back to article Mythical broadband speeds to plummet in crackdown on ISP ads

Broadband providers will only be able to advertise "average" download speeds if at least 50 per cent of customers are able to receive them at peak times, under new rules announced today by the advertising regulator. This marks a change from the current position that advertised "up to" speeds if they were available to at least …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well...

    ...that's Virgin fucked (pun intended)

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Well...

      Well, BT's been fucked for ages...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well...

      Do I get a sausage roll?

      1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

        Re: Well...

        The Reg special?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well...

      I actually get advertised speeds most of the time.

      However:

      1. I have put my modem in bridged mode

      2. I have a proper CPE behind it (it can do 4GBit+ despite being virtualized).

      If you are getting really bad speeds on Virgin your prime suspect is not Virgin, but the Netgear POS with Puma inside which is sitting in-between Virgin and your network. While it is supplied by Virigin, it is a malaise which is global, not Virgin specific. You should thank Intel and the CPE software developers for that one.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Well...

        Yep, never had a problem with VM. BT (and its resellers) where a nightmare!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Well...OFCOM: Never mind the quality, feel the width

        If you are getting really bad speeds on Virgin your prime suspect is not Virgin, but the Netgear POS with Puma inside

        Actually, the speeds with VM's Superhub 3 are usually fiine. Doing a quick check now, and this very moment I'm getting 226 Mbps against a Vodafone server in the UK, for a contracted 200 Mbps connection. Cynics will reasonably assume VM are prioritising test loads, but I can bypass that by VPN'ing to a US exit point, and then testing against a different third party US server, and I'm STILL getting 185 Mbps, inclusive of the cross Atlantic connection (latency's nothing to write home about, as you'd expect).

        But your point is valid and very important, and it is that OFCOM need to look at connection quality as much as speed. Not all, but many people have access to high speed broadband. And for those on Virgnmedia, due to the Puma 6 problems, any Superhub 3 connection suffers frequent and significant latency spikes to 150-250 ms, packet loss and interrupted connections. That peak latency is like trying to game on a US west coast server from the UK - the experience is very poor. In some cases the game servers see the latency shoot up over 100 ms and kick you altogether. And it isn't just first person gaming - any application that is sensitive to latency and packet loss (eg some streaming, VOIP, video calls) is affected in some measure. It seems to play up with my Chromecast.

        For casual downloaders and browsers, the Superhub 3 appears fast and effective; but If you're a gamer, or use other latency sensitive applications, avoid a Virginmedia contract unless you have no choice. The charlatans even market their faster connections as "broadband for gaming", when they KNOW that the gross connection speed has no relevance to gaming, and they likewise KNOW that their mandatory cable modem is eminently unfit for gaming purposes. Although existing customers know VM are trialling a (supposed) firmware fix, publicly the company are in absolute denial about the existence of the problem, and worse still, they are actively foisting the Supergarbage 3 on both existing and new customers. And although the Puma 5 had related problems, the previous Superhub 2 had measurably less bad performance than the SH3, so despite a 33% speed increase recently, my connection quality has been made worse.

        I don't blame Intel, or even Arris who make the SH3 - they are free to make and market junk if they want. Looking at the Intel Management Engine fiasco, it appears that Intel simply aren't any good at software. I blame Virginmedia and Liberty Global for their total failure to adequately specify and/or test the Superhub 3, their poor communication, and for offering no alternatives for customers who want and are paying for a decent quality connection that isn't being delivered.

        1. Muscleguy Silver badge

          Hub 3 not our solution

          We just got a V6 box and it came with a Hub 3. So thinking it would be a good thing I activated and installed it. Our old box was set up on non default name and password and not broadcast. I went in from my laptop via web with an ethernet cable and immediately hit problems, it first insists you change the default password, good advice, but when I did that when I tried to log in neither my password or the default worked. After three resets I rang Virgin and the Indian tech did something so that got fixed.

