back to article Brits still getting bull from broadband providers

British broadband providers are still failing to warn punters that the real speeds they will experience are likely to be much slower than heavily advertised maximum speeds. Mystery shopper research from Ofcom found that three quarters of people were not told that real-world speed would be slower than the fastest possible line …


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  1. EddieD


    "Ofcom said it will change its code of practice by the summer to encourage ISPs to give clearer and more consistent information.

    If it cannot reach agreement with ISPs it will consider legislation."

    They've had long enough already, there should be room with in the Trades Descriptions Act to take action, but Ofcom are a complete and utter bunch of pussies

  2. bobbles31
    Thumb Down

    Never mind the miscalculations...

    what about the deliberate misleading advertising of "Unlimited"* broadband?

    *Subject to certain limits

  3. Shades
    Thumb Up

    I get...

    exactly what it says on the tin. Virgin Media & fibre optic win! (Although the upload speed is still abso-f*cking-lutely atrocious, 1Mbps download Vs 40kbps upload!!)

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Speed not the only problem...

    ... the real problem is people's inability to vote with their feet when they're not satisfied.

    Changing broadband provider can be a time-consuming nightmare. If short contracts were the norm (by statute if necessary) and we could change internet provider as easily as we change things like power provider (along with things like email addresses for life), the broadband companies might start to toe the line a little.

    Though given the rate of takeovers in the UK, allied with hugely inadequate monopoly oversight, the main problem may eventually be that the word provider won't be available in the plural...

  5. Squirrel

    and the 'unlimited' bit?

    OFCOM Please do something about it. It's called false advertising, plain and simple.

    Line speeds I can understand are tricky to predict from one house to the next as the quality of the 10+ year old copper lines can vary massively. And the wording 'up to' is usually prominent enough for any one. However, out and out lying about 'unlimited' is morally and legally wrong.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ISP speeds

    Having paid for a connection to Demon of 8Mbits I did only ever see a maximum speed of 1.5Mbits, and frequently as low as 800 to 900K. Not really sure how they get away with advertising and charging for this it would be nice to see these speeds reported accurately

  7. The Original Ash

    I'm not getting too enthusiastic

    Ofcom: "Please be more honest with customers when telling them about broadband speeds."

    ISPs: "No."

    Ofcom: "... Ok then."

    I like the way Europe did it with Microsoft over the browser integration: Fine them an exhorbitant amount PER DAY for not rectifying issues. £100k should do it. Don't give me that rubbish about smaller ISPs not being able to pay: They have smaller offices and distributed staffl; An email to all staff saying "Tell them that actual speed will degrade with distance from the exchange, amongst other factors, and that often this isn't the ISPs fault." Then they don't have to pay anything!

    Why must big companies make things so difficult...

    1. Barno

      Fair useage policies

      I also hate these fair useage policies attached to "unlimited" services. I hate them so much that there is a petition on the governments website. Of course by doing this it means that nothing will be done about it and I will get the standard wishy washy we don't want to upset anybody labour reply.

    2. Gaz Jay
      Thumb Up

      Me too..

      Me too. And when me and the missus went house hunting one of the stipulations I had was to make sure VM Fibre optic was in the street.

      1. Des

        I just ditched VM

        after almost 10 years I got fed up of their poor service; I now have a BT line with O2 broadband. O2 told me that I might get up to 13mbps (figures provided by BT) and I have run a couple of speed tests and got 10-11mbps, but the big plus for me is over 1mbps upload speed. That is significantly better than the upload speed I used to get with VM and the further benefits; static IP address and less than half the price mean I don't really miss VM.

  8. DJV Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    About bloody time!

    ISPs have been getting away with lies about speed for far too long.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Code of Practice

    OFCOM's Code of Practice for Broadband is little more than window dressing, the entire code is a joke.

    I'll wager there hasn't been a single violation of the code as of yet, because no-one is actually taking any time to enforce it.

    Don't believe me, ask OFCOM via a FOI request..... they simply do not check that any provider signed up to their code actually abides by it.

    Shoddy to say the least, but just what I've come to expect from Ofcom.

  10. Edward Noad

    Everyone worries about bandwidth...

    ...but no-one mentions latency. I was under the impression that dealing with the latter was a far better way of increasing the former, AKA WAN optimisation.

  11. Eponymous Cowherd

    African or European?

    I'll get my coat.....

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fairs Fair

    If They can advertise up speeds of x for y' pounds a month and throttle I should be able to pay upto y pounds a month also.

    peak periods / throttled being cheaper because the service is slower.

  13. hugo tyson

    Well duh.

    At no time when I bought a car did the garage warn me that I wouldn't be able to drive everywhere at 70mph either.

    The speed of the last hop to your hovel is not actually the bottleneck, it's the servers and the greater interwebs.

