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 Silver badge
    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


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