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

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 …


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  1. A. Nervosa
    Thumb Up

    I endorse this.

    1. N2 Silver badge


      I shall give you 'upto' 1000 thumbs up endorsements, but you get only one.

    2. Nextweek

      Fail to understand the consequences

      ISPs still have to make money and cover the flat fee of connection and bandwidth on the back hall.

      What would happen is ISPs would charge £10 for 0.5MB connection and £70 for a 20MB connection (and scale it between the two). People would opt for the slowest to save costs thus reducing ISPs incentive to invest in faster networks.

      A 100% better idea would be to sell it based on data transfer allowances and ping times. ISPs then have an incentive to make your connection as fast as possible so that you burn though your usage as quick as possible. You could have a colour label like we have on food.

      1. The People

        Re: Fail to understand the consequences

        Then the flat fees that are in force further down the chain, should be subject to variabilities therefore no mofo is entitled to scupper a windfall at the expense of humanity. The providers of the infrastructure would then have to invest in said infrastructure in order to make a return sometime in the future, instead of making record profits in the short to medium term. Less profit, greter customer focus. This is known as capped-capitalism where humanity can co-exit along side capitalism only when capitalism is strictly regulated and controlled like the evil beast that it is!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fail to understand the consequences

        Do that realize that ping times measure latency, which is completely different than bandwidth, right?

  2. Mad Mike

    Up to all the time

    Surely this should apply all the time. In other words, if the ISP wants it's full fee, you should get the full bandwidth they quote (up to) at all times? Even before the caps kick in, I rarely get the full rate specified by my ISP during the day. That's only available overnight normally. Perhaps they should keep stats on your link and if on average you get 2.5Mb/sec on a 20Mb/sec sevice, they should only get an an eighth of the fee?

    1. Def Silver badge

      Re: Up to all the time

      That doesn't really work though because most of the time you're not actually downloading anything. So the calculated average would be close to zero for most people.

      Being charged for the volume of traffic you generate (both up and down) is the only real way forward. Just like with every other utility bill, you pay for what you use. (Hear me out...)

      The rates for this should be based on the theoretical maximum for any given internet connection speed. So if your download speed is meant to be 16Mb per second, the basis for calculating should be around the fact that you would normally be able to download 5TB per month. So if you actually download 1TB in a month, you should be paying approximately one fifth of the current rate you pay for a 16Mb connection. Plus any line rental fees, etc.

      1. Mad Mike

        Re: Up to all the time

        An interesting idea, but sometimes speed matters in short bursts. When I said your average speed, I didn't mean average of all the month, but average when using the internet and therefore the speed would give a similar answer to your calculation. There are two important issues with a link and they are speed and caps. I get really hacked off with my speed being below that possible (and stated) during the day simply due to the contention ratios of the links.

        1. Def Silver badge

          Re: Up to all the time

          Define 'using the internet' though. My PC is on 24/7 and is connected to the internet 24/7. While I might not be actually downloading software or surfing the internet every hour of every day, I do have Skype running all the time, as well as Trillian. Software which is also running all the time the machine is up is also periodically connecting to servers to perform whatever tasks it needs to perform. Most, if not all of those tasks, will barely register on any kind of performance metric, but they do consume tiny amounts of bandwidth. (Not that I ever have any speed issues. I live in a small village in Norway and my advertised 16mb/s connection gives me 16mb/s all day, every day. :)

      2. Denshi

        Re: Up to all the time

        Whilst your proposal has gone certain merits, there is a couple of flaws.

        First you state that if the maximum you use at 16Mb is 5Tb so if you only transfer 1Tb you should only pay 20% of your "current price". This is not going to happen. Your current price is likely calculated on an average monthly usage on the order of 50-100Gb (maybe you use more, maybe your neighbours use less, average). So this model would therefore first require you to increase your current monthly fee 100 fold (in peering and back haul infrastructure costs) and then you could reduce in proportion to your usage.

        Second, the main issue with charging based on actual speeds is that the cost to the ISP doesn't really change based on what speed you get - the cost to actually peer 1Mb of data is a tiny fraction of the costs of providing your connection. There are two primary expenses - back haul connectivity and the cost of your line (in installation and maintenance).

        Backhaul has high lead times to change so it's aggregated and estimated - before you order your line I have no idea what speed you'll get so I'll order a connection to your exchange based on a couple of guesses - first I guess how many lines I might get and then what the average speed of those lines is and buy the appropriate amount of fibre bandwidth, then I average the cost among all my lines. Calculating it on a per user basis is impractical since it's likely my guess doesn't always match with reality - the number of lines I have and their speeds will vary far faster than any changes I can make to the amount of back haul I have.

        So unless you want to see your bill vary on a month by month (made up numbers: our back haul bill is £3,000,000 this month, we've gained 217 new lines, lost 113, your line sync speed averaged 9.8Mb compared to 9.5Mb to last month, every other line we have also changed slightly and therefore your share of the back haul cost has gone from 0.00023132% to 0.00023284%) a certain amount of averaging has to take place.

        The second cost is that of your line. Your line is a length of copper and copper has value therefore there is a greater opportunity cost to Openreach to provide a long line (that will have lower speeds) than it does to provide a short line.

        In addition longer lines are more prone to faults - there's more line that might go wrong, they're more prone to interference since there's more of them to pick up other signals, the signal is weaker so noise issues that could be ignored on a short line can become crippling. All of this means that a long line actually costs an ISP/Openreach more to provide - you're more likely to require technical support, you're more likely to require engineering work, etc. At present this cost is averaged - the long line pays proportionally less for their line (compared to the cost to Openreach) and more for their speed, the short line pays more their line and less for their speed.

        So whilst charging you less if your line can only achieve a slower speed makes sense, it also makes sense to charge you more if you have a long phone line - just like what happens with the specifically installed not "budget residential" connections such as leased lines or ethernet connections.

        Fundamentally ADSL is a stopgap technology - it was designed to deliver better speeds than dialup, which it does, but more importantly it was designed to do this cheaply. And consequentially it's a cheap and nasty solution.