    1. garypen
      Thumb Down

      he who lives by the duh...

      Did the garage also forget to tell you that it was they who would determine the speed at which you travel and not yourself?

      0/10 analogy class

    2. chr0m4t1c

      Some background reading required

      What people are complaining about is being sold a car that can do "up to 70mph", but actually struggles to get to 30 even in ideal conditions.

      Yes, there are wider issues about what connections your traffic might pass through, but when someone a few streets away gets twice the speed when doing the same things then you have a legitimate grievance.

      Would you be happy if you were on the motorway travelling flat out in your car at 30mph only to be passed by others in the same make and model travelling at 70?

      And how would you feel if you took it back to the dealer and they said "Yes, some of them do that. Tough."?

  14. Steve Walker

    @hugo tyson

    Not what they are going on about.

    When you ring ISP XYZ and they say to you for £9.99 a month you'll get a 8meg line mate. Then when you get the line in it syncs at 2meg that is what the bitching is about. Being told you'll get 8 and you in fact get 2.

    F/A to do with anything other than the distance you line has run.

    FTTC should however improve this for the majority of people, however it is the bullshitting ISPs giving it all the wank about 8meg and 16meg lines to you door are what OF(to-the -brown-envelope)COM are going on about. And the fact unless you live in the grounds of the exchange you don't get.

  15. Tasogare

    "Actual broadband speeds may be lower than headline speeds"

    Can it really be that hard for whatever code of practice changes they're proposing to say something like:

    "Don't lie to your customers. No, that three point type asterisked note will not put out your flaming pants. In fact it pretty much acknowledges that you're being deliberately deceptive."

    We get the same thing this side of the pond. I'm not sure if it's worse here or not though.

  16. JoeTheAnnoying

    It's hard with DSL...

    At my house in the "boonies", my DSL never exceeded half its advertised limits. I was also very suspicious of the quality of the drop. I moved to within a mile of a station, ran all my own CAT 6 from the street throughout the house, and suddenly get the full advertised speed.

    The kicker? The two houses are only five miles (eight kilometres for you Easterners) apart.

    So I have a great deal of sympathy for the DSL providers here -- it depends so heavily on location and line quality that it would be impossible for them to tell you what specific speed you'd get. Of course, in the U.S. we do get the 'your speed will vary' at the bottom of every advert.

    As for cable, I have no sympathy. "You'll get 10 Mbps, as long as no one else on your block also uses it." I've never heard our cable company mention that little gem...

  17. Rab Sssss


    Since the only real way to to even guess is the BT line database (unless you have the current line attenution), perhaps they could light a fire under BTs arse to get that fucking accurate.

    Lets not forget the "stop plugging your ADSL into a £2 phone extension you fuck nuggets!!!!!!!" factor...

  18. jason 7

    Well Done BT...for once.

    Been with BT since 2001 for ADSL. Never had an issue.

    They emailed me last week to say they were finishing an upgrade to my exchange.

    I average 6.5Mbps/340K and the evening of the upgrade completion I was starting to hit 7Mbps. Wasnt too worried or expecting anything. I did notice BT had upped my exchanges maximum service from 8Mbps to 10Mbps though.

    Anyway the next evening I downloaded the new ATI drivers and was shocked to see not the usual 760kbps download speed but 1.7MB/s!

    A quick trip to and it now registers 13.56Mbps/890K!

    Chuffed to bits. Thanks BT.

    And no, I dont live in London/Manchester etc.

  19. Ed L

    @False advertising

    I'm pretty sure that every one of the adverts for broadband I have ever seen have the large words "UP TO" preceding any quote of maximum speed. Even before a bunch of fools started waving their arms in the air and shouting about 'not getting what they are paying for'.

    As the sync speed achieved by each customer varies depending upon a large number of factors, what figure do you expect them to advertise?

    As for voting with one's feet, BT standard ADSL connections will usually achieve the same sync speed at a premises regardless of the provider. If your ADSL speed is crap then fibre-optic might be better - but that is not comparing like for like.

    As has been mentioned previously, the sync speed is at best only one factor in the overall user experience of Internet applications.

    What a lot of fuss over nothing!

    1. Just Thinking

      Yes but

      I had a call from my ISP today suggesting that my ASDL connection might be slow, and if I transferred my phone to them they could get me 8Mb (currently I see 2Mb).

      I am currently on an 8Mb service. UPTO obviously. I thought 8Mb was what I was paying for. Stupid me, assuming 2Mb was them doing their best.

      Either they can supply 8Mb (but they aren't supplying it at the moment, even though I am billed for it) or they can't (so the offer is false).

      Perhaps ISP's sometimes throttle services so that they can charge you extra to give you what they promised in the first place? No of course not.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        might not be too far from the truth...

