back to article Ads overseer told to bring down 'up to' broadband speeds

UK watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority has been advised to ban the advertising of broadband speeds prefixed with the phrase 'up to'. The Communications Consumer Panel (CCP), a body formed by comms watchdog Ofcom to be its independent ear on the street, warned the advertising regulator last week that "the current …


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  1. jake Silver badge

    That word "broadband" ... I don't think it means what you think it means.

    How many frequencies, exactly, does your so-called "broadband" system operate across?

  2. Miek

    "Up to" !!!

    What about bloody "Unlimited" ?

    1. Oliver Mayes

      Did you even read the article?

      It says right there that they are also investigating the use of the word unlimited in mobile and fixed data plans. There, saved you the trouble really.

    2. Stuart Halliday

      unlimited : = limited

      I bought a HTC Desire HD from Carphone warehouse. Internet connection for it was marketed to me as "unlimited". After I got it, mobile phone provider told me it was 500MB a month.

      When I queried this I was told it was an issue with the shop that sold it to me, "speak to them".

      I did, Carphone warehouse said it was effectively unlimited for the average phone user.

      I argued but to no avail. This was a high-end smartphone with apps and web browser, RSS, Facebook, youtube, features.

      I soon discovered I needed 2.5-3GB a month. But I'm only allowed 0.5GB, so I had to pay up a further £8 a month to purchase the excess.

      I certainly will never trust Carphone Warehouse again. So they've lost me as a future customer forever more.

  3. Shadowfirebird

    What about the rest?

    I know there are supposed to be rules about when you can use "up to" -- but, honestly, when have they *ever* worked?

    "Kills up to 99.9% of germs..."

    "Save up to £324..."

    It's *always* a con.

  4. dotdavid

    Up to sounds great

    I think they should allow us to pay 'up to' the monthly fee, according to the speed we actually get.

    1. Fluffykins Silver badge

      I almost second that

      just pay "Up to" the monthly fee.

    2. Oliver Mayes

      99.9% of germs

      Is only used because it's impossible to prove that 100% of them are dead. Unless you've got a really good microscope, a guaranteed sterile environment and a few days to spare checking each and every one. Pretty much any bleach will kill 100% of germs, but if you can't prove it then you can't have it in your advertising, up to 99.9% is, apparently, acceptable as it's not specifying an exact figure.

    3. Elmer Phud

      That's marketing for you

      Advertisers are reliant on knowing that many people don't read 'up to' as 'you'll be lucky, sunshine' but see it as 'almost always' or 'it only happens to others'.

      There's no way, it seems, to have a simple on-line test that gives a rough idea of what speeds to expect. There is for copper pairs but the standard line condition test that returns things such as distance, capacitance and losses somehow is officially no good for predicting how much you're likely to end up with.

      I used to work in broadband repair and knew exactly how much I'd be getting at home based on the test without connecting to my hub and running data speed tests. But really it can be simpler than that with copper - how far are you from the exchange and what's the speed leaving the exchange?

      It gives a rough idea - good enough for potential customers but maybe that's the problem.

      Fibre suppliers have no bloody excuse and all ISP's ought to own up and publish throttling policies - also highly unlikely.

      "There are more germs on the kitchen surface than there are on the toilet seat!"

  5. Tegne

    What is the problem with the 'up to' claim anyway?

    It's the broadband equivalent of the MPG ratings that car manufacturers advertise and nobody wails on about not getting the claimed 60mpg quoted because the ideal circumstances to get those sorts of figures are largely unachievable.

    1. AdamWill

      erm, no.

      Car manufacturers don't quote 'ideal' MPG figures, they quote the figures achieved in independent testing, which is mandated by law and standardized across the industry. These figures don't usually quite exactly *match* real world results, but importantly, they are not biased towards any particular manufacturer and they do generally *reflect* real world results; if one car has a better government-tested efficiency rating than another, you are almost certainly going to find the same thing, even if your _numbers_ don't exactly match. So the system enables consumers to make an informed decision, and hence achieves its goal.