        As long as the average consumer in this country is obsessed with getting the cheapest possible service (and they are - the number of businesses that spend less than I do to be able to read my e-mail when I'm roaming around for their "business critical, I will lose tens of thousands of pounds for every hour that it's down" internet connections is depressing) then we are going to continue to receive a flawed and limited technology.

        Pushing ISPs to cut costs further is not going to deliver you a better service - it's just going to result in greater contention, overloaded networks, and slower response time on fixing faults. You'll get a a pathetic connection but oh, look, you only have to pay half as much each month so it must be so much better.

      3. Tom 13


        You still need a minimum fee to cover fixed costs, but otherwise, a workable solution.

  3. Plasma

    I live just outside a small town, and get a stable 1.5Mbps ADSL maximum due to my distance from the exchange. I currently pay for 'up to 12Mbps' because that's the cheapest package on the ISP I want to be with ( - fibre is not available here, and neither Virgin or BT have any plans to bring it here due to the lack of commercial viability.

    The question is: Who is ultimately responsible for the quality/speed of the infrastucture? To me, this is an issue with my BT phone line, not my ISP.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Who is responsible for the infrastructure.

      That's Openreach.

      Ask your ISP if ADSL2+ is available. Zen bumped me up to it about 3 months ago and my 1.5 meg connection jumped to 2.5meg after a slightly bumpy "training" period.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      With the ISP

      Stop blaming BT/Ofcom for the ISPs which have the financial muscle to invest into infrastructure or lobby for access to infrastructure while refusing to do so and playing the BT/Ofcom-blame game.

      O2/BeThere is a prime suspect here. They have the finances to be able to deploy alternative high speed broadband in selected geographies, but refuse to do so. They have the finances to lobby too.

      As far as infrastructure is concerned:

      1. Blame councils - for refusing to allow council owned street "furniture" like lighting for above ground fiber deployment. This leaves BT owned poles and BT/NTL owned ducting as the only game in town.

      2. Blame utilities and the OfGem/OfCom "not our problem govnor attitude". EDF has run new ducts which can (and in places do) accommodate their own fiber in most geographies where they are responsible for the "physical infra" for the in-town distribution. EON is a bit behind here, but it is running a similar program too. Not sure about "Scroodge Energy" and other suppliers, but I would be surprised if they do not run a new duct programme too. Are they obliged to offer right of way through that duct? Of course no, that will require two mupettarins from OfCom and OfGem actually talking to each other and coming up with a coherent infrastructure policy which is good for the country. Once you bring the fiber to the substation at the end of your close (usually one per 300 households or less) even wireless last "mile" (in reality under 100m) will work.

      Once the above two problems are fixed the need to blame BT/Ofcom will wane (together with BT's market dominance and Ofcom significance) because the market will become naturally competitive with less need for regulation.

      However, once again - the blame presently should be firmly laid with the ISPs as _NONE_ of them has even tried lobbying for either one of these and keeps playing the "Blame Ofcom" and "Blame BT" game.,

      In any case - the idea is pretty good, I would happily sign up for such a petition. Nothing impossible in the idea either - it is pretty much inline with the practices of the ISP I used to work for 15 years ago in a 5th world (post-wall fall wrong side of wall) country. The data is available and is being collected 24x7 because it is used to tweak DSL parameters so whoever runs the DSL infra actually already has all the data.

    3. bob 46

      That last question is one of the main things this petition is trying to address - whoever it is who is responsible for the upkeep of the physical connection (usually BT? - not sure) is unlikely to be impressed by you on your own complaining about only getting 1.5Mbps. They want to replace Ofcom with a body that will take the fight to the networks on behalf of the consumer.

  4. Bill Cumming

    Siding scale payment is the way to go...

    I also endorse this part payment for partial speeds.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Paints a very black and white picture

    Zen advertised "up to" but made it very clear to me what their estimates were for the line. I never felt I was being mislead.

    Unlike my neighbour who is with Talk Talk who seems to think she has 24 meg despite my explanations to the contary.

    Where the real pressure should be is on Openreach to upgrade their creaky network. A lot of the problems people have with broadband are down to dodgy connections in junction boxes and aluminium cable being used instead of copper. The policy seems to be to make do and mend rather than actually improve.

  6. Steven Jones

    Wispa's superficial analogy

    The problem with this is that most of the real costs of ADSL are fixed and independent of line speed. That's simply because that, apart from back-haul, the inescapable costs are largely those of the maintenance, return on capital, business rates and so on for things such as the local loop, power, DSLAM and accommodation. Indeed, as ADSL speeds are essentially inversely related to the length of the copper line, the real costs of supporting long lines (and inherent slower speeds) are higher than those for short lines, as the former requires more maintenance and capital (more copper, more telegraph poles, ducts and so on). Indeed rural lines are already cross-subsidised by those from suburban and city areas.

    Of course the rational thing here is to have a separate fixed line charge and then variable rates based on the amount of data shifted and guaranteed back-haul bandwidth. That way those on longer lines will pay less for the capacity side and more for delivery. People might complain about this, but it's hardly unusual. If you live remote from a town you inevitably pay more for transport or local shopping due to higher costs. Indeed there are some infrastructure services, like main drainage, gas distribution or cable TV which are deemed not to be cost effective in some locations.

    Comparison with Kg of sugar are just a nonsense. The costs of sugar are largely proportionate to weight whilst the costs of providing ADSL are far more complex.

    It may be that it's social desirable to provide high speed comms to those remote from telecommunications infrastructure and for the rest to cross-subsidise it. However, outfits like wispa should not be misrepresenting this - as it stands, those who by luck, or choice, are on shorter copper loops effectively cross-subsidise long lines already.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wispa's superficial analogy

      "the real costs of supporting long lines (and inherent slower speeds) are higher than those for short lines, as the former requires more maintenance and capital (more copper, more telegraph poles, ducts and so on). "

      Sorry I thought I was already paying line rental to BT for the copper. The price of my ADSL should have nothing to do with the length of the line.

