back to article ISPs get flimsy self-help leaflet on net speed ads

A so-called "Help Note" has been published this morning that offers guidance to advertisers when flogging broadband based on attractive speed claims. However, the set of recommendations (12-page PDF/41KB) do not form a self-regulatory framework as some ISPs such as Virgin Media might have liked. Instead the Advertising …


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  1. Jacqui

    BT line speed

    I recently cancelled my BT line as it was costing an insane amount of monthly dosh for an unused (dead) service. When I rang up they offered me various inducements including a "free" 20Mb/s service.

    I explained that the visibly rotting o/h cable means I get between 1 and 2Mb/s for roughly three minutes a day (max - but only when the sun dries the cable out) so are they commiting to providing a working 20Mb/s service and a phone service that does not pop and echo.

    Are they finally going to replace the ~13 meter length of cable that crosses the road to the pole opposite?

    They said they had no record of a fault - but that is because BT business (who managed the work paid DSL line) would not accept a fault and simply transferred the call to BT residential - who had to go through a compleetseperate ID check) then immediately did the same thing in reverse and the ID check merry-go-round started once more. It was impossible to actually log the fault and it became a BT SEP.

    IMHO BT business support is worse than Virgin business pre-sales support - at least the virgin staff admit they have no idea what you are asking about ;-)

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Illegal lottery?

    "Where advertisers make a numerical speed claim to be understood by consumers as maximum speed of their service, they should be able to demonstrate that the speed is achievable for at least 10 per cent of the relevant customer base," reads the document.

    So a 10% of getting what you were promised is OK? Does this mean I can legally sell nine people a piece of chipboard as an iPad as long as I sell ONE person the genuine article?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Brand X shampoo

    Leaves your scalp up to 100% flake free!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    How many complaints do they need for this obvious pulverization of the English Language?

    Unlimited V/s Limited.

    Upto ? WHo gets that sped anyways?

    Load of bollocks.

  5. vic 4

    "VM advertises speeds that at least 90% of the ISP's customers receive"

    Presumably they meant "could receive if they hadn't have got super hub"

  6. Colin Millar
    Big Brother

    How to tell porkies and get away with it

    So who funds the ASA? - oh its me!!

    So why are they wasting huge amounts of my money telling comms companies how to lie successfully.

    There is a recommendation in there that says that they should quantify the proportion of the customer base that can achive the max speeds advertised and that this should be at least 10%.

    Fair enough. But when you hunt for quantification of average speeds and the spread across the customer base (the most important bit really) it all starts to get a bit hazy - just like the telcos.

    Oh - and I love this complete break with logic

    "Where a marketer makes a different type of speed claim, for example a claim for the average

    speed of a service, an “up to” qualification is not required."

    ASA should be replaced with a requirement like there is on fag packets - all advertisements should have to carry a prominent message "Advertising lies"

  7. TheAincient

    Average Speed

    Wouldn't it be much better if it was average Average speed.

    In other words the average of ALL customer's average speed.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      No because the speed you get has nothing to do with the speed I get. It would be like quoting the average speed of a car on British roads. A useless figure that tells the individual nothing about how long their journey is going to take.

      There is nothing inherently wrong with 'up to'. It is an accurate technical description of rate adaptive DSL. As long as there is small print on the advert saying 'actual speed depends on the quality of your line' it's fine. People ought to be sensible enough to know that adverts are there to catch the eye and that you should enquire further when buying the product. As long as when you sign up the ISP provides you with an estimating tool and encourages you to use it there should be no problem.

      Another problem is that sync speeds are not under the control of most ISPs because they don't own the telephone line. The only way they can improve their average speed is to refuse to supply to people on lower quality lines.

      A further problem (and even VM have this one) is that once you leave your ISP's network they lose all control. Going back to the road analogy it's like knowing the average speed of vehicles moving around your town. Not particularly useful even if that's all your doing but if you're actually setting off on holiday and intend to drive to France then it's utterly pointless.

      Meanwhile the thing that ISPs /do/ control and the term which is abused beyond any excusing is 'unlimited'. What do the ASA say about? "Carry on chaps, we don't care".

  8. John H Woods Silver badge

    How about these rules?

    If you advertise up to x Mb/s, then 20% of your customers should get better than 80% of this speed, and 80% should get better than 20% of it.

    If you advertise a service as unlimited, the correlation coefficient between usage and speed should not be significantly different from zero.

    If you claim 24 hour service, 80% of the time you should provide 20% of that users maximum service.

    never gonna happen, I guess ...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      BT Broadband

      60% of the time, it works every time.

    2. Marvin the Martian


      So you accept 20% of your public getting LESS than 1/5th of the advertised speed as "good"?

      Alternative: How about scaling cost with speed? Say £10/month is base cost, and the rest of the bill is speed-related: [any average below 5% of advertized = reimbursement of base cost,] any average below 25% of advertized speed is free, 25% costs £10/month, 50% costs £15/month, 75% £20/month, 100% £25/month so max is £35/month --- all these numbers to be scaled in function of maximum monthly price.

      Or easing the price function so that 75% costs about as much as 100% --- for diminishing returns: in the end, as long as streaming HD works, whether your new Lucid Linx downloads 20% faster or not, what does it matter. Of course theres will be few people between 75% and 100%: your local top speed is not achievable on late afternoon/early evening due to crowding.

  9. Purlieu

    shone a torch

    please, no more, please

  10. clint11
    Thumb Down

    Another load of waffle from toothless quangos/watchdogs.