          Except changing the network name and passwords nothing could connect to the 2.4GHz channel, just the 5. The only suggestion the Indian tech could offer was to reset to default. I threw a wobbly and said that was unacceptable and got escalated to a very good, nice English guy who after discovering our old router was a 2ac pragmatically suggested I reinstall it and he then got it registered and working again from their end.

          There is something wrong with our Hub 3 and I refuse to run it in full default mode. We are surrounded by VM and BT boxes in default mode. I cannot see a single unique router name. They all broadcast, we don't. We get security by hiding pretty secure in amongst all the low hanging fruit.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Hub 3 not our solution

            @ Muscleguy

            Judging by my experience, and other reports on VM's customer forums, the field techs are under instruction to replace SH2 models with SH3 on any customer visit, and usually take the SH2 away, even when the customer asks to retain it.

            The Superhub 3 is a complete dog of a device. It has the slowest interface I've seen on any device since the year 2000 (not joking), it struggles with latency, dropped packets, there's multiple reports of wifi problems and the router side losing customer settings. When changing settings it frequently returns a white screen to the computer, so you can't tell if the changes have been accepted. Even when it works, I find it often takes two or three attempts to make a new client wifi device to connect for the first time, and the wifi signal strength is no better than the SH2.

            The Superhub 2 was a distinctly average modem/router with its own problems. It takes a special kind of genius to actively make things worse from such a low base, luckily Virginmedia employ people like that. I say luckily because can you imagine the havoc they'd make in another field? The only area I can think of that has such deeply ingrained incompetence is the Cabinet.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Hub 3 not our solution

              > field techs are under instruction to replace SH2 models with SH3 on any customer visit

              They seem to be obtaining stock so they can hand them to assertive gamers with high value packages to prevent them leaving.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Hub 3 not our solution

                They seem to be obtaining stock so they can hand them to assertive gamers with high value packages to prevent them leaving.

                Whilst probably true, the Puma 5 chipset in the SH2/2ac performed poorly on latency, so it isn't exactly a customer win:

                "Virginmedia Vivid 300, ultrafast broadband for gamers. Only £48 a month, and includes free secondhand modem and router that's a bit less shit than the one we'd like you to have"

    4. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: Well...

      Depends where you live. We're in the 'burbs of Dundee, detached or semi-detached houses, lots of elderly not silver surfers etc and we get pretty good speeds. The boxes are about 200m away across the park.

      The not very dense population means we get engineers whether they are Virgin or British Gas etc pretty quickly.

      I accept that this situation does not pertain everywhere, but if you choose to live in the right places, it clearly does. If there are a lot of teenagers and Millenials in your hip-hop and happening hipster 'hood you like living in then the cables will be crowded. But live somewhere different and they aren't.

      Also we have been with Virgin for some time and they keep increasing our speeds without asking for more money, not upfront anyway. I've lost track of the number of speed bumps we've had and I test the reality occasionally and it is real. Except when my wife comes home and hits her laptop, phone and ipad simultaneously. But there the choke point is the router.

      1. streaky Silver badge

        Re: Well...

        The problem is VM are really an amalgamation of lots of different networks. Some were good, some were bad and they've done nothing to improve the situation. So in some parts of the country you get advertised speeds and in other parts you get massive contention and frequent kit failures.

        Worse than that there was a time when they flogged ADSL gear on BT's network branded as virgin product which did them massive reputational damage. Whoever came up with that one was a moron and should have faced the firing squad.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well...

      not for me. VM fibre broadband on the cheapest option is 100MB/s.

      Every so often I'll post the results from a speedtest to annoy various copper-bound friends.

      1. Jon Massey

        Re: Well...

        Have you unplugged the cable running into your superhub and had a look at it? You might be surprised at what you find

    6. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Well...

      I am on Virgin cable and get the advertised 'up to' speeds most of the time, slightly less at peak times.

      'Average' is better than 'up to' but the real problem is that no single statement of speed tells the full story.