      Indeed if you ring up BT and complain about unreliable ADSL you'll have a devil of a job to get them to be interested. Last time it took my line to physically break before they'd agree to actually come out rather than pretend to test things at the exchange. If there's no voice fault then you can basically get on your bike.

    2. Mad Mike

      Re: Wispa's superficial analogy

      The issue here is largely a town v countryside argument, although I appreciate there are a significant number of exceptions. Why should there be any cross-subsidy applying here anyway. If you live in a town, that's your choice and you get things like fast broadband, relatively better public transport etc.etc and on the downside, more noise, probably worse air, less picturesque etc.etc. If you choose to live in the country, you get approximately the reverse. Why should townies subsidise the country dwellers and vice versa. At the moment, those in the countryside seem to get a much better deal with their broadband being subsidised and the government even talking about some sort of petrol/diesel subsidy because they have to drive further. That's their choice!!

      I guess the reason is because most of the politicians live in country piles and want all the benefits and none of the downsides. Their supporters generally live in similar mansions as well.

      1. Steven Jones

        Re: Wispa's superficial analogy

        Indeed - and other services are cross-subsidised as well. Witness the delivery of letter to rural areas by postmen in vans. How much is it costing to deliver each item as against those in a suburban area?

        That's not to say I'm against all cross-subsidisation, but it's nonsense economics to claim that those who happen, by choice or luck, to be on longer lines to claim that they are somehow being overcharged when the real costs are very much the reverse. If it was left just to be market, many of these places would get no service at all.

      2. CD001

        @Mad Mike

        If you live in a town, that's your choice and you get things like fast broadband, relatively better public transport etc.etc and on the downside, more noise, probably worse air, less picturesque etc.etc.

        ... having lived in both I'd say in a city the air is better traffic pollution smells far less than say ooooh when the farms have been muck-spreading; or try living near a pig/chicken farm, or having to have a bloke come and empty a septic tank.

        As for the noise, at least the noise in cities is at more sensible times (commuter/school runs and pub chucking out time) - you don't get woken up by cockerels at some ungodly hour, or church bells on a Sunday morning.

        You can keep the countryside, it's noisy, smelly and boring, has poor infrastructure and crappy net connections, even if it does look pretty ;)

        1. The First Dave

          Re: @Mad Mike

          Not everyone actually has a free choice where they live. I simply cannot afford to buy a house within the city boundaries, let alone one within walking distance of my work. If I could afford one, then I would get a real choice of broadband supplier, with both of them providing high enough data rates to allow me to work from home without needing to go into the office at all, negating the need to be near the office in the first place...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @CD001

          Just for your information. Traffic fumes are detrimental to health. However quite a few studies show farm "smells" (or particles as they are known) are actually beneficial to health.

          I agree they stink though!

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wispa's superficial analogy

      I couldn't agree more. I wish there was an way to anti-sign this petition which would definitely take the UK back a step in terms of economic motivation to supply internet services nationwide.

      Instead of the current model I propose a much fairer pricing scheme with a fixed cost based on line length scaled according to line medium and port density at the exchange and a variable cost based upon how close the line gets to the Shannon limit (probably integrated over the whole month). That accurately reflects the physical limits of the communication channel and the real costs of supplying/maintaining a line.

      Strangely that doesn't seem to be terribly popular when I try and convince people to adopt it so perhaps there is some merit in the idea that BT bill ISPs for both port cost and throughput as a crude approximation. That the port costs are fixed simplifies the pricing structure and is arguably fairer, it probably even means that people on short high quality lines are subsidising those on longer lines which require more engineer work over their lifespan.

      I'd suggest those campaigning for this should be careful what they wish for:

      1. If you make the amount this varies by very small then there's no point in doing it and the administrative costs will most likely outweigh the savings to the end user.

      2. Ignoring that and assuming it's a significant discount if you apply it at the wholesale level only then there's likely to be little savings past on from ISPs to users - homogenised billing is quite a big thing and ISPs tend to run on tight margins.

      3. If you did large scale price variations and imposed it at the ISP level only or both the ISP and wholesale level then I'd be willing to bet rather a lot that you start seeing ISPs that refuse to serve poor quality lines altogether when it becomes just not worth the hassle.

      The argument that this gives an economic incentive to improve speeds is totally bogus though. The only way to improve speeds on a hypothetical exchange with 500 (long) lines is to build one or more extra exchanges, each with less lines.

    4. Cam 2

      Re: Wispa's superficial analogy

      Agreed it's a superficial analogy - it smacks of a wishlist mentality and is completely divorced from the reality of how the bits get from A to B.

      If we could separate costs we would find most people paying widely varying amounts of line rental for infrastructure that is hugely varied in the speeds it supports - then paying a trivially small sum on top for the amount of data they actually manage to shift. Maybe this is 'better' in that it's closer to the reality of the costs, but I suspect more people would find issue with such a scheme.

      I'd be happy though because my short line supporting high speeds would have a smaller line rental compared to the long lines supporting not much...

  7. Lord Elpuss Silver badge
    Thumb Up


    I endorse.

  8. tkioz
    Thumb Up

    I agree completely. I'm on an "upto 8mb!!!!" connection, it's pretty good I actually get around 6mb... that's what? 75%? I should only be required to pay 75% of the bill... truth in advertisement should be more then a election promise.

    1. weenoid

      I'm on a Plusnet 'up to' 16 meg package and I only receive 1.5 meg, so shurrup!

  9. David Gosnell

    Definitely do NOT endorse this...

    Wispa have little understanding of the economics of broadband provision, and how it's actually charged. Speed is only really relevant in this context on a 24/7 saturated connection, which will see most subscribers cut off anyway... If you look at providers who are transparent in their pricing and FUPs (e.g. Plusnet) you will see that speed is not the main driving factor in costing.

    Downvote you may, but doesn't change the realities!

    1. Mad Mike

      Re: Definitely do NOT endorse this...

