back to article Ofcom urged to clamp down on broadband speed deceit

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 …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    easy enough to fix

    Just force providers to guarantee (to a reasonable SLA) a service within a set of bounds. 512k-2m 2-4m 4-8m 8-12m etc etc. At the time of connection an accurate speed profile is built up by the isp and the customer is slotted into the service level appropriate and attainable.

    Make the service buckets wide/narrow enough to keep the market reasonable and bobs your uncle.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Contention ratio

    They should also be obliged to publish minimum transfer rates, which would expose the great lie of the ISPs viz. that they are selling way more bandwidth than they actually have

  3. Chris Johnson

    Ah yes but

    The majority of broadband users don't understand the difference between M/Bits and M/Bytes. users expect "upto 8Mbits" to mean 8 megabytes and complain that they are only seeing 300Kbytes download speed on a 8meg line but actually what they are getting is very close to the 3.1M/Bit mark.

    If the ISPs were honest by removing the confusion and said we can provide a 1 megaBYTE (8M/Bit) connection then their sales would plummet and would start to lose revenue.

    What also concerns some users is that in comparison, German broadband ISP are able to push to the maximum of the paid for bandwidth without throttles.

  4. Sarah Davis

    about time

    this ruling should have been made at the onset of broadband. Millions of people have been conned in the UK.

    I'm with BE who aren't bad, but even at 1Km from the exchange I only get 13Mbit when it should be at least 20Mbits.

    It's about time there was a law saying ISP's must genuinely try their best to get their clients the best speed possible instead of the current 'shrug' attitude.

  5. Slaine
    Thumb Up

    it can be done

    I enjoy a fairly honest relationship with my ISP. Before signing up I asked them to perform a line test and to estimate the sort of connection I should expect. The informed me that the distance to the exchange was the biggest hurdle and suggested that I hould be able to achieve 6.5 Meg on an 8 Meg connection.

    In truth, I get 6.5 Meg at worst. Once the internet calms down (monday - thursday and any late evenings etc) I have all 8.1 Meg all to myself, resplendant with insanely low pings to the game servers I frequent.

    I costs mind you, and the charge is pretty steep when you also consider that there is a cap on downloads but, as I pointed out to my previous ISP, I want to play online, not browse for pr0n and share music.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Treat the cause, not the symptoms

    We need better infrastructure, then these speed claims may be met.

    Then again, all that will probably happen is that the ISPs will raise their claimed speeds...

    "Up to 20 Tbits" anybody?

  7. Anonymous Coward

    What about the "unlimited" claims, they are worse!

    At least they say "up to 8Meg", it is the "unlimited" broadband claims that I hate, you buy an unlimited service to discover it is actually capped at 20gig a month or something similar.

    I would rather ISP's were forced to publish a download limit, than have to do something about the "up to 8Meg" advertising. At least the "up to 8 meg" is honest, you might get 8 meg if you are close enough. The "unlimited" claim is always un-true with things like "fair use policy" and hidden download caps.

    They should also make it clear if the bandwidth limits include upstream and downsteam transfers.

  8. Douglas McKenzie

    Distance isn't everything

    We are only 800ft (according to Google) from the exchange and the maximum we can get is 2M.

    So grade of cable and the fact that BT situated the box on the street so that the sea washes in to it must also have something to do with it.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just don't believe them...

    Unlimited has limits, up to 8MB is less than about 6, why does anyone believe these companies?

  10. Anonymous Coward

    @Sarah Davis

    I'm also with BE, although I've shelled out for the pro subscription. At just over 2km from the exchange, I'm getting 15/1.5mbit out of a theoretical 24/2mbit line.

    I'm guessing I'm getting the benefits of lower contention thanks to the more expensive tarriff, but for the money I would like to see a lot closer to 20mbit!

    Previously with NewNet and Eclipse, I was getting the usual 3.5/0.3mbit connection over the theoretical 8/0.5mbit BT wholesale line. Same copper, but different kit at the exchange.

  11. Gordon Ross Silver badge


    So who is this magic ISP ?

  12. Senor Beavis

    It's like fuel consumption stats

    Urban / Motorway / Combined

    Max theoretical / Min at full contention / Typical based on the average[*] user

    * I'm assuming bandwidth usage per user follows something approximating to a normal distribution, though without any backing for that assumption whatsoever

  13. Eponymous Cowherd
    Thumb Up

    Re: easy enough to fix

    Agree completely.

    At quiet times I get over 6Mbps on my BT "Total Broadband" up-to-8mbps service. 8:30pm on a weekday its often down to 200KBps, which is, IMHO, totally taking the piss when I'm paying almost £20pcm.

    Broadband services *should* be sold with an SLA. If the SLA is breached then the customer should be compensated or the minimum contract term removed.

    The problem would be in how to monitor and police this.......

  14. Anonymous Coward

    "Up to"

    The interim fix is to ensure that the "Up to" is in a bigger font size than the "8Mb".

    Then perhaps they could enforce the same thing on the airline and train companies 'From' prices

  15. Red Bren

    Wrong industry model?

    Perhaps it's time to change the way broadband is sold. Instead of the deceitful "Unlimited" and "Up to N Mb", would it not be better to charge per bit transferred? The potential benefits are

    - You only pay for what you get. Instead of everyone paying the same price for wildly differing connection speeds, your maximum potential bill will depend on the quality of the service.

    - You only pay for what you use. "Excessive" users like file sharers will pay a premium instead of being subsidised by "Normal" users such as Granny just checking her email

    - The market might get more competitive. Comparing actual prices will be simplified. ISPs could offer fixed price bundles, in much the same way that Telcos offer bundled free minutes/txt packages and they will have more incentive to upgrade their infrastructure as more data throughput means more income

  16. Sean Aaron

    Write your MP

    After going round the courses with Toucan, a Tiscali company, following a line outage that meant I was without landline service for many hours (went to bed, so I don't know when it came back) I wrote my MP who claims she has raised the matter with Ofcom. My issues are threefold:

    1. The false advertising as indicated in this article which after being told I should expect 6.5-8Mbps download since I was less than 500m from my exchange, resulted in only shrugs when I said their own speedtesters were showing me with a 3Mbps link.

