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ISPs should get 'up to' full fee for 'up to' broadband

Wispa's campaign against Ofcom turns shouty

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Anyone promised broadband speeds of "up to" an amount should be free to pay a monthly fee of "up to" what's asked, according to the firebrand lobbying consultancy wispa Limited.

It's not the first time wispa has riled against Ofcom, but this time its campaign has caught the imagination by asking people to tell the regulator they're unhappy paying a fixed rate for a service which is only offered "up to" a specific speed, though what the alternative might be remains unclear.

The consultancy explains:

If your supermarket charged you full price for ‘upto’ a kg of sugar, or the service station charged you full price for ‘upto’ a gallon of petrol, they would be prosecuted.

Wispa punches above its five-man weight by laying into Ofcom at every opportunity, in this instance, urging readers to sign the form letter telling Ofcom how they feel.

The arguments about how broadband is advertised have been going on almost as long as there's been broadband, and both fixed and mobile companies have been caught advertising what's possible rather than what actually gets delivered. In recent years Ofcom and the Advertising Standards Authority have come a long way in enforcing realistic advertising, and monitoring what gets delivered – but not far enough, according to wispa.

Much of the industry now holds that "up to" is the only way one can effectively advertise broadband, given the congested nature of the internet and the technical limits of the medium, but wispa is calling for more transparency in the selling process:

It is inappropriate [for the ISP] to point at an infrastructure and say 'we'll give you what you can' if the expectation of the consumer is that they will have to pay regardless ... If an ISP is unable to deliver the upto speed in a particular area, they will know that prior to the service going live. The consumer on the other hand often finds out after they have committed to a 12-18mth contract.

If the disparity is big, then said consumer would probably be able to get out of the contract, but wispa argues that even if accurate estimates are provided the advertised "up to" speed is the lie which lures punters in the door.

So what is the solution?

"The removal of Ofcom as the regulator of this space, to be replaced by an organisation or body who will actually look at these issues that truly effect consumers and the industry," is what wispa is hoping to see, though that seems and unlikely response to an online petition, so we thought we'd see if anyone out there has an alternative suggestion.

Which leads to our question of the week: would you sign up with an ISP which bills you on the basis of your connection speed that month? And to where would the connection speed be measured (to the exchange, or perhaps one of the speedtest.net servers)? Or perhaps it's too late and we're all so used to the lies that anyone telling the truth would just lead to confusion. Let us know what you think in our shiny new forums. ®

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