      The issue here isn't really about the economics or anything like that. It's basically about truthful marketing. ISPs are allowed to advertise 'up to' figures and then supply, essentially anything. Whether this is their fault or not and whatever the economics, that's fundamentally misrepresentation. If someone advertises a 10Mb/s link, it should have that speed at all times until you hit the cap. Then, it could be limited according to the conditions of the cap. However, my link never hits the quoted speeds during the day even before it's hit the cap, and I'm on fibre!!

      So, when changing, the ISP should quote what you WILL get and the fee. Then, you can take your pick knowing what you'll get in exchange for your money. At the moment, you don't know. Claiming ADSL2+ will give 24Mb/s is dishonest in the extreme as this is only possible under ideal conditions and if you pretty much live in the exchange. We need to move away from headline speeds and onto speeds for your link.

  10. g e

    Surely it's not so hard

    To charge people on their sync rate, so if you get 'upto' 8Mbit in your area but your router syncs at 4Mbit (due to your crappy aluminium connections, being far from the exchange, etc) then you pay half the 8MBit price for the duration of that link.

    Internet's not expensive but there's defo a case to be answered in there somewhere.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Surely it's not so hard

      So if I fancy a month of cheaper internet access I should be able to just plug the Christmas tree lights in and wrap them around the phone cord? And reconnect the dodgy sockets that work more like an antennae than phone line that the previous owners save a few quid installing on the cheap?

      By your logic too backhaul capacity doesn't matter either, so long as I can talk to the exchange really fast, even if all the exchange does is throw away 90% of the packets. Sync speed is not a a good proxy for connection quality alone.

  11. David Webb

    PN put my estimated max line speed at 5Mb. BT put my estimated max line speed at 8Mb. I'm currently connected at 13Mb. Does that mean I should pay more?

    1. Mark 65

      No, it probably means you should keep quiet around here.

  12. Ginger


    I found out the hard way what BT consider to be a bad enough line to get out of the contract. I moved house and am at the end of the exchange, and would be getting 3Mbps from a 10Mbps line. Apparently it's only bad enough if it drops to 0.5Mbps...

    Not enough to cancel the contract which has 12 months left to run, instead I pay £130 to install at the new place or £170 to buy myself out.

  13. Nigel Brown
    Thumb Up

    I recently switched to Sky Unlimited upto 20 meg

    Having place the order, their techy bods did various line tests and told me my speed would be between 11 and 15 meg. They are spot on, I can sustain a 15 Mbps at most times of the day, dropping occasionally to 12. I would have liked to have got closer to the 20 but at least I'm getting what I was told to expect, and that for me is the crucial bit.

    1. Mad Mike

      Re: I recently switched to Sky Unlimited upto 20 meg

      Yep. I don't see a problem here. Clear, open and honest contract. They told you what you would get, you agreed to pay the money and they delivered the goods. Perfect contract, but nowadays, seems pretty unusual.

      1. weenoid

        Re: I recently switched to Sky Unlimited upto 20 meg

        I ordered line rental and broadband from Sky when I moved into my current flat. The line rental was supposed to be activated several weeks before the broadband went live, but it wasn't. I phoned them up and they said from the tests they were running on my line, and due to the distance I was from the exchange, that realisticallly I would only be able to receive around 0.5 meg from them. They deferred activating the line rental order in case I wanted to switch to another provider in light of the fact they couldn't provide me with broadband... which was nice :).

  14. hugo tyson

    Problems with this...

    This would be OK so long as it's the link speed you get to your exchange. But the same eejits who complain about their net speed right now would complain that their download speed from Timbuktu was 6kB/s even though their local link speed is 24Mb/s. So it doesn't solve the problem of the general public not understanding what any of it means.

    The result of course would be a tripling of the nominal price, because many people pay only 1/3 of it... so...

    Second problem, so I'm fortunate enough to live near the exchange. I'm happy paying $OldPrice; they introduce this and my costs triple. Can I have it backed off to 1/3 the datarate for 1/3 the money?

  15. James 139

    Of course..

    ..the real answer is paid usage, but no one wants that.

    After all, the "up to" speed is totally irrelevant unless you happen to make use of it frequently.

    However, if things were to go down a percentage of maximum speed, the physical line provider is the one that should take the biggest hit, not the ISP as they dont have any control over that in most cases.

  16. jason 7 Silver badge

    How about £1 a month...

    ... per Mb of service for those on the standard services? Rounded down obviously, not letting them off that easy.

    I get 16Mb through BT and pay a fair price for that. But I wouldn't entertain paying good money for less than 6Mb let alone the 2-3Mb a lot of folks I know have.

    If they ISPs are getting hit by how much that can charge for their actual real life speeds they might do something to improve them. Just laziness at the moment.

  17. jason 7 Silver badge

    Oh and remember folks...

    ...if you haven't done so already, pulling out the bell wire and upgrading from that 5 year old crappy Thomson router to a decent Billion or Draytek with a better firmware (for those in rural areas) can make a difference.

    1. Kevin Fairhurst

      Re: Oh and remember folks...

      Sadly a number of ISPs (e.g. Sky) are adamant that you use their supplied router. Which usually sucks or has severe limitations in configurability.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Makes sence and seems completely fair, BUT

    Makes sence and seems completely fair, BUT wont happen :(.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Solution: charge by Volume

    Charge by VOLUME sent/received.

    If your ISP can't provide you with a connection capable of sending/receiving a large volume of data they don't get paid (regardless of speed).

    Fuel is charged by volume. Sugar is charged by volume. Data could be charged by volume.

    I pay my ISP by volume.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Solution: charge by Volume

      "Fuel is charged by volume."

      But, for example, when you pay for one gallon of petrol you pretty much know how far it will get your car.... if you expected to get 30 miles on a gallon and only got 10 miles you might be a bit miffed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Solution: charge by Volume

        .... or if you bought a gallon of petrol and found that it limited your car to 15mph you'd also be a bit miffed.

      2. James 139

        Re: Solution: charge by Volume

        using miles per gallon is the wrong way around. Your gallon would take you 30 miles in anywhere between 1 hour and 30mins, depending on the road speed, but youd still travel the 30 miles on the 1 gallon.

        If your ISP is giving you 10mb, and someone else 5mb, you can both download the same data, just you do it twice as fast, hence paying by volume would cost you the same.