    2. The end of unfair contract enforcement. When my speeds degraded down to ISDN-style links after switching my line rental back to BT, the appalling overseas helpdesk's (only contactable on phone via 0900 number) inability to resolve matters led to me telling them they were in breach of contract and I was using my MAC code. I was informed over and over again that I would be expected to pay the balance of my contract (12 months). As recently as a couple of weeks ago I got a notice of my current billing being due. As I've cancelled the direct debit agreement before then, I'm anticipating a letter reminding me of my contractural obligations. Clearly they feel that the Ts&Cs are one-way; this should not be the case. Hopefully it won't end up in Sheriff court...

    3. The end of verbal service agreements. Initially I agreed to uprate my line speed from 2Mbps to 8Mbps following the line outage thinking this would resolve my issues. I never received any notification this was happening, either via email or post. When I phoned to cancel the renewal I was told that my cooling off period had ended the day before and I was now locked into a 12-month contract. When I protested that I hadn't received written confirmation, I was told they had sent an email and if my email address was wrong that was my problem (it wasn't, their servers just didn't send it apparently). Checking into the law, it appears that a contract for services is the only one that is enforcable via verbal agreement only. In fact no written confirmation is required whatsoever once a contract for services is agreed to over the phone, which is patently ridiculous.

    Hopefully all these changes will come to pass. In the meantime I've signed on with Be, and according to the modem I've got an 18Mbps link -- but how do I know that's the case, really? We may have a lot of competition on paper, but given the number of subsidaries out there and the fact that everyone is using the same network (BT) and locks people into to 12-18month contracts with poor customer service, I'm not sure we have a lot to crow about when it comes to broadband...

  17. captain kangaroo


    I'm Sorry but this is not going to help Joe consumer.

    The ISP for whom I am 3rd line support honestly supply a service that should reach say 4Mb capacity.

    If your service is "over subscibed" then you will not receive the full speed. This is THE only condition, apart from a fault, that will lead to reduced available bandwidth.

    In cable the bandwidth problems are mostly to do with Faults, although increasingly we are seeing more BLACK UBRs (almost fully utilised), which means that re-segmentation or expansion has to happen. This is costly, and no one in cable has any money right now. So as the advertising and the expectations are elivated the infrastructure remains increasingly out of date.

    It's the same old shit that makes me laugh about Sales departments. They are the tail that wags the dog in my opinion. All promeses and misunderstandings. I get calls from sales here all the time trying to find out what IP addresses are and 100 users on a 4Mb conection is supported or not....

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Service Promises Are Needed By ISPS, Enforced By OFCOM!

    @ Dave

    I totally agree, all ISPs should be forced to have 'Service Guarantees' which will give the consumer a bracket that the advertised speed MUST fall within 95% of the time. These should be regardless of distance from exchange, contention ratio, or other factors or simply whats advertised by cable...

    Example, If ISPS advertise 'Up to' speeds, the guaranteed speed brackets should be within 512k for all speeds advertised below 10MB. Examples:

    2MB (between 1.5MB-2MB 95% of time)

    4MB (between 3.5MB-4MB 95% of time)

    8MB (between 7.5MB-8MB 95% of time)

    10MB (between 9,5MB-10MB 95% of time)

    Anything between 11MB - 20MB should be within 1MB, examples:

    16MB (no lower than 15MB 95% of the time)

    20MB (no lower than 19MB 95% of the time)

    Anything above 21MB should be within 2MB of the advertised 'up to speeds'

    24MB (no lower than 22MB 95% of the time)

    50MB (no lower than 48MB 95% of the time)

    If companies do not offer the advertised speeds, they should be forced to:

    1. Change the 'upto' advertised speed for that plan to bring it inline with guarantees.

    2. Offer 50% reduction of the paid monthly cost of the package for each month 95% is not met.

    3. Give customers the option to cancel any contracts as service promises are not being met.


    "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."



  19. thorns

    Re: Re: easy enough to fix

    "The problem would be in how to monitor and police this......."

    Indeed. And this is what I think makes this whole OFCOM exercise a waste of time.

    At what point would it be decided whose fault any reduced speed is? It could be the ISP, customer or BT in most cases. Would, for example, there be an inspection of the customer's house to check for dodgy wiring, or interference from other devices? Dig up the road to check for deterioration in the copper?

    Totally agree with other posters on getting rid of 'unlimited' tariffs, though. At least 'up to' makes sense. A limited unlimited package doesn't make sense to anyone outside of the funny farm.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Read your T&C

    If people read their terms and conditions, they would find what they are paying for is an up to 'x' service with a contention ratio of something like 25:1 or 50:1 depending on the ISP. Most people get above the minimum contended download rate even at peak times.

    If you want quality then you have to pay for it, rather than get a bargain basement £20/month and expect the world! If you think it is expensive, check out the cost of uncontended wholesale access :)

  21. alistair millington
    Thumb Up

    I would rather

    They provided you real usage instead of an email that says :-

    "We will monitor your usage for you and let you know when you approach the limit, or if you overstep the limit."

    Here's hoping ofcom steps in and sorts it out. Shame it is always the Quango that needs to do it though. The ISP's should take the lead, then at least we wouldn't think they are just being forced like naughty school childen.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Theoretical limits...

    ... Generally I've been happy with the results I get, but I have to admit that Be's service seems to kick everyone else's in the bollocks.

    Perhaps it's time to switch.

  23. Jeff

    BE Broadband

    I'm a bit bemused at some of the BE subscribers comments. I used to have BE before I moved to the States, and whilst the service they advertise is 24mbps, I have read many many articles saying that you will probably only ever achieve a maximum of 18mbps.

    People on here are expecting 20mbps. This isn't the ISP's trying to shaft anyone, this is because of cable limitations. You sign up for BE know that you will not receive a 24mbps service. I received a 16mbps connection (according to the router), though real world tests showed that I actually received a maximum of 13.1mbps connection.

    However, in all the time that I used BE there was NEVER any slowness using the connection. Everytime I tested the connection I would receive a 13.1mbps connection.

    Stop complaining about not getting 20mbps. There are plenty of warnings that you will never receive the maximum speed.

    Those using 8mbps services though I fully sympathise, as I have regularly seen these connections drop down to a 1mbps, which is disgusting.

  24. captain kangaroo

    Matthew - Contention, and why they can't only sell only what they have...

    If the MUX at the end of your street has a 100Mb link back to the the Headend, then you'd think that they'd only be able to sell 10 customers 10Mb. This is not the case. But this mux might serve 10 DPs with 10 houses of each..