      A better guide would be a table which shows what speeds 50% of customers are getting at particular times, weekdays and weekends, at peak, daytime and overnight, or what percentage gets what is advertised at those times.

      Local, regional and national figures would also help. I don't expect all that data to be included in every advert, but they should all be required to make that information public.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Well...

        "A better guide would be a table"

        Too complicated for those who just want to look at a single number. How would the likes of Amber choose their ISP?

  2. Alister Silver badge

    CAP's sister body, the Advertising Standards Authority, also today ruled that it is not materially misleading to describe broadband services that use fibre-optic cables for only part of the connection as "fibre broadband"

    Great, so anything that uses a fibre trunk to the exchange, and copper to the subscriber, can be fibre broadband?

    Sheesh!

    1. Tigra 07 Silver badge

      RE:Alister

      Just as "unlimited" data has a solid limit in the small print.

      The ASA needs to stop letting companies redefine the meanings of our words.

      Maybe we can advertise broadband as "full-fibre" or "part-fibre" for this issue?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Bamboozled, Obfuscated "up to" wet string 'is' Fibre by this def, as long reaches the premises.

        You're forgetting they (ASA) were the first, redefining the definition of Advertising Standards Authority. What does "Standards Authority" even mean now? not fcuking much, that's for sure.

        Fcuking weasels looking after the own, just like the regulator Ofcom.

        BT have probably parachuted their bank rolled 'ex-employees' into ASA too, as well key the decision making management roles at Ofcom, which can be evidenced, if you only look at Ofcom related LinkedIn profiles.

        (Have to say I quite liked MP Matt Hancock's definition "Copper to the Premises", it isn't that bad in terms of defining/differentiating products).

      2. Blotto Bronze badge

        Re: RE:Alister

        @Tigra 07

        "Maybe we can advertise broadband as "full-fibre" or "part-fibre" for this issue?"

        like Fibre To The Cabinet?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: RE:Alister

        Maybe we can advertise broadband as "full-fibre" or "part-fibre" for this issue?

        It's always part-fibre, even if you have an optical port on your PC (who does?) it's copper on the motherboard.

        Who gives a fuck if it's a copper wire or a glass one anyway? It's the performance that matters.

      4. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: RE:Alister

        Maybe we can advertise broadband as "full-fibre" or "part-fibre" for this issue?

        I think Gigaclear use the right set of words: "Pure-Fibre".

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: RE:Alister

          "Pure-Fibre"

          If they have any optical amplifiers in the link it will use fibre doped with something like erbium, so definitely not Pure. It wouldn't work if it were.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I agree. Where I live only one SP provides FTTP. The whole of that network is new and it is all fibre. Any of the others claiming to provide a fibre network are not being honest about how they provide service.

    3. rh587 Silver badge

      By that standard, Dial-Up can be classed as fibre internet, so long as I use a short length of fibre between the inbound modems and the outgoing ISDN backbone...

    4. Disgruntled of TW
      Thumb Down

      'Been saying that for years ...

      @Alistair

      ... and made my own ASA "fibre broadband mis-representation" complaint and got the same answer. It's like saying because the M25 is 4 lanes wide for 99% of its length, putting in a single 10m stretch of single lane, one-way dirt track doesn't affect the traffic flow at rush hour. You're being sold a motorway with the throughput of a country lane. Just fine.

      So much for "protecting the consumer".

  3. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
    Happy

    YMMV

    I'd like to see a T&C that uses "your mileage might vary".

  4. Commswonk Silver badge

    Weasel Word...

    CAP's sister body, the Advertising Standards Authority, also today ruled that it is not materially misleading to describe broadband services that use fibre-optic cables for only part of the connection as "fibre broadband".

    So it is misleading, just not "materially" so. Perhaps the ASA could apply some thought about defining the point at which something that is misleading becomes "materially" so.