        That seems extreem but might not be to far from the truth, if you are using an exchange that your ISP has setup as an LLU then they are talking crap, if however you are still using BTs network then potentially you are still using ADSL, moving to the LLU may put you on ADSL2+ if that is the case an it seems odd if it is then you may get a speed bump, i went from around 500Kbps to 2.5Mbps in a previous home.

  20. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

    Consistent really...

    ISP: Sign up for our 250GB* lines for only 1.99 a month

    OFCOM: Ofcom is the communications regulator. We regulate** TV and radio, fixed line telecoms and mobiles, plus the airwaves over which wireless devices operate.

    *Actual broadband speeds may be lower than headline speed.

    ** Actual level of regulation may be lower than headline level.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    See it happen

    About the same time as they deal with other small print in adverts

    *the number of people a face cream is tried on is more than 20

    *a celeb advertising beauty products isn't wearing false eyelashes/hair extensions/photoshopped

    Actually if they could just stop that shouty double glazing windows guy first.....

    1. Jess--

      forget the shouty double glazing guy

      get rid of the opera singer....

      Go Compare... Go Compare

      Go for the Mute button more like it

  22. Anonymous Coward

    The idiot Factor

    Let's not forget "most" customers (parents) assume that paying for a 20Mbit line results in every website and online service giving you full speed, all the time, they have no knowledge of traffic balancing or servers under heavy load.

    Also most never try starting multiple downloads from fast servers and then checking the all-round speed via the network card, doing that i can easily hit the advertised 2500KB/s

    the bottleneck may not be local

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    About time too OFCOM

    Get on with it yes?

    I feel a complaint to OFCOM in the making regarding BT broadband and suggest the following model:

    Should a user experience download speeds of, say, 2880 Kbps with something like 5GB of downloads in that month then that is exactly what they should pay for - a percentage of contracted rate.

    Should the users contract permit up to 8 Mbps with, say, 10 GB of downloads and they hit 8 Mbps with 10 BG of downloads then the user pays 100% of contracted price.

    I think there should also be a switch from pay in advance contractual arrangement (it seems to benefit only the ISP) to pay in arrears based on metered performance. After all the t'internet is merely a utility yes?

    There you have it.

    Switch from contracted pre-pay to billed in arrears based on metered performance.

    And oh! each contracted arrangement should also give the user independent means to easily check download performance and download traffic quota.

    The emphasis is to encourage ISP's to uphold their claims and to do so in arrears payments rather than pre-pay.



    Now that really will encourage ISP's to look ay performance stats (consider them KPIs) and by upping those they return greater income and that would appear to be in everyone's best interest huh?

    1. Mark 65 Silver badge


      I can agree with scaling fees on the basis of paying for an up to 24Mb connection and only getting 2-4Mb although you cannot justify paying 2/24 of the fee - it isn't the fault of an ISP that you're 5km from the exchange. A lower fee yes, but not pro-rata.

      The point about changing fees relating to bandwidth use isn't going to happen. If I buy a 25GB allowance and don't use it then that's tough titties. The fact is I could have used it and the ISP would have to have catered for it in the wider network and will have factored in some provisioning based upon bandwidth caps of customers * probability of use. If their users all hit their caps then the ISP would have an unprofitable month otherwise they (may) make money - I don't believe that emergency purchase of backhaul capability/bandwidth is a nice market to be playing in. I guess for entities that have their own infrastructure things may play out a little differently.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Thumb Up


      "Should a user experience download speeds of, say, 2880 Kbps with something like 5GB of downloads in that month then that is exactly what they should pay for - a percentage of contracted rate.

      Should the users contract permit up to 8 Mbps with, say, 10 GB of downloads and they hit 8 Mbps with 10 BG of downloads then the user pays 100% of contracted price.

      think there should also be a switch from pay in advance contractual arrangement (it seems to benefit only the ISP) to pay in arrears based on metered performance."

      Payment in arrears proportional to line speed sounds like genius to me. I'd bet most ISP's would soon stop quoting maximum speeds if they knew the likely hood was they cannot deliver better than 50% (AFAIK ISP's still have *no* OFCOM obligation to deliver *any* data rate)*ever*.

      I hate to play devils advocate here but it is true that end-to-end download speed is set by the speed of the *slowest* link which may be a *long* way upstream if your looking at say hosted by duellingbanjosnet. I'd guess if you downloaded less than your cap and expected to pay less they would want some kind of surcharge if you exceeded your cap, which sounds *just* like metered internet access to me.