    Each house, it i assumed, will not be browsing the web at the same time, and if they are, simple browsing and small quick downloads will not be affected. Then in come web2.0, youtube, p2p, gaming, streaming etc... These seervices put a constant demand on tyhe bandwidth, so at the same time as the ISP's, content providers, broadcasters etc are pushing for everyone to get into their new site with interactive whatsits they are racking in the money... if only it wasn't going toward shareholder dividends and the biggest corporate debt in history, (aside from Enron, bt that was due to fraud)... then they could put the money into the network and give us what we think we're paying for.

  25. James

    RE: Distance isn't everything

    The key is LINE distance and not how close you are geographically. Your line could do a several mile round trip before it gets to you, particularly in an area with a lot if streets. Lines often run up one side of a street then back down the other side, and then on to the next street etc. This means it can take in a few sights of your town before it gets to you.

    Personally I have no problem with the 'Up-to' description of broadband. At least it is a grammatically correct statement unlike the use of the 'unlimited' term on capped broadband accounts.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Is this actually a problem?

    Most of the difficulty seems to be that people don't read or understand the T&Cs. Which is their fault entirely. Though most of the contracts aren't exactly clear which isn't exactly unique to ISPs - the more vague the wording, the more difficult it is to be found not to have delivered the service.

    The whole 'unlimited' thing is a scam, though even that is usually explained somewhere if you look. I'd suggest that full details of the 'fair use' limits should be a compulsory part of the published contract terms.

    As for actual lines speeds, there are so many variables in play it's impossible to guarantee anything - hence the 'up to' part. Certainly it'd be impossible to do any kind of reliable pre-contract, pre-connection test and speed guarantee as some (I believe at OFCOM) seem to want. All you'd get is a guarantee that you could get a minimum of a 56Kb connection or something similar just so that kind of regulation was complied with. This would do no-one any good.

    I personally don't have any connection speed problems (full 8Mb in connection speed and transfer rate), and know exactly where my fair use limits start to kick in, and why, because it's in the contract. So I'm not exactly motivated to support this kind of thing, though I entirely understand that more regulation of the ISPs offers and contracts would be a good thing: entirely too much smoke and mirrors at the moment.

    As a final note: just because you're XXX metres from the exchange on a map doesn't mean that the line isn't much longer - an actual measurement by the line test equipment is much more useful; in my case I apparently have ~920m of cable to the termination in the exchange. Also the state of the cable is important; if you're at the end of a mouldy 60 year old piece of wire you could be next door to the exchange and still get crap speeds!

  27. Peter

    Up to means what?

    If everyone (including the ISP, one assumes) knows that you never get 20Mb/s but only really get 13.1Mb/s, then why doesn't the ISP sell the connection as a 13.1Mb/s connection?

    What does "up to" mean? Surely it means that at some stage you actually get that bandwidth? Otherwise the connection is not really "up to" that speed at all.

    Or, if it is totally acceptable to write "up to 20Mb/s" when that is never achievable then the SMART ISP should always write "up to 100Mb/s"!

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Truth in advertising

    My particular favourite piece of ISP small print - cut and pasted from customer support.

    How we measure data:

    1000 Kilobytes = 1MB (Megabyte), 1000 MB = 1 GB (Gigabyte)

    Sure, that means the traffic caps are only about 5% down on what they advertise, but it does a beautiful job of illustrating their attitude.

  29. Adam Auden
    Thumb Up

    Hear, bloody hear!

    And to prior posts on contention ratios and capping. Clear information on what you actually get for your money should be mandated. The telecoms industry has proven itself, time and again, to be unable to self-police.

  30. Marcelo Rodrigues

    SLA is the way to go

    There are two issues, IMHO:

    1) The ADSL speed - from user to exchange.

    2) The "surfing speed" (bandwith available to use).

    The first is easy to solve: The ISP can advertize "up to" at will. But when the ADSL is installed the ISP must check the line and inform the user wich speed he will get. It's easy because depends upon distance from exchange and cable quality.

    The second is harder, but I agree with who said SLA is the solution.

    Here in Brazil we have one ISP (among others) that sells ADSL. It's SLA is of 30% of advertized speed. Low, I know. But at least is something - and I usually get the full speed. Mind You, it's 600 kbps down and 150 kbps up - so no big deal... *sigh*. But at least I got exactly what I asked for. :)

    Another ISP sells trough MMDS (radio), and it's maximumm speeds are lower. No, no lower than 600 kbps - since we do not have much option where I live the ADSL ISP charge us trough the noose. In the capitals they sell 1, 2, 4 and 8 Mbps. Here is 300, 600 and 1000 Kbps. But I digress...

    The MMDS provider sells 200, 600, 1000 and 2000 Kbps. With a SLA of 90%. Makes sense, since it's bootleneck is on the radio.

    P.S. - Here different speeds have different prices. I don't know how it works there - but I believe they charge one kind of connection (up to X), right? I mean "up to 8 Mb is X - even if you get 4 Mb".

    So, the speeds are slow, the price is high (I'm been charged US$ 50,00 for my "narrowband") but we are not lied to. Ripped of - yes. Lied to - no.

    Damn. I just re-read my post, and I'm sounding like A Man from Mars! A, well...

  31. James

    Come on

    They need to be reasonable this wont change anything in the slightest.

    Not only do they need to be honest about the speed they also need to say how much bandwidth you are allowed to use (always in fine print) and weather the isp does any serious traffic shaping or just qos on the lines.

  32. Slaine

    can I advertise?

    @Slaine : By Gordon Ross : Posted Wednesday 19th December 2007 13:11 GMT

    So who is this magic ISP ? ZEN

  33. Adam Auden

    Damned lies?

    and actually I wonder if requiring publication of statistics of what is actually being achieved for each product on the ISPs network might be useful. Maximum, minimum and mean speed, rather than the theoretical upto claim...

  34. Mark Wood

    @Anon Coward

    "Example, If ISPS advertise 'Up to' speeds, the guaranteed speed brackets should be within 512k for all speeds advertised below 10MB"

    This just isn't possbile with ADSL. Even going off the BT availability checker which predicts what speed you can achieve based off your distance to the exchange, actual speeds will never stay within a 512k bracket 95% of the time. This is down to contention. When everyone comes on line in the evening, speeds suffer, even when there is no throttling imposed by the ISP. It's a case of how many elephants will fit into the mini?

    As has already been mentioned, the current infrastructure just isn't upto the job. And this is when a large but uknown number of ADSL connections are stuck at 2mb by BT's profiling system without customer knowledge. BT only fix this if the customer complains and the ISP know what a line profile is and how to get it reset. Imagine how much stress there would be on bandwidth if all these stuck profiles were sorted out!!!