  20. DJ Smiley
    Thumb Down

    Not told after you signed the contract..

    Sky (when I lived in my student house, I'd never use them otherwise) told me BEFORE we agreed what the speed was to be (6Mb for a 16Mb connection :/ ).

    They also told me at the same time with all the legal stuff that this COULD change, and if so I have the right to cancel etc etc.... but the fact remains they told me BEFORE I agreed to it.

  21. jai

    smart meters?

    so now we're asking for smart meters on our broadband pipes?


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: smart meters?

      The ISP already has that information.

  22. MonkeyBot

    Sue the Dept. for Transport

    I was driving on a 60mph road the other day and I could only go 50mph because they let too many other cars on the road.

    We should just make them tell us the average speed for an area alongside the "up to" speed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sue the Dept. for Transport

      Getting a train you also expect to get there in a certain time.... but on trains if the delay is over a specified period you get a full or partial refund on the cost of the ticket.

    2. liquidphantom

      Re: Sue the Dept. for Transport

      MonkeyBot, You should know full well that, speed limits on roads are a maximum allowable by law and not a target. Trying to drive at these speeds at all times is entirely irresponsible and thus renders your analogy completely void.

      I do agree with WISPA to some extent though. "up to" is far to loose a term to use for a service. however if it's within a certain percentage of the "up to" speed then the price should stand, if it falls too far below then there should be a discount. An ISP can't be held fully responsible for line conditions after all.

  23. Crisp

    So, If I get 75% of the advertised speed, I pay 75% of the price.

    Sounds fair to me. You get what you pay for. Or in the case of an ISP, you get paid for what you provide.

    1. Crisp

      Re: So, If I get 75% of the advertised speed, I pay 75% of the price.

      Why the down vote?

      If you only work 30 hours a week, can you really complain when you only get paid for 30 instead of the 40 you could have worked 'up to'?

      1. TheItCat
        Thumb Down

        Re: So, If I get 75% of the advertised speed, I pay 75% of the price.

        Downvoted because you're being ridiculously disingenuous.

        Nobody is paying for "Up to" anything, they're paying for a particular connection type sold through Openreach (or Virgin). The cost of providing that connection is fixed, so the cost to you is fixed. The fact that you're a particularly special little snowflake with a bad line is irrelevant. You're costing the ISP £x, so they charge you £x+profitmargin pounds.

        Why is this so hard for our poor little entitled nation to fathom?

        1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

          Re: So, If I get 75% of the advertised speed, I pay 75% of the price.

          I think the hyperbole in the example is in reflection of the hyperbole in the claim "up to 8mb". Not that both sides think they are "right" but that a middle ground, or more honest advertising, is best for both.

    2. Grease Monkey

      Re: So, If I get 75% of the advertised speed, I pay 75% of the price.

      It works up to a point.

      I pay for Up To 8Mb and get 7616kbps sync speed, but that's not the problem. Alright with my old ISP I got a rock solid 8128kbps, but that's not a big deal. The big deal is contention. I'm lucky if I get a quarter of that speed when downloading in the evening, whereas with my old ISP I could get pretty much the whole of my 8Mb/s in downloads 24/7. Even at this time of day the throughput is only around 50% of my sync rate.

      So I like the idea of only paying for what I get, but it would be difficult to prove what you were actually getting. Some ISPs scrimp on the bandwidth available from them to the internet (or if they are on BT Wholesale on their BT central link) in order to cut their costs to the consumer. If you based charges purely on sync speed those suppliers' prices would still look good. There needs to be some way of measuring the bandwidth available for a customer to actually use. But I can't see that happening.

      Needless to say I'm changing back to my old ISP next month.

  24. P. Lee Silver badge

    As much as I would like to agree with this

    It does depend on how far from the exchange is, apart from anything else.

    However, what should happen is that there should be a way to check the speed to your modem before signing up. On the assumption that new kit doesn't get installed at the exchange for you, it should be a simple matter to get a loop to the exchange so you can check the link-speed yourself.

    I have ADSL2+ but only get around 4.5mbit/sec, so ADSL1 would be fine for me. I'd be miffed to pay for "upto 24Mbit/sec" at my current speed. It would seem to make sense to have tiered 1/2/5/8/12/24 speeds and total caps specified. This "fair use" malarky is not on. Use peak/offpeak allowances if you want to modify people's usage times and move large downloads to after 11pm.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: As much as I would like to agree with this

      You're not paying for "up to 24Mbit/sec". This is just one property of the technology used.

      You are paying for an ADSL2+ connection. The achieved sync speed is out of the supplier's control.

      I don't know what you're fussing about. If you pay £10 and have a fast internet connection, I'd call that a good deal.

      What could you possibly want to do that would actually use 8Mbit/s anyway? I could be downloading software and streaming HD movies and still have bandwidth to spare.

      If you're trying to service more than 10 users then you should be paying for a business-grade connection.

  25. Gordan
    Thumb Up

    Sounds like an excellent idea

    If the offering is "up to", the the bill should also be "up to".

    Say you are paying £24/month for a connection that is "up to 24Mbit". So you have an SLA checker device (it'd have to be a black box appliance provided by a 3rd party" that checks the sync speed of the modem and the bandwidth to one of the designated test servers several times/day at random intervals (random to keep it fair and unpredictable to precent abuse). The test servers and the appliances would have to both be run by an independent 3rd party to ensure veriviability of the results and prevent abuse by users and ISPs.

    For every 1 Mbit average on the tests during the month below the "up to" advertised figure (if there is no connectivity, e.g. modem (usually owned by the ISP and thus their responsibility to fix/replace) or exchange fault) that check counts as 0 Mbit/s), you would expect to pay proportionally (in this example £1) less per month.

    Inherently fair and very workable. Now we just need an independent 3rd party to provide the monitoring appliances and the testing infrastructure. Of course, this 3rd party would have to be funded, e.g. by an additional monthly subscription + purchase of the tester appliances which those interested in partaking in such a thing would have to pay, so the consumers would get this extra cost which may or may not offset the savings on the reduction of their internet connections.