      An interesting ISP would be one that *consistently* delivered decent bandwidth with charges rising or falling to the nearest 10% with uncapped data volume (after all long term storage of it is *your* problem), charged in arrears and hosted outside the EU (Switzerland, Andorra, St Marino?) with a VPN link. If they could retain decent service levels as they grow they could be onto a winner.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    averages please

    I think this is simple, there is a speed curve for ADSL2 that drops dramatically after the first 500m to 1km from the exchange, after about 3KM is starts to even out a bit slowly dropping to about 4Mbps at around 4KM obviously this depends a lot of the state of the BT lines but the curve exists.

    Knowing this information as well as population densities its possible to work out the "average" speed for any given exchange.

    So i think ISPs should be forced to advertise the average speed possible and in the small print or beside it state the potential maximum speed possible, that way folk 4+ KM away wont have such a disapointment and those closer will get a bonus, everyone else gets roughtly what they expected.

    As for the unlimited business, that is shocking, OFCOM need to pull there fingers out and deal with this because whilst i agree with a fair use policy there is no guidlines and in some cases no warnings at all.

  25. TeeCee Gold badge

    Swallow on afterburners?

    I think you'll find that jet-propelled swallows use "reheat" on this side of the pond.

  26. UkForest


    After being with TalkTalk for years now I thought I'd suggest to the Outlaws that they signed up with them too after the Father-in-law said he wanted internet...

    Onto the TalkTalk website, and you obviously had to type in your existing landland number and postcode, STRAIGHT away it said it'll cost £18.48 all in and the expected speed of the line would be 2.1MB/s.

    After install and a bit of time to bed in, it's bang on 2.1MB/s, why can't all ISPs be this open?!

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    It is time for the ISPs to face reality

    Those with some experience going back to dial-up modems at 14.4 Kbps will know that the same excuses have been made year on year on year.

    So, fair enough, OFCOM will also know that the same excuses will have been given and should insist upon a change in model and operating methods.

    ISP say: Pay me your lots of money and I will gives you this

    (and they know they do not mean it and have no intention at all of honouring it)

    OFCOM should say: time to go to metered access ISP boyos. You tried for years, failed for years so now is the time to face reality and charge for what you provide - one month in arrears!

    Plus the double-good whammy that one knows what one gets and one is billed accordingly.

    An element of pro-rata has to be present.

    Why should one user with BT Option 1 get better connectivity transfers/speeds (Ok capped download quota) than someone on Option 3?


    I guess I know what BT will do now = tweak oversubscription algorithms to show fastest speed for a few milliseconds will be higher Option packages, drat!

  28. TJ 2

    Read the small print.

    ISP's advertise the maximum connection speed and have disclaimers which state clearly that your specific connection speed will vary because of factors out of their control.

    If YOU fail to read this then it is YOUR fault not theirs if you are unhappy with what you get.

    If YOU have any common sense you will pick an ISP that has relaxed contractual terms so you can either downgrade or change service to another(cheaper) ISP if you don't get decent connection speed at your location. (E.g why pay for upto12mb when you get 2mb, better to change package/ISP and pay for say upto 8mb).

    You can check how far you are from your local exchange, this simple action alone will give you a clue as to what to expect. You live 8km from your exchange and buy an upto 20MB service and only get 4.5mb, well boo hoo, what do you expect? Better to pay for an upto 8mb service and accept the reality of your situation.

    Unlimited means unilmited, ISP's should not be able to use this word if their service has any form of shaping or capping. OFCOM should get the cocks out of their mouths and do something about this misrepresentation.

    There are some really good ISP's out there who for around £10-20 a month offer "Real Unlimited" internet over ADSL and ADSL2+ (so 8-24Mb/s max) and I tell you now that they are not Pipex, Sky, BT, Talk Talk, Orange, Virgin or any of those large and bastardised companies who do cap you and who do shape your traffic at peak times and who do want to squeeze for every penny but only offer you for a poor service.

    My ISP charges me £22 monthly(IP is Static too), I get almost 19Mb/s down and 2Mb/s up. They don't cap me, they don't shape my traffic at peak times, they don't email me with threats of disconnection if I have heavy use for a sustained period, they don't tie me into a 12month contract either and they are very helpful when things do go wrong.

    3 Years and very happy. Used BT before that and it was shoddy at best. Use Clueless and Wotless before that and wanted to kill someone. Used BT before C&W when I had ISDN and ended up with a £900 bill for a fault in their modems, again I wanted to kill someone lol.

    Avoid Stack-em-high-sell-em-cheap-IPS's they will bend you over and give you what-for.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      its miss representation, no one is saying they dont mention it in the small print.

      If i buy a car and it says capable of 60mpg and in small print it says this may not be the case and it only gets 5mpg that would be grossly missrepresented regardless of the small print, instead car manufactures have to give two averages one for city driving one for highways which isnt gonig to be true buts its more accurate and doesnt hide any major nasty facts.

      ISPS should do the same, see my post above for my average speed idea.

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