign call centeres you cant understand wait ages to speak to various depts and atechincal dept that is useless ive now looking for agood isp wouldnt recomend tt to anyone ..very bad move joining tt …iam going back to bt

  15. Hi , I am a Talktalk customer and am having problems with Peer 2 peer (e.g Lphant, can someone please help me with opening the ports on a Echolife520s Wireless Router….Many Thanks…..a High User of the Internet….etc….

  16. Talk Talk sales rang me offering free broadband if Ichanged my phoneline over. I had nothing but trouble and no welcome pack despite ringing nd asking where it was.

    After 6 weeks got a bill for my broadband. Apparently it toldme in the welcome pack that it was not free in my area. Well I never got a welcome pack and even so their sales team should not use this as a selling point they should check before offering it free.

    They are now threatening me with debt collectors because I cannot prove it was offered free or that I never received my welcome pack!

  17. When we had problems we contacted ‘Customer Service’ who read from scripts in Israel and Africa in addition to the UK. Eventually we sent ‘Formal Complaint’ letters to the Company Secretary, Billing and Customer Services plus an email direct to, receiving more than a full refund.
    Try to be patient, polite, and stick to facts only. It worked for us.

  18. Thats crazy, I had a similar problem with my Iphone on o2 recently and was told by the OFT that I could cancel the contract as the phone didnt suit its purpose – maybe your friend could give them a call?

  19. Using OpenVPN is possible to setup a VPN to use TCP/443 – there’s no way they can throttle that without throttling all https connections!

    Added advantage – OpenVPN is much more secure, and can be faster than PPTP/L2TP.

  20. i did 24months contract with talktalk and the told me that they will send me router and 20 day my internet will be active . now its 3 months i dont have any internet and no one from them contacting me to tell me what is going on ,i have call them many many times and in the end i ask them to cancel it they are telling me they will charge me for cancelation , i dont know why they want to charge me they didnt prived me thire service . i think i will talk them to court its not only me my friend have the same problem with them who knows who else…..

  21. Nadim, see my advice this time last year (Post No. 20) and act on it. Try emailing MD Charles Dunstone first, giving your full name, address, postcode and telephone number, date signed up, promises made by the company and not kept. Keep it to brief facts only.
    Perhaps you had better ask an English speaker to do it for you as you still have no internet connection.
    Is that how your post got here?

  22. I’ll assume they’re throttling all encrypted traffic, and not just based on source/destination port… which must suck.

    I’ve been using BeThere for the last few years and had absolutely no problems (and pretty good download speeds). I always seem to be recommending them, however I’m really not a sales bot. honest.

  23. @David Goodwin. I recently switched from Talk Talk to Be (via a brief flirtation with Sky) too and whilst my speed still isn’t great (I’m quite a distance from the exchange) the service from Be is much better, I’m surprised they aren’t much better known. I’m certain Talk Talk and others do a lot of traffic throttling and Be commit to never do that and I do think I get a much better connection as a result (except with SlingBox which is proving a pain on Be)

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