  26. Fuzz

    far more complicated than they are making out

    First we have sync speed, this is affected by two things, line quality and line length. Now line quality is down to openreach so it seem fair enough that if your quality isn't right you shouldn't have to pay. Line length is down to the physical locations of the property and the exchange whose fault is that? If the line is correctly sold, i.e. you are told at the time what speed to expect then I don't see a problem.

    Next you have contention, oversubscribed exchanges, backhaul peering, how do you test for that on an individual basis.

    Then you have slow websites, my Internet in my house runs happily at around 12Mbps but I don't see that all the time and it's not down to my ISP.

    However there is something else that is far less complicated to solve and that's use of the word unlimited. The best way to solve that is the same way that the mobile providers have with broadband dongles by selling a fixed amount of data.

  27. Lamont Cranston

    Superficially appealing,

    but wouldn't the "sliding scale" model of charging mean that there was no financial incentive to supply connections to hard to reach areas, thus widening the digital divide?

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: Superficially appealing,

      Should it not work the other way around? They could charge more (thus an incentive) if they increase the speed?

  28. NinjasFTW
    Thumb Down


    I would think that a consequence of this would be that a lot of people on poor connections now would simply find themselves dropped by the ISP as there wouldn't be enough revenue in it for them.

    The ISP doesn't control the conditions of the line heading to the house. Yes its annoying when to pay full price for a connection that isn't as good as others but the only solution is to improve the infrastructe and we all know there is generally a snow balls chance of that :(

  29. EvilGav 1

    As many have said, the problem is rather more complicated than has been suggested.

    The price isn't just for a connection speed, it's for all the fixed costs associated with having the hardware available to even make a connection - not including the line itself, which is frequently a seperate charge ~£11 (for ADSL based lines, Virgin is obv different).

    Those fixed costs are mostly the same, wherever you are in the country and actually make up the bulk of the monthly cost - QED the monthly fee remains constant and is not based on the actual speed you get.

    The other fixed costs include the payment for the backhaul, which is divided amongst all customers evenly also - should you also pay less if everything you access is on servers local to you and therefore you don't use the wider web ?

    The analogy with calling it "up to 1KG of sugar" or some such doesn't work, simply because, in rural areas where this argument is trying to get traction, you pay *more* for the sugar than you would in a town with multiple hyper-markets competing.

  30. Adam_W

    More Tarrifs needed

    If the ISPs offered more tarrifs, then the problem would resolve itself.

    I am with Bethere, and I get 16Mbps out of a 24Mbs subscription, about 60% of the advertised speed. My only options with the ISP are 12 or 24Mbps, so my options are to pay for 24Mbps and get 16 or drop my connection speed to 12. If they offered tarrifs for 14, 16, 18, 20, 22Mpbs I would be able to switch to whichever one was most appropriate to my line speed and be happy.

    Personally I think 'up to' advertising is fine, as long as the service delivered is within a reasonable margin. I could accept getting 20/24Mbps, but 16/24 takes the piss a little bit.

  31. mrfill

    Solution: Pay more

    Charging by volume will allow the government to introduce an 'internet tax' very easily. I believe Belgium does this.

    Anything other than uniform pricing will increase costs as the additional billing costs far outweigh any savings. Most ISPs have speed calculators for given numbers and these are generally reasonably accurate. If that says 2Mb and you get 2Mb then you dont have grounds for complaint, even if the generic advertising says 'up to xMb'.

    What Wispas campaign might achieve is a huge increase in costs for the majority. Upping the cost of an 'up to 8Mb' connection to, say £30/month will allow the few to have slight reductions for underspeed lines, subsidised heavily by the rest. Bad news. The ISPs are desperate to increase their charges and they would love this plan.

    Internet provision in the UK is pretty cheap when compared to a lot of countries and if you want a better service it will cost you a lot more. Telcos prefer to hand out huge profits to shareholders rather than investing in infrastructure. Witness Vodafone for example.

    The solution? Check to see who offers what locally and select whichever option suits you. If you dont like any of them, then dont buy any.

    To use the sugar analogy, if I buy a bag locally, it costs £1.20. If I buy at Tesco's (6 miles away) I pay 89p. I dont suggest that Tesco should increase their price to £1.20.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On this basis the ISP could charge a from rate , ie you get a minimum of 1 Meg but if you get 10 Meg you pay 10 times as much

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Part of the problem ...

    is ISPs using "conquer and divide" tactics to boost their profits ... At the end of the day, once the fixed-cost infrastructure has been laid, there is little difference between providing a 1M service, and a 100M service. So why do most ISPs offer myriad tiers (bundles, call it what you will) allowing them to get away with "up to" promises.

    It's a little like the car manufacturers in days gone past ... the only REAL difference between the L,CL,LX,GL,GLX,L+, CL+,GL+ .... models was simply that a company could give a middle manager a GL, safe in the knowledge he would be flattered it was one up from an LX, and that he could aspire to the GLX ......

  34. Rab Sssss

    and can we have

    Fines for those to stupid to filter their ADSL correctly or think a 20m cheap as fuck phone extension should work ok.

  35. This post has been deleted by its author

  36. c4m1k4z3

    willy waving

    on 50meg, get 50meg

  37. James Cullingham

    Split charge

    Why not split the charging, like with phone calls? Your monthly charge would then have two components.

    First, the 'line rental' equivalent, i.e. your payment for the ISP making a connection available. It would be not unreasonable for this to be based on speed. When I signed up with BT I was told what speed to expect (6Mb vs advertised 8Mb) and this has proved a good estimate. Other posted above have clearly had similar experiences. So, this part could be based on a reasonable (and periodically reviewable in case of significant changes in infrastructure, contention levels etc) assessment of expected speed.

    Second would be a usage-based fee, presumably charged in arrears, representing a fair share of the backhaul capcaity etc.

    The balance between the two would be an additional area of differentation between ISPs. No doubt in practice most would offer a bundle including a certain amount of data, as now, but for fair pricing there would ideally be much less bundling.