      This is nothing at all like the 'up to X MB/s' deal.

  6. Recaf


    It's time to apply the same rules to broadband as the banking sector: making 'typical speed' the most prominent element of the advertisement.

    1. John Bailey


      Typical for who..

      The majority live in urban areas, where they will be reasonably close to an exchange, while a minority will live in rural areas, where 5 miles from the exchange would be "normal". Average it out, and there will be a huge range either side.

      Selling a 2 gig connection, but delivering say 10 gig, or 256 meg is not really useful? But for national advertising, that is about as accurate as they can get.

      What they can reasonably do is make a line check, and quote the deliverable speed to the individual customer based on that before they sign up. Which is happening with Orange at least. Perhaps others are doing it too.

      Last year, I was sold a 13 gig connection, and that is what it usually is. Even at peak.

  7. Chris 211

    Why is it so hard!

    Some of us get the minimum speed some of us actually do enjoy the highest speed and there is a reasonable technical reason why each and every customer might be different and have something between the two ranges so, why is it so difficult to enforce the 'speed' (bandwidth) to be described as "Depending on the distance from your exchange you can expect a minimum of 256kb/s to a maximum of 40mb/s" instead of 'up to' which means nothing. The biggest change should be the pricing, you should pay for the the bandwidth you can get (or want), in steps of reasonable jumps. Then when you finally have the install and find out you can only get 1mb/s down your not paying the same as someone who can get 5mb/s!

    1. kwikbreaks


      it doesn't cost the ISP any less to provide 1Mbps ADSL than 20Mbps ADSL though. In fact it can easily cost more as there is more chance of a long line developing a problem and generating a support call. It is the volume downloaded that is the cost differentiator not the speed it gets downloaded at (within reason and on the same technology).

  8. Chris 211

    Typical Speed no good!

    When the Typical Speed actually varies from 512kb/s up to 40mb/s its not really a useful indicator, Yes I know that's not typical speed but you know what I mean the range is far too wide. A range of bandwidth should be quoted, "From 512kb/s up to 40mb/s depending on distance from your exchange". That statement is reasonable for adverts anywhere, then more detailed figures come from people doing the postcode test. Advertising has to talk to everyone, not just the few.

  9. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    Here we go again ...

    People forgetting that the speed of the damp string between your home and the exchange is only part of the problem. I've a customer that gets the full 8M down.832k up (yes, they are next door to the exchange) - but it's a good day if they can get 1.5M of actual throughput.

    Given that more and more people are actually using the bandwidth they think they've paid for*, then a more useful figure would be a minimum throughput - for which there is already an acronym of CIR (Committed Information Rate) which is how many business services have been sold in the past.

    At the moment, you may have a choice of many ISPs all selling "up to 8M" - how does an average, not technically educated, person tell which offers the best value for them ? For many, they assume "up to 8M" is the same as "up to 8M" and buy the cheapest. If they could see that (for example) the £5/mo offering had a CIR of only 25k, but the £20/mo offering came with a CIR of perhaps 256k, then they would have a better idea which would be more suitable for them. Far better than having to go on reputation and only find out after committing to a long contract** that the service they've chosen has a rubbish throughput.

    * They haven't paid for 8Mbps - they've paid for a share of that. A full *M uncontended service would cost "considerably more" than anyone pays for an ADSL line at the moment.

    ** Something else that ought to be stopped.

  10. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    I'm happy with "up to" speed estimates

    I was offered "up to " - can't remember, some silly figure. When they handed over the contract to sign, I carefully wrote "up to" in front of the monthly tariff.

    "What's that for?"

    "Well, that amount is a typical payment which many of my suppliers receive but obviously I can't guarantee that you'll get that every month or indeed, ever, as there are too many variables beyond my control." Oddly, they wouldn't accept that argument so we had to go our separate ways

    Hmmm. We have a "Joke" icon - where's the "Awkward bugger" icon?

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