    Another side point is that since MAX was introduced, BT have scrapped the contention ratios so no 20:1 or 50:1 anymore.

    So all in all, the quality of your broadband is a complicated issue, difficult to exlpain to the customer and impossible for the ISP to guarantee a certain speed or quality. Having said that, ISPs are guilty of pretending tha they can offer unlimited, fast speeds with guaranteed services.

    If we really want good broadband in britian, they are going to have to lay fibre straight from your door to the exchange, because that is were the copper let's us down.

  35. Anonymous Coward

    If only......

    ...I had a choice as to which ISP I used - you lot in BT land are fortunate that at least you have some element of choice. I live in Hull and the incumbant telecoms provider Kingston Communications (or KCom as they like to call themsleves now) have a total monopoly - no alternatives, no cable, maximum 8Mb (I get a poxy 2.3Mb) - it's just shit !

    Don't moan about 'only' getting 13Mb's - I would gladly pay double my £30 per month to get the speed but I have NO CHOICE !!!!!!!!

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    disappointed with the response.

    Jeez, I thought the readsership or el reg was a bit more clued up technically that 'joe punter' - and might have a bit of a clue about the tonnes of copper in the ground thats stuck together with sticky plaster and double-sided sticky tape (in places). Of course the frigging infrastructure is only going to support upto x Mb/S, and this WILL vary from location to location, and your effective bandwidht might vary if the whole world is using the bandwidth from your DSLAM onwards..C'mon next you'll be believing that Santa Claus still exists....

    if you're only paying sub 20 quid or so then who gives a toss if you're getitng 3mb, 4mb, 5mb or more. Surely the 'uncapped'/capped is more of an issue for Ofcom to get heavy on, at the end of the day 'upto 8mb/s' is completely factually accurate.

    The only way this would ever improve would be if we rolled out fibre to every premises, and now that we've blown 10bn on the olympics, the chance of this happening is minimal.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Urge all you like, but this is OFCOM we're talking about

    The only way to get OFCOM to use elementary common sense and insist that providers quote only the GUARANTEED *minimum* speed is to sack the lot of them, and replace them with COMPETENT people.

    They obviously AREN'T competent people, otherwise they would have LISTENED to what the public said and DONE IT MANY YEARS AGO.

    Indeed, if they had the slightest competence they would have done it even WITHOUT the need to listen -- because that's what competent people ought to KNOW without having to be told.

    Either OFCOM has to accept that its MAIN duty should be to the public, not to business, or it should GO and be replaced by something with that specific remit.

  38. Dan

    how come?

    Why is Ofcom moving on this issue when the whole "unlimited" & FUP advertising scam is a far bigger problem. The "up to" is a reasonably fair description and the connection speed is down to the UK's telecoms infrastructure not the individual ISPs. The "unlimited" meaning "unspecified limits" is a far more dodgy area of advertising and practice. What Ofcom need to do is come up with a code of practice for FUPs, specifying certain things that must be clearly defined in them. I wish someone with enough dosh would take a large ISP to court over their definition of the word "unlimited".

  39. Corin

    There's a fair difference here...

    I thought there were two things upon which the speed of your connection hinged.

    Firstly is the speed of the link between yourself and the exchange. The best "real-world" indicator of this is the line attenuation (which is often shown in your ADSL router's status page, if you've already a connection) - lower means better.

    Secondly, is further up the rung - as has already been stated, many ISPs oversell the bandwidth; they assume that not everyone will be on at the same time - this is the contention ratio, often around 50:1. So they might put, say, 50 customers who've all been advised "up to 8 meg" onto a single 8mbit connection to the internet. If the ISP can't afford enough bandwidth, then things will start to slow down horribly at peak times.

    The first issue is troublesome - BT are the only people likely to care, and so long as you can get around 0.4mbit (i think...) out of your line, they won't do a thing. Only possible solutions here are to move closer to an exchange (yeah, right..) or install a new line in the hope that you get a newer bit of wire! The ISP isn't able to do a thing, besides connect your wire to the equipment in the exchange and hope - no amount of shouting will make them change a thing really, nor will "I pay £20 a month i should at least get 20meg" - for ADSL, that's just not going to happen.

    The second, the bandwidth issue, is however where the ISP has a shout. They've got to find the ideal trade-off between speed and cost. To give every user the full (for example) truly unlimited, 8mbit connection would cost much much more than the £24.99 a month that the "unlimited*" plans give. A very good website to check, incidentally, is:

  40. RancidM

    shame it dosnt rub both ways...

    maybe the next time i sign up for some BB i can offer to pay UPTO £19.99 per month and only give em a fiver a month due to contention for my wallet or introduce a totally unfair WUP (wallet usage policy).

  41. jeffrey
    Thumb Down


    I'm with BE, i have ADSL 2+ (24Mbps max theoretical) I get 2.9 Mbps on a good day - roughly 10% of the advertised speed.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "...only pay for what you use..."

    Volume isn't everything. It's relevant for the "caps" issue, but not really for the bandwidth, which affects response time. Mostly important for gamers. So some people want a fat pipe with a lower cap, others want an okay pipe with no cap for pulling down torrents. Some people only need a skinny pipe and low cap. Surely the fat-piper should pay for the privilege?

    People don't read the T&Cs closely because they're in tiny print legalese. They *do* expect them to bear some relation to the advertisements. Currently the advertisements don't reflect reality and that's what has been recommended to change.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It IS simple to fix

    1) ISPs can put whatever they want on their own websites and the ASA doesn't consider ANY of it as advertising. Anyone with an inkling of common sense can see what has occurred and its bollox. End this stupid exemption and frankly end the ASA - get someone who isn't bought and paid for by the advert industry to adjudicate;

    2) Virtually all ISPs have weasel words (AUP/FUP) in their terms and conditions. The interesting thing about undefined limits in FUPs is that it makes the contract null and void as it falls under the Unfair Contract Terms. ISPs KNOW this - all of them and they will cave in if you take them to the small claims track. Try defending an undefined limit in front of the court. Not going to happen is it? End this FUP nonsense. AUPs in the respect of actual network abuse (rather than network use ;-) ) are fine;

    3) No more "unlimited". It quite patently IS limited so stop the nonsense;

    4) Openreach must offer ISPs the option of lower pricing on connections which can't run at full speed - eg 2Mbps, 4Mbps, 8Mbps 12Mbps etc etc Perhaps some of this will come with the ADSL2+ services on the way...

