Campaign Calls For Clarity of Broadband Speeds

The latest study of 3,000 people who completed a speed test (180,000 in total) for Computeractive has revealed that 62% of broadband users receive less than 50% of their ISP's advertised speed. In addition 25% received just a quarter of the headline figure.

Sadly such news will come as little surprise to many and has become an increasing problem since the inception of more variable 'up to' 8Mbps+ products; few knowledgeable surfers expect to get the headline rate.

Due to this, Computeractive, Thinkbroadband and have teamed up to launch the 'Crystal Clear Broadband' campaign:

Ofcom currently permits ISPs to advertise only theoretical maximum rates for broadband connection, with most ISPs including the caveat that consumers can only expect speeds 'up to' this maximum in the small print. No information is available on what consumers can expect in practice, despite ISPs having access to tests that would give a much clearer idea of potential speeds to a household, based on distance from the local telephone exchange.

We think Ofcom should oblige ISPs to provide clear information about the actual speed they are likely to receive in the form of a 'typical rate', much like that published by credit card and loan providers. This information should be made clear prior to subscription. Ofcom should introduce an independent broadband speed testing service for consumers, so that they can compare advertised maximum rates against actual speed. We want Crystal Clear Broadband contracts for UK consumers.

To be fair many UK ISP's do offer a rough estimate of the expected speed for any given phone line, usually as part of their output from an integrated 'availability checker'. During our recent ISP listings update we noted that many providers now adopt this, with only a few exceptions.

Unfortunately even the more realistic estimates can often be incorrect, especially where an ISP suffers from congestion or utilises deliberate speed reduction technology.

To this end it would be helpful to have such a system as the one proposed above, though getting Ofcom to act could prove difficult. The campaign has also begun a government e-petition - here, which rarely provokes constructive action on the part of our leaders.

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