    After all, who should pay more: the rural-dweller with a 1Mb connection that keeps it busy 24/7 (monthly throughput 300GB+ unless my maths are out) or the urbanite with a 200Mb connection whose only use is checking email and a bit of shopping. I don't know the answer to that, as they're paying for different things: one is primarily paying for the exchange to premises connection and the other primarily for backhaul.

  38. Mike Tree

    Upto 70 mph

    Our road infrastructure has an upto 70mph limit.

    My rather old landrover will only do about 50mph, so perhaps I should only pay 71% of the Road Tax for my vehicle.

    There are several national speed limit roads near where I live. I defy anyone to drive down them at 60mph, even though that is the therectical limit.

    When I bought my latest vehicle, I checked the official fuel consumption figures. Apparently I can get 'upto' 52mpg. Like that will ever happen! Even if I drive like a nun.

    These days, most ISPs package their products with download limits, rather than speed.

    The upto speed is only the maximum of the technology they are using. They could say they use ADSL, ADSL2 & let the customer work out what speed they are likely to get.

    Anybody know who to contact to get my Road Tax refunded?

  39. Sloppy Crapmonster

    Internet service is like water/gas/electric etc.

    Your water service doesn't advertise up to 600 gallons/s..

    Your gas service doesn't sell based on rate, either. Neither does the electric company.

    No other service sells their product based on (up to! ha) how much of it they'll shove down your pipe at once. They all charge based on how much the service is used. If ISPs did that as well, that would probably get rid of most of the piracy they claim is causing so much stress on their poor overworked infrastructure.

    Of course, it's all bullshit and they wouldn't dare, because they're probably making money hand-over-fist on people paying for connection speeds they not only aren't getting, but wouldn't actually use anyway.

    1. Bill Fresher

      Re: Internet service is like water/gas/electric etc.

      "Your water service doesn't advertise up to 600 gallons/s.."

      .... but If you have low mains water pressure entering your home, due to, eg. inadequate pumping facilities, water mains that are too small, reduced pressure from the water main as a result of leakage, equipment failures or blocked service pipes then it's the water companies' responsibility to fix these to ensure adequate flow.

  40. Matt Collins


    An idea struck me while reading the comments - how about a rebate system that compensates those who have not received what they have paid for? Perhaps the rebate can be kept back until the end of the contract, giving the ISPs an incentive to actually improve the end-user's experience.

  41. TechnicalBen Silver badge

    Best idea ever!

    Or should that be "Up to the best idea ever!"?

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "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,"

    "Effect"? ..... seriously?


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: FFS

      Whilst I agree with the sentiment of your post it would have been better if you had used the 'reply' function so that others might be enlightened as to what it relates.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Partial payment fail

    Allowing partial payments would be a fail since there is no reasonable way to measure what bandwidth you have available.

    However, where OFCOM should step in is as follows. They should specify what contention ratio you should get as a minimum. the recourse here should be that if you get below a certain bandwidth on consecutive days you should be eligible for a refund (like if you lose phone service for so many days in a month); and also that should be grounds for early termination of your contract with no notice (by you, not by the company). Furthermore, if more than a certain percentage of people on a given exchange complain, continuing to advertise that bandwidth should be false advertising, and withdrawn accordingly. Just like the ISPs have websites that tell you whether you can connect to them in a given location, they should also maintain a website telling you what speed you will likely get from a given exchange.

  44. farizzle

    So in conclusion...

    A. Award a multiplier to the line/infrastructure rental depending on how much it contributes to the infrastructure subsidy pot (or receives as subsidy from the pot), but apply it to everyone in terms of cost to customer. This protects the base revenues for the BB provider by paying for the infrastructure

    B. Designate/Nominate speed-test servers for testing (which has to be done on installation or within 14 days after service install) and legislate on this test being built into the BB installation procedure nationwide

    C. Charge a broadband supply fee which is dependent on:

    1. Performance figures achieved in tests (no test within 14 days imposes a penalty to BB installation company and sets customer on lowest monthly supplier charge until test is completed). Tests should be carried out weekly/monthly/quarterly to check for improvements? Suggestions are welcome here - contention ratios mean it's possible to remotely test most nodes almost daily with decent accuracy.

    2. Mulitplier awarded when line rental was secured (if you're subsidised you pay slightly more and if your fee is subsidising others you pay slightly less)

    3. Data moved across the line per month during peak and off-peak times (think Electricity, Water, Gas maybe) *I would still advocate for unmetered connections for those who want them of course...

    I think this formula would result in people being happier with the COST of their broadband as it can be explained in performance terms - It would mean you pay e.g. UP TO £25/month for UP to 20Meg...

  45. Da Weezil

    The problem is often with BT's network

    How many lines - like mine - under-perform for the technical stats and are left like because BT Group are reluctant to carry out proper maintenance/ fully investigate and adequately rectify faults?

    Maybe a better idea would be for the wholesale price of BT lines to be related to the performance of those lines, This would also reduce the cost to people on inadequate ally lines which should have been replaced where broadband service is requested. BT coin in rental month in month out but seem reluctant to bear any costs in terms of maintenance (witness the number of people that Openreach try to wrongly charge for engineer call outs) for lines that mostly wouldn't exist if it wasn't required for broadband.

    The usual suspects are whining about rural dwellers... without them there would be shortages of food... and a shortage of fuel and power... much of the UK resource in those are rural based (look up LPG and Milford Haven)

    With all the emphasis on "e everything" (including entertainment governmental functions and entertainment media) it is time this country had a proper strategy for an inclusive UK wide network that provides a decent speed and data allowance for the citizens of this country. On the subject of cost... well most rural areas already pay a disproportionate price considering the lack of investment in rural areas, when many places are still on 10 year old ADSL 1 installations while in cities there have been 2 generations of upgrade investment and where people are paying less or a similar price to that charged for slow outdated ADSL1 in rural areas where no real investment has happened in 10 years.

  46. Matt Collins

    Sync rate/BRAS profile and... rebates!