    Me - I don't much care as I've been off the BT IPStream network for near enough a year now. It IS possible to find LLU operators who offer fast throughput at a reasonable price (I'm synchronised at 19548kbps down). I wouldn't recommend Be at the moment though ;-)

  44. Anonymous Coward

    Cable length

    I live less than 100 feet away from the main exchange in my city and the most I can ever get is approximately 5.5Mb/s when I should get 8.

    Often is runs around 2.5-3 Mb/s.

    It's made much worse by the fact that when I look out of my kitchen window all I can see is a large BT building which serves as the main exchange in our city.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Nice writeup.

    I'd just like to add that for the vast majority of DSL punters, the bottleneck is the bit between BT's national DSL network (which practically all non-LLU ISPs use), and the ISP's own network - most ISPs don't have their own national network, so use BTwholesale connectivity to get to and from their customers.

    Bandwidth between BTw's network and the ISP costs more than it does anywhere else in the picture, so this bit is the bottleneck, and the price of this bit together with the usage habits of a tiny minority of punters (who manage to account for a majority of traffic) is what has led to caps, PAYG, traffic management, etc. In the early days of consumer DSL you could get 2GB genuine unlimited for £40 and 512k for £20, because the interconnect between BT and ISP was relatively cheap.

    Then BTwholesale changed the charging model so that a 512k connection to the exchange cost as much as 8MB to the exchange, and the big part of the cost was the interconnect between ISP and BT. The cost model BT chose assumed an average utilisation of 20kbit/s per customer. Not so realistic these days but the BT prices have hardly changed.

    Bandwidth does cost money, but not necessarily as much as BTw seem to have managed Ofcom to accept.

  46. Eponymous Cowherd

    Re:disappointed with the response.

    ***"Jeez, I thought the readsership or el reg was a bit more clued up technically that 'joe punter' - and might have a bit of a clue about the tonnes of copper in the ground thats stuck together with sticky plaster and double-sided sticky tape (in places). Of course the frigging infrastructure is only going to support upto x Mb/S, and this WILL vary from location to location, and your effective bandwidht might vary if the whole world is using the bandwidth from your DSLAM onwards..C'mon next you'll be believing that Santa Claus still exists...."***

    Err, perhaps you might like to get a bit more clued up yourself. Most of the trouble regarding ADSL has more to do with downstream bottlenecks and equipment contention than local loop line quality.

    ***"if you're only paying sub 20 quid or so then who gives a toss if you're getitng 3mb, 4mb, 5mb or more."***

    Personally I'd *love* to be able to get 3Mbps at 8:30pm. As it is its rarely above 1Mbps and often as low as 200Kbps.

    ***"Surely the 'uncapped'/capped is more of an issue for Ofcom to get heavy on, at the end of the day 'upto 8mb/s' is completely factually accurate."***

    Yeeeees, just like buying a car that the ad claimed would do up to 130mph. So what if the add forgot to mention you can only get that speed if you chuck it out the back of an aeroplane, its still "completely factually accurate"

    ***"The only way this would ever improve would be if we rolled out fibre to every premises, and now that we've blown 10bn on the olympics, the chance of this happening is minimal."***

    Rolling out fibre to every home would make bugger all difference if the network capacity cannot support the local loop capacity. Giving you a gigabit local loop is no damn good if you are sharing a 100MBps pipe with 50 other subscribers.

  47. Red Bren
    Thumb Up

    @AC - "...only pay for what you use..."

    Fair enough AC, I only provided limited examples but I still think my point stands. In the same way that Virgin Media charge different amounts for their M, L and XL packages, ISPs could offer different rates per bit depending on connection speed. That way, the fat-piper pays more for rapid response times, the torrent-sharer pays more for volume, Granny pays less for just email and a bit of browsing and the file-sharing, game-playing, video-streaming, p0rn junkie pays throughh the nose... Simple!

    I really ought to be in charge... Now, world peace is easy to acheive, you just have to...

  48. Joe

    Up to something, anything!

    Just what does "up to" mean to advertisers? They could say "up to infinity" and still offer the same services, surely? Perhaps we should pay "up to" £15 per month for our connection? Perhaps they could pro-rate it based on the speed you actually get?! At the very least they must have a clue what speed you'd get based on others in the area, they could tell you before you sign up.

    I'm sure no other industry would get away with this! Imagine...

    Heinz Beans - "up to 300g in a can" (open can, three beans inside)

    British Airways - "from Heathrow up to New York" (you will get very wet)

    Electricity - "up to 230v, up to 50hz" (very dim lighting at least!)

    Me - "offering women up to 500 orgasms per session" (seriously pissed off women)

  49. Barry

    Guarantee you...

    ... that The Gadget Show (ch5) will claim this as their coup.

    (if you don't watch the show, then this is one of their weekly bug-bears, and they have half-ass attempts at getting ISPs "on-board" with their campaign.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unfair Commercial Practices Directive

    If I understand correctly misleading advertising and product description becomes illegal in April. Maybe that can bring some sense

  51. Mark

    "wallet usage policy"

    Like it.

    I also have yet to write my EULA for my cash. I mean, just because I give them money doesn't mean they can do ANYTHING with it.

    And if they don't like the agreement, they can give it back (less a 10% restocking fee)...

  52. A J Stiles

    Honesty gets you nowhere

    It's all a numbers game. Punters will choose what they perceive as the best value connection. ISPs have cottoned onto this. Being faceless corporations, they have only one responsibility: make as much money as possible for the shareholders, and don't care who gets hurt in the process.

    So they sell services that they haven't really got. The only way you can ever get your full 8Mb/sec is if nobody else with whom you are contending is online at the same time. And they know that is unrealistic, so they have to impose caps on total downloads as well.

    It's no different, conceptually, from the banks lending out more money than they have silver to back it up with. There simply is no incentive to play fair. If you advertise your broadband service honestly, someone else can advertise a worse service *dis*honestly and still look, to the uneducated, as though theirs is better. All it's about is catching customers by showing them big bandwidth figures and small prices.

    The simple truth is that people in this country will pay any amount for stupid luxuries -- advertisements suggest the more you piss up the wall, the more people like you -- but they absolutely begrudge paying for necessities.

  53. Matthew

    Stop with the whinging!

    All of this 'I only get 16 MB' is really annoying to those of us who live away from a city. The *best possible* speed I can get is 1 MB; my neighbours get 300 kbps...