  11. Refugee from Windows

    Unreasonable claims?

    How about making them, like the car adverts, state actual customer speeds. How about a nice "at least/greater than X kB" service metric? Possibly only being able to claim speeds that at least 50% of their customers for 50% of the time might help, but then this would deflate their marketing departments.

    If they had to declare a service level that they had to keep for at least 50% of the time and beyond that they get into enforceable penalties, but as this would hurt several ISPs in the wallet, it'll never happen will it?

  12. DPR

    Better than watching paint dry

    I occasionally use OOKLA to check my speed and think it (sadly) instructive to watch the plot as the speed test takes place. From that you can see that it can cycle, jump (up or down), incline, decline during the time it takes for the test. All that tells you is that "speed" is a sensitive and variable thing and without a standardised protocol for its determination, dangerous in the hands of the marketeers. Mind you, I should worry, as I consistently get 38--40 Mbps at my home PC. Now what can I do with that.

  13. catphish


    I'm totally confused as to why "up to" gets so much bad press, when it is both clear and true. Yet, at the same time 'unlimited' gets almost no coverage despite in many cases being a blatant lie.

    1. Mad Chaz

      The reason "up to" claims are in the spotlight is they are an easy thing to grab attention on and that the ISP have been lying a lot about it. They will claim "up to 20MB" when absolutly no one on the network can get so much as 15.

      As for the unlimited problems, that is something of a problem in a lot of parts of the world. In Canada, our bigest problem is un-realistic transfer caps ment to prevent people from watching TV online, as 90% of ISPs are also either cable or satelite compagnies.

  14. Rab Sssss

    Average speed estimates are utter crap TBFH they can be +/- 2 meg over or under (sometimes worse). and what can srew it even more is some of utterly fail ways they have hooked the DSL device up to the line.

    How about giving virgin a kicking for their fire optic lies...

  15. Marcelo Rodrigues

    I can´t swallow both "up to" and "unlimited"

    The easy one first. 'Unlimited" is "without limits". That´s it. I could (should be able to) hammer my connection 24 hours a day, 30 days a month, at its top speed - and the ISP shouldn´t cap me.

    Would it be expensive? Probably. Can the ISPs turn a profit with this pattern and the prices charged? I don´t think so. Do I care? Not in the slighest. They choose to sell it this way. It´s their problem, no mine. My problem is to pay the bill, and that´s it.

    Now, the infamous "up to".

    I understand this is a residencial service. I understand there will be no SLA saying I will get 100% of the speed 100% of the time. And I am fine with this. BUT I am NOT fine with someone selling "up to 20 Mbps" and delivering 2 Mbps. I am not fine with "up to 30 Mbps" and "sorry sir, your line doesn´t support more than 10 Mbps". Because, in this case, the service should be "up to 10 Mbps", not "up to 30Mbps"!

    If my line doesn´t support it, they cannot sell it to me! No, "up to 30" means "it is possible to get 30". If I can´t get more than 10 is "up to 10", by definition.

    The second part of the rant:

    Ok, my line can handle 30Mbps. So, you sell me "up to 30Mbps" connection. Fair enough. But this isn´t an excuse to sell me "up to 30 that almost never goes above 15". This is NOT reasonable. "Up to 30" should mean "more than 80% of the speed, 80% of the time", and no less than "20% of the speed, for no more than 20% of the time".

    "But the price will go up!" I don´t know. Maybe. The solution? How about different plans? How about a mensal cap? I have no problem with a cap, if it is reasonable AND well advertized.

    I am brazilian, and I live in Brazil. My connection (today) costs me R$ 60,00 (rougly 35 american dollars). I have 10Mbps download, and 1Mbps upload. I could pay more, and get more. R$ 80,00 would get me 15 down/1 up. R$ 199,00 (next month they said it will get cheaper) would get me 35 down and 3,5 up. Funny thing? I have more than 90% of the promised speed over more than 90% of the time. I have no download caps, and they don´t trottle torrents or anything. All (at least all that I have tested) my ports are open, and I can run whatever server I want on my line. Shame the IP - wich is dynamic.

    See? No that bad, hum?

    1. Rab Sssss

      So how in the hell can a generic advertisement take into effect that ADSL speed is based on line length/quality?

      Trust me I have had this conversation with dipshits THAT WILL NOT LISTEN.

      convo goes like this

      inablity to listen"so that will be x speed?"

      me "no the estimate is y"

      inablity to listen" so x speed"

      me "no the estimate is y"

      Continue till head meets KB...

      1. Marcelo Rodrigues
        Thumb Up

        This way:

        Here, in Brazil, we buy internet connection by speed - and there are multiples speeds to choose from. My ISP is GVT, and it has the following plans:

        5Mb down / 600 kbps up

        10 Mb down / 1 Mb up

        15 Mb down / 1 Mb up

        35 Mb down / 3,5 Mb up

        50 Mb down / 5 Mb up

        100 Mb down / 10 Mb up

        You call GVT, and ask for the service. They:

        1) Tell You if they cover your area

        2) They take a measure of your line, and tell you what is the highest speed you can have.

        3) You choose from the speeds available to you.

        Each speed has its price, and we are free to choose whatever we want - provided its technically feasible.

  16. Hayden Clark Silver badge

    Just fix the dictionary

    unlimited: adj; Without limit, having no bounds.

    unlimited*: adj; Limited.

  17. James Melody

    ISP Panther

    60% of the time it works all of the time.

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