    See my earlier comment for the financial idea, but most of you are over complicating the technical angle. It's simple - the maximum you can ever achieve is close to your sync rate (known to the exchange) and, more specifically, your BRAS profile (known to BT). Don't go trying to invent ways of measuring Internet speeds, it's silly.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "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 servers)?"

    I've signed for an up-to-20Mbs, but apparently I'm too far away from the exchange to benefit from ADSL+ and have a max of about 5Mbs. I certainly think I should be paying less than the full amount. To be honest, the full amount IS cheap, but I'd much rather pay more to get decent speed and think something like this could only actually instill competition.

  48. itzman

    I dont buy speed: I buy data transfer

    and that is what costs the ISP.

    I don't pay ten times as much to get a letter delivered in 2.4 hours either. (it would probably cost around £50 and some locations are practically unreachable in 2.4 hours anyway).

    IF the ISPS didnt quote speed, but just quoted cost per gigabyte plus a standing charge with 'delivery as fast as we can do it - typically 20ms' then people wouldn't be complaining.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sadly I live in Shrewsbury, which, honestly nobody gives a fuck about. They refuse to install FiOS here because taking up the cobblestones will "cost too much."

    However, I'd personally be happier if my shitty connection was stable.

    At the moment, the only time it is is if I get connected with a DownStream of 400 kbps.

    My ISP (TalkTalk) told me to contact their tech support team, and there's no way I'm falling for that again.

    Last time I was in the queue for over an hour before hanging up because nobody would take my call.

  50. Darren2k10


    The main complain doesn't hold water, as it isn't consistent with other similar areas. Take Sky for example, whether or not you get the full list of channels, they don't give you any discounts.

    When you move to an area, and into a property, it is your responsibility to accept what comes with this location. The network infrastructure that OpenReach has put in place was subsidised equally.

    The main issue is probably how all ISPs can offer one speed of up to X, yet BT can usually offer a higher speed of up to X, or at least closer to X, and how Openreach dates for BT are generally faster than with a competing ISP.. so much for Openreach being "open".

    1. TheWeddingPhotographer

      Re: Wispa...

      The thing is, its marketed and charged for "up-to" regardless of the facts on the ground.

      If BT said "honestly" "in this property the speed currently available is only "up to 2 meg so the packaged offered is thus a smaller cheaper one, as we cant offer you our 20 meg package, because we know we cant deliver it... "

      ... there would be nothing to complain about

      They however don't do that

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wispa...

        You are not charged for 'up to' anything. You are charged for a service.

        OK, OK, how about a compromise?

        You pay for a service. If however the performance of that service is poor, the customer could receive a rebate.

        Say if your achieved sync speed is less than half of the average for that connection type:

        I suggest that if you are paying £10pcm for broadband then a fair rebate would be 10%.

        This would be despite the fact that the costs of the connection to the supplier are no different, and in fact now administrative costs have slightly increased.

        So take your £1 and STFU. I would bet you money that you can't use your 'up to' speed anyway.

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ...we're all so used to the lies that......

    ..every single business spouts, that it you believe a word they say, your a bit dim!

    Really, you think your being offered a service for your benefit? No.

    Its to satisfy GREED!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ...we're all so used to the lies that......

      Obviously! no-one is going to take any notice of what you say as you are incapable of communicating properly in English.

  52. Dr Patrick J R Harkin
    Thumb Up

    This blog post suggested this about a year ago

  53. MartinBZM


    On the other side of the pond we have the same problem with ISPs. They advertise the skies and deliver the first floor.

    Why not charge analogous to the gas bill? The bill is specified to show how much you pay for your connection (infrastructure), the rent of the meter (transport) and for the amount you use. Oh, and the one you pay for the usage is often not the same that you pay for the connection. Same for electricity. That's how the competition started and prices have been dropping since the inception.

    I would be happy to do the same with my internet connection.

    Flat fee to get connected and a certain bandwith (like with electricity you can opt for single-phase or 3-phase hookup and a certain amount of Amps (up-to!) ).

    And pay for the usage in relation to the bandwith so if i download [email protected] the bill would be less than when I download [email protected], or even pre-paid usage like on a smartphone.

    just my €0,02.

  54. TheWeddingPhotographer

    What does up to 20 Meg actually mean?:

    Lets flesh this out with some numbers...

    What does up to 20 Meg actually mean? Well here in the countryside where I live, it means "just about" 1meg" download, and 0.5 meg upload

    So what can I do about it? BT say I can have a "uncontended 2 meg leased line" with a install fee of 1000's and a yearly charge of 1000's - I could go rent an office in the local city for that and still have change

    What's annoying here is that in areas where there is no competition (what no Virgin / cable!) BT are uninterested in upgrading the exchanges, as they are happy to charge me for "up to 20meg". Ironically, they are happy to pay to compete with virgin and supply fibre connections elsewhere

    It's appalling and dishonest marketing and billing.

    In areas where it is well known nobody gets 20meg, the price should be reduced accordingly. The teleco's do a fairly good job of (over) estimating speed at a given postcode (they can even do that online), because they know the infrastructure up to that point, so in essence, They ought to know they can only sell me "up to 1.2 mg" as that's what their own sites say is the speed I can currently receive


    The data model is OK, however, if im sitting here wanting to upload 2 gigs of data, the fact it could take me 2 hours or 2 days is a big deal, as it ties my connection up for anything else I'm doing. So yes I might want to be charged be GB, but yes I expect that GB to shift in a timely manner too. The argument that say gas is sold in a volume basis is OK, However there is a caveat - that is it also needs to be supplied fast enough to heat your house and cook your food

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    This whole issue is a massive pile of rubbish brought about by whining morons. Anyone with half a brain can understand how the system works.

    There is nothing wrong with the way ADSL is advertised or sold in the UK. It is the same as everywhere else in the world because it is an inherent characteristic of the technology.

    We have fairly good broadband in the UK. We pay fairly reasonable prices for it.

    All idiots like this 'wispa' are going to achieve is to make it more expensive and privacy-intrusive for everyone. I am perfectly happy with my current broadband price and performance and do not wish it to be messed up.

    I do not work for an ISP.

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