    The solution is simple: take an average of all customers' speeds and quote that in the advertising. This would provide a huge incentive to upgrade links, maybe deploy fibre to the door...

  54. Alexis Marett

    just wait until BT brings in there new network

    As we speak BT are currently upgrading their network to a true IP based technology, when this comes in I bet we will a real improvement to the connections we get to the internet,

    Just remember that ADSL is a new technology running on old an old system

  55. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Funny, I'm sure I keep reading about miles of dark fibre...

    Time they used some of it... I'm happy to pay for what I'm offered but I'm blowed if I can see why I can't get that. Imagine the scenarios:

    - My car can do 'up to' 70mph on the M1, but if I drive more than 40 miles I'm limited to 35mph...

    - I can speak 'up to' three words a second on the phone, but if I talk for more than ten minutes I get every second word removed...

    - I can get 'up to' five litres a minute from my tap, but if I fill a bucket, I can only have a dribble for the next hour...

    We wouldn't stand for it in any other industry. It's not a question of resource management; it's a question of truth in advertising...


  56. Stu_The_Jock

    UP to speeds.

    Well this is the problem in the UK.

    Over here in Norway (1 yr here now after fleeing the UK) we're on a meagre "up to 1.5mb" line, and hell every time I test it I get between 1.4 and 1.5 (depends what the wife's doing on the lappy downstairs at the time)

    This line goes shortly when they install the new fibre networjk they're installing in most semi major town, MINIMUM service is 10Mb/10Mb and tallking to people that already have it, they get 8-10 both ways almost all the time, as it's fibre from INSIDE the house to inside the local server building.

    Sure the 50/25 line was tempting, but a bit expensive . . . wife said no to that

  57. Robert Bolt

    Broadband - why not pay for what you get !!!!

    Why do we pay for what we could get (if we live in the telephone exchange). OFCOM should say we must only pay for the service (speed) we receive.

    Why should I, receiving a speed of 1Mbits because of my distance to the exchange, pay the same as someone receiving 8?

    Where is the encouragement for them to improve our service?

    If they were paid only for the speed we receive, they would soon find ways to boost service to those, who like me, receive a very poor deal from them!

    Time to start a revolution.

    Let's all complain to Ofcom about this, see what we can change!

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cable fill & technical limitations

    The problem is that people don't understand or care about the technical limitation of offering DSL services in this country. From all these nay sayers, I have not heard of one better option of the 'upto' marketing pitch.

    Bear in mind...the effects of cable fill (remember these are unshielded cables) - as more DSL customers come into your cable binder the DSL sync speeds reduce - by as much as 50%! - ISP's and indeed Openreach have no idea of the route your copper pair takes to the exchange, so this could go round the houses, over Aluminium for part of the way. All in all, it's Impossible to say with any certainty what speed a customer will acheive - and also impossible to gurantee they will be acheiving that speed in 6 months time.

  59. AJ
    IT Angle

    @ Alexis Marett

    This is no justification to the false advertising all ISPs are doing, Whether the BT network is being upgraded or not (which isnt done over night its going to take a good few years) customers should get what is advertised its that simple!

    And I agree that companies should offer service guarantees, its only right. If they cant guarantee a speed of service they should not advertise it as that speed, they should advertise it at the LOWEST it would run most of the time.

    So if its 'up to' 8MB but over 75% of the time you would only get 3MB then it should be advertised as a 3MB service!!!

    It really is THAT SIMPLE!

  60. Nick Funnell
    Thumb Up

    Ripped off

    The 2 reasons I left my previous ISP were because I never got the advertised rate - the most I ever got was 6.5MB on the top package - and the cost of the package. Add the constant disconnections and throttling, and I was not a happy bunny.

    I am now with another ISP who advertised 'up to 16MB' - and I get a constant rate between 14 & 15 MB. Can't complain with that. They even contacted me after a couple of weeks to confirm that I was on the correct package. And I was given 100 days to cancel with no penalty. With this ISP, if you sign up to the middle package (16MB) and you only get 5MB say, they downgrade you to the lower package. A great idea, and thats what sold it to me. I am satisfied with what I now get.

    Every ISP should follow this procedure - without fail. But normally by the connection has 'settled', it's too late to get out of the contract. It needs to be put right.

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Up to 8Mb - why it all went wrong...

    hello rizla

    Mr Naismith points out a few ways part of this mess could be improved, the prime one being that ISP websites can currently make whatever outrageous claims they like and no one will do anything about it.

    BTwholesale's "capacity based charging" (CBC) was where things started to go wrong. That's when BTwholesale's pricing policy changed from "line rental increases with line sync speed" and "interconnect to ISP = not too outrageous" to "line rental independent of line sync speed, interconnect = outrageous". The new pricing regime was chosen to be BT revenue-neutral at average usage of 20-50kbit/s. Ofcom approved this change, despite objections from clued-up ISPs like Zen who said it would destroy the quality of the broadband market.

    ISPs then had to start seriously considering how best to pay for their overpriced interconnect to BT (this was at a time when Ofcom''s description of LLU as "widely available" meant six exchanges in London and one elsewhere). Pack more people in was the obvious conclusion for most ISPs. Impose caps etc was another option. Admitting that "unlimited" had gone forever wasn't on most ISP's agendas but the costing arithmetic made it inevitable that "unlimited" was now a lie.

    Then the big boys started seeing that maybe LLU might actually be practical after all (LLU is too expensive for smaller ISPs to play on a national basis). So a few years later, we've got half the country's exchanges with LLU, with each big boy having functionally duplicated BTw's expensive broadband infrastructure, all of which needs to be paid for. Meanwhile in order to attract punters to pay for it, the big boys are offering "free" deals which aren't, and contracts are getting longer and longer. Across the market, LLU or not, headline prices are going lower and lower, and so is QoS in every sense of the word, because "free broadband" is very hard to compete with. It's also a lie, but Ofcom do nothing about it.

    Meanwhile BT says "wtf are we going to do about LLU?". The regulatory regime is so daft that at one point BT Retail's head man, Pierre Danon, was talking about going LLU just to get BTwholesale's costs off his balance sheet. He found a new job shortly after that. Outside BT, obviously.

    That still left BT with the problem of what to do about LLU competition, without spending any money. One thing they could do *relatively* easily was upgrade the line speeds between exchange and punter. There's no capital cost for that, just some changes to the relevant business and operational systems. It might leave the already-struggling "virtual pipes" from exchanges looking even Redder in the face than they traditionally were, but the ISPs can always be blamed for performance issues and no one will be any the wiser because no one's allowed to watch BTw closely enough, for "commercial confidentiality" reasons.

