Ofcom urged to clamp down on broadband speed deceit
But 8Mbit/s could happen...theoretically
Updated The Ofcom Consumer Panel has called on regulators to pull their fingers out and demand that ISPs are more honest with us about the limitations of broadband.
The group wants a new mandatory code of practice to force providers to qualify their dodgy "up to" speed claims, which accompany virtually all broadband marketing. The slowdown effects of contention, distance from the exchange, and network status should be made clear, it argues.
The panel has no powers of its own, but acts as an independent advisory body to Ofcom on consumers' behalf.
Panel chair Colette Bowe said: "This code would establish agreed processes to give the customer the best information during and after the sales process, and to give them flexibility to move freely to different packages that reflect the actual speeds with which their ISPs are able to provide them."
If Ofcom heeds the call, ISPs will be obliged to contact people two weeks after their line is activated to tell them their actual upload and download bit rates. If the customer isn't happy, they should then be released from their contract, the panel has written to Ofcom chief Ed Richards.
Research has shown that most of the public don't understand that if they buy an "up to" 8Mbit/s package, they're unlikely to ever get much better than 4Mbit/s.
Meanwhile, overall satisfaction with ISPs' customer service has been sliding.
The consumer panel approached the big ISPs in October to ask how they thought consumers could be better informed.
The fact that it has called on watchdogs to impose new regulations suggests it didn't get the response it was hoping for, or at least no ISP agreed to be honest when rivals are using weasel words in advertising.
The consumer panel's letter to Richards is here (pdf). Ofcom has said it is examining the issue, but has given no indication if and when it will act.
Separately today, research showed that among "up to 8Mbit/s" providers, Sky's LLU network delivers the highest median average download speed at 3.1Mbit/s.
Virgin Media took the fastest consumer broadband available crown, with its "up to" 20Mbit/s cable package delivering median 7.3Mbit/s, ahead of O2-owned Be's 5.2Mbit/s ADSL2+ service. ®
Ofcom has replied (pdf). In a letter published by the regulator today, Ed Richards told the consumer panel watchdogs are talking to ISPs about the issues it has raised, and will consider using formal powers if they don't get results. "We are keen that any measures are implemented in the shortest time frame possible," he wrote.
ISP - Line speed
Interesting to read the comments about ISP honest with regard to line speed. I feel this pales into insignificance with what I have been told by three ISPs, with regard to Broadband Max and Up to 8 Mb. When I have complained about speed I have been told that BT will not investigate anything where the customer is getting above 512K as that is the acceptable level as far as BT is concerned.
OFCOM - day late, dollar short
Aren't these the people who were supposed to break BT's monopoly? 18 years ago?!?
I still have no alternative to using BT where I live. Even subscribing to another phone provider still requires me to pay BT's monthly standing charge.
OFCOM - as much use as the ASA. Chocolate teapots the lot of them.
Replace 4MB, 8MB and 20MB with Pear, Banana and Orange. People have no idea what it means anyway and just need a reference with which to compare packages. Then, you give each ISP a rating for how close their average speed is to the 4MB, 8MB etc theoretical limit.
Consumers do not get to issue a project spec and then wait for tenders, they simply need a system to easily compare what the different ISPs have to offer.
I know full well that "Up to 8MB" is not going to give me 8MB 24/7, but I know that the ISP's are all using it to mean the same thing so I can look at their relative prices and make a choice. What will really make a difference is a standardised logo system for representing download caps and penalties for exceeding said cap.