    So, upgrade punters lines across the board to "up to 8Mbit" if they want, call it "ADSL Max" to make it sound good, but don't spend any money to significantly upgrade the backhaul to match, just hope that increased revenue from ISPs paying for more interconnect bandwidth will eventually pay for extra backhaul.

    If marketed *honestly* this could still have been attractive: "your 2Mb broadband can now go even faster when there's spare capacity" - but there has to be spare capacity *all the way* between punter and ISP to see any benefit. And the interconnect between ISP and BT is now so expensive that for most ISPs except the most expensive there's no spare capacity to speak of, definitely not at times when people actually want to use t'Internerd, and several ISPS (led by Plusnet) start deploying at "traffic management" kit which prioritises "interactive" stuff (browsing) and selectively discards "low priority" stuff. By coincidence, by this time, Plusnet's head of broadband was Neil Armstrong who had previously been at BTw, where he'd architected capacity based charging. And not too long after that, Plusnet were taken over. By BT. Small world, eh.

    All of which, strangely enough, happens with the full knowledge and apparent cooperation of Ofcom, and indeed under the watchful eye of El Reg (and also AdslGuide, which covered much of this on frontpage news articles and forum discussions which were ignored elsewhere). I wonder why Ofcom have changed their tune now?

  62. kain preacher


    Well I guess i'm lucky that here in the states the local telco wants to compete with the cable companies. They are laying FTB. What they are also doing is re working there infrastructure. They are replacing lots of cable with fiber.

  63. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The truly simple answer

    Just ban all ISPs from offering any services over 1Mbit/s until such time as all subscribers are able to achieve 1Mbit/s reliably. Then advance to 2Mbit/s, etc. That might, just, persuade people to fund BT to put some decent cables in the ground, and provide connections to non-metropolitan areas.

  64. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    x-Mbit Bandwidth for £30/month? IMPOSSIBLE

    If it wasn't for Up To and the contented/shared nature of consumer broadband, there would be no service of any kind for anywhere close to 15-30quid/month.

    Would you like, a real guaranteed 2Mb Internet service that will never slow down at peak hours? You don't mind paying a fair market price for a quality service?


    In many ways it is quite remarkable that DSL brought anythingMbit/s into the home at the price point it does. But of course you can't go from £1,000 to £30 and make a commercially viable service without compromise. Specifically a variable line speed, and ISP networks that over-subscribe bandwidth many times over.

    Also note that the £15-30quid a month for your ADSL today is the same price you were paying for 512k when ADSL launched in the UK. We then got 2Mb, and

    many punters got upgraded to this for free. After this came free upgrades to 8Mb. The consumer is being ripped off here how?

    £20 for 512k .... or £20 for Up to 8Mb?

    2Mb was always the practical ceiling for ADSL to get what was advertised. After this, things get very hit and miss. The 8Mb is a hard technological limit for ADSL(1), but 2Mb -> 8Mb is a huge grey area. Up front speed prediction is impossible, for what you pay, and how it is delivered into your home.

    As wise posters here have already said, new regulation would just move us back to the lower speeds of yesteryear. BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR.

    UP TO 8MB is a perfectly clear, fair and accurate definition for a service that will simply try to give you the best you can for the price you pay.

  65. Lee Sexton

    Yet again....

    The real issue of shunting as many customers onto pipes and using "traffic shaping" is swept under the carpet, to me this is the real issue. This computer active campaign annoyed the hell out of me because I felt my petition addressed this issue more than speeds of up to did for adsl as you can quite easily find out what speed you are likely to get with bt broadband checker which is usually linked from the isp you are buying from. Another smoke screen. Throttling is the real problem and oversubscribing!!!

    please sign this one, still waiting for a response from the minister!!!

  66. Mark

    Ofcom's in a tight spot then

    Must've caught Ed Richards on the hop. Looks like Ofcom have been put in a bit of tight spot here by their own 'tame' consumers. They're going to have to put in a bit of graft to earn their crust and put a lid on this nonsense, get back to the comfy old status quo; consumer expectations of the industry at the usual low levels, and ISPs treating their customers as little more than an irritant after they've signed on the virtual dotted line.

  67. richard

    ISP strangle hold

    I agree we should be better informed about braudband speeds, but as a kingston communication (karoo) customer i arnt sure what i can do if i arnt happy with the service and they know that. For those of you who arnt awere that Hull and surounding villages are beholden to KC as it is a private phone network, nothing to do with BT so we can only use (Karoo) supplied by KC, and when you ring up to complain you can nearly see them smiling waiting for you to say "well i arnt happy with your service" to which they say "well sir you can leave" knowing full well if you do you wont be using the internet again. I am on the 0.5Mb package costing £16.99 per month and it is running at an average 65Kb / sec which i was told by the tech help desk is about right as i must divide what i think i am paying the earth for by 8 (dont know why and neither did he). If i were to upgrade to 8Mb it would be £29.99 per month. So think youself lucky cos your probably paying much less than me but even at your reduced download rate still getting much faster braudband.

  68. Mark
    IT Angle

    Complain and ye shall receive

    I currently 'enjoy' an average 3,000 kbps and 6,300 kbps on the 8,000 service from BT, but it took some doing and a lot of bloody minded determination to get here. Previously I was getting as little as 98 Kbps at busy times with an maximum of 5,000kbps - hell of a range wouldn't you say!

    Yes, I had to spend hours on the phone to some overseas help desk explaining what a contention ratio was, explained why it wasn't my neighbours toaster causing interference and a hundred other reasons. Finally, I got some action and magically the system improved.

    Before anyone does complain, you must check your end first and this includes the wiring and equipments. For anyone interested, here is a quick checklist:

    1. Check all sockets for correct wiring - my house (new in 2000) had every socket wired wrong.

    2. Connect your equipment to the main socket.

    3. Fit filters to every extension - don't forget that Sky box.

    4. Make sure your router is correctly configured and is suitable for the service you wish to use.

    5. Check out the DSLZone dot Net for some very useful tips and tools.


  69. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    When 8 Mbps is actually 7 Mbps max anyway

    With BT's network 8 Mbps is the max speed of the line, not the IP throughput anyway. In reality it's almost impossible to get more than a 7 Mbps IP profile.

    As for the advertised speeds, BT told me I would get a maximum of 2 Mbps on my line when I am, in fact, synchronised at 6.8 Mbps with a 6 Mbps IP profile. It's not 8 Mbps but it's more than what the line check said. So the advertising is broken in both directions.

    Note: This is in no way a recommendation of BT's service or customer support. Quite the reverse in fact. The incompetence of their "support" is staggering. The problem's always with your PC, never with the line - especially when it blatantly is with the line. In the meantime, please be happy with a 135 Kbps profile since BT

    retail don't know how to make a call to BT wholesale to get a profile reset. So is that an "up to 135 Kbps" service then? And since you won't get more than 2Mbps on your line, we're not getting off our chairs to reset your profile if it's more than 2 Mbps already because our systems are always right and you, the stupid customer, are always wrong. Service and customer satisfaction the BT way...

  70. michael
    Thumb Up

    a hosest isp

    unlimited meaning unlimited and big wanrning aboiut the likley speeds on max services and relistic speeds on over ones

    and you pay for it they are expencive

    but I would still chouse them over bt

  71. Eponymous Cowherd

    Re: x-Mbit Bandwidth for £30/month? IMPOSSIBLE

    ***"UP TO 8MB is a perfectly clear, fair and accurate definition for a service that will simply try to give you the best you can for the price you pay."***

    No, it doesn't. Absolutely not. 'Up to 8MB' implies your actual speed will be something approaching this speed, particularly if you were sold an 'up to 8MB' service as an 'upgrade' to a 2MB service.

    The 'up to' refers to, and is advertised as, meaning the peak speed on the local loop will be 'up to 8MB'. Customers are led to believe that the speed their line test indicates will be the speed they will achieve. Looking at BT's 'Total Broadband' sales site, nowhere can I find in the Ts&Cs, service description or line checker any mention that the speed you will actually attain will depend on anything other than your local-loop line quality. Nowhere can I find any mention made of network congestion, contention ratios or traffic shaping.

    This is false advertising, pure and simple.

    ( I now expect some anally retentive twerp to plough through BT's Ts&Cs and actually find the info. Even so, the fact remains that, even if they *do* exist, references to low download speeds are much too deeply buried for something so fundamental to the service being advertised)

  72. wabbit02

    Transparancy - not SLA's

    Broadband speed depends on so many different factors not just length of cable or distance from the exchange (or contention). BT's line checker tool actually does a pretty good job of estimating speeds - what should be mandated by ofcom is the use of this tool and report back to the end consumer at time of purchase the range that their line is capable of (as well as some other points below).

    I have recently moved house - after broadband was installed, I ripped out the dodgy line extensions that the previous owner had installed, net result 500k increase in sync speed. Are BT/ the ISP responsible for this?

    The issue from the ISPs perspective is that you have ADSL, SDSL, ADSL2+ and cable carriers (ok these are the main ones). Most people don't understand the difference so how do they sell it to the public? UPTO is a well understood and recognized format (brand if you like) - but again I believe the ISPs should be forced to be more transparent.

    In regard to people stating about congestion/ contention - it has been stated on this thread already but, for a 2MB line from BT with an SLA, your looking at around £7000 pa + installation costs (depending on the local infrastructure) + ISP costs, so you wouldn't get much change for £20,000 in the first year. Thats what it COSTS. If thats what you want then THE PRODUCT IS ALREADY AVAILABLE - go sign up.

    Most consumers are price orientated again IMHO there should be mandated transparency at time of purchace (and if there are any significant changes), to include expected line range and peak contention via the ISPs peering (e.g. how many people are competing for how much Internet connectivity). This would be a start, although POPs and regional variations would slightly skew this - but its a start. Then at least consumers would be able to compare apples to apples.

    There was also a comment about 21 CN - I have posted about this before. It will do nothing to improve Internet access or last mile connectivity in its self. What it provides is cost savings and a more flexible platform (read more capability to bill you). It may in fact make "service" worse in the short term while they are "optimizing it"

  73. Seán

    Looky thar

    Aren't the civil service efficient, when dealing with the civil service.

    The simple solution is to get yourself connected to "the engineer", the guy who's actually plugging in the leads and flipping the switches. Offer him a bottle of whiskey (Irish not that scotch muck) or some folding cash, if he can jigger some speed out of your line. Bam, problem solved.

  74. Steve

    Simple solution

    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.

  75. Neil Jones

    Whilst we're at it...

    Several posters have used car/road analogies in these comments, let me offer this:

    A private road builder builds a new motorway (think M6 toll). It’s a motorway, so they say you can do up to 70mph on it. But during rush hour the traffic builds up so maybe you’ll average 60mph, maybe you’ll only manage 30mph. Or you would, except your car is several decades old and not very well maintained, so it can only manage 20mph.

    Isn’t it still reasonable to say that the motorway is capable of providing speeds of up to 70mph?

    There’s a few good, intelligent and objective comments on here, but they’re lost in the rest of the irrelevant and unreasonable dross. I always seem to find that the ones who shout about “knowing their (consumer) rights” are the ones who know them least. Have you actually read your ISP’s T&Cs? You don’t sign up to an advert, you sign up to the contract T&Cs as anyone with even the most basic grasp of consumer law will tell you.

    Yes, there is perhaps an issue that the theoretical maximums quoted by ISPs are only that, and maybe adverts could make this clearer. But what about those evil manufacturers of Cat5e cable, routers and switches with their claims of 100 Mbit/s and those pesky USB and Firewire products with their claims of impossible transfer rates...

    Surely theoretical limits are an established fact of life in the IT world?

  76. Stuart Halliday
    Thumb Up

    Virgin media speed

    For 6 months with Virgin Media I got with my 20Mb/s connection a terrible 7-8Mb/s.

    Seemingly they needed to upgrade their neighbourhood cabinets and eventually gave me a new cable modem. During this time I got given a discounted back-dated. Though I had to ask for it!

    Fault was low S/N ratio at the higher speeds due to 'old equipment'.

    Now I get 12-13Mb/s during the day (that's taking a 1MB file off their own servers).

    With an advertised 20Mb/s I should be getting a real-world of 15Mb/s (75%) from within their own network I would have thought. So I'm pretty close.

    Tip: When phoning their 50p pay-by-min technical support and it's their fault, demand a refund on the call if they don't offer it. You're entitled to it.

    I'm constantly amazed how my IT day job has been steadingly leaking into my home life over the last few years...

  77. Philip Percival

    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.



  78. fred base

    OFCOM - day late, dollar short

    As usual.

    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.

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