    The obfuscation will no doubt continue, but just in a different way (or ways)

    Edit: Does this not clearly demonstrate that the ASA is perfectly happy for companies to mislead potential customers, as long as they don't materially mislead them, irrespective of what it is that they are trying to sell?

    1. FIA

      Re: Weasel Word...

      Does this not clearly demonstrate that the ASA is perfectly happy for companies to mislead potential customers, as long as they don't materially mislead them, irrespective of what it is that they are trying to sell?

      Is this new though? ("Do you want salt and vinegar on those chips sir?")

      Does it actually matter? Telling people they'll get a speed of X when most only get a fraction of that is misleading and detrimental as what you receive isn't what you expect, however whilst describing fibre->copper broadband as 'fibre' is misleading in the sense it's incorrect, does it actually matter in regards to the quality metrics people care about? If I buy a 50Mb internet service and I get 50Mb do I really care for the transmission medium?

    2. really_adf

      Re: Weasel Word...

      As far as I can see, the logic is that it's fine because everybody's calling FTTC fibre.

      To my recollection, it's all Virgin's fault, as their existing HFC network was transformed overnight to provide "fibre" internet by the marketing department. (OK, there was new hardware at both ends, but the network itself had just as much fibre as before.)

  5. BobChip
    Unhappy

    Use median speeds instead

    Silly idea of course, because the adslingers would have to understand what "median" means in the first place, and then gather enough information to calculate it. No chance on either count ......... Just keep on lying and hope that no one notices..

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Use median speeds instead

      Silly idea of course, because the adslingers would have to understand what "median" means in the first place

      And so would prospective customers.

    2. Whitter

      Re: Use median speeds instead

      Or better yet, lower quartile or P10, as 49% is a lot of wiggle room.

      And require that the lower value is always at least twice as visible as any other (be that mean, median, upper quartile, P90 or whatever)

    3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Use median speeds instead

      "because the adslingers would have to understand what "median" means"

      No, they wouldn't. They'd just have to pay the penalties until they learned that they should ask someone who does before making public statements on behalf of the company.

      The Laws of the Land aren't like the Laws of Nature. Compliance is entirely optional.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Use median speeds instead

        No, they wouldn't. They'd just have to pay the penalties

        Pay what penalties? The ASA merely tell dodgy advertisers not to repeat the specific advert they got caught on. They have no powers to fine them. Which is unsurprising, since the ASA is essentially a self-regulator, paid for and peopled by the advertising industry.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Use median speeds instead

          "Which is unsurprising, since the ASA is essentially a self-regulator, paid for and peopled by the advertising industry."

          This! There seem to be a lot of people complaining about the ASA without realising what the ASA actually is.

          It's one of those things set up because government told the advertising industry to sort itself out or face legislation to do the job for them. The ASA was the result, ie just enough to forestall enforced government regulation.

  6. ukgnome

    I wonder if they will be using the data from all the Sam Knows white boxes?

    And is this an end to traffic management?

    SSE will now be rated as a 1Mbs service

    1. Tigra 07 Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: I wonder if they will be using the data from all the Sam Knows white boxes?

      Sky adverts will no longer have a speed on the adverts due to the amount of throttling. Some days i was unable to use their broadband at all between 6 and 11pm...And i live in a developed town, not the countryside...

      Much happier with Virgin these days. Bumpy start, but better than Sky.

      1. Adelio

        Re: I wonder if they will be using the data from all the Sam Knows white boxes?

        I have been with Virgin since they first laid cables down our street a Long time ago. (at least 15 years)

        I started with Dual ISDN (2 X 64k lines), When Broadband first arrived i took it straight away (500k) and have been continually upgraded over the years and am now on 200mb.

        Probably had about half a dozen times when it has stopped working over that time. I think i have had at least 4 different boxes (I am currently on the latest box, HUB 3).

        Whenever i test it it always gives me (at least) the stated speed.

        Yes, the price keeps going up but the service (for me) has always been good and the speed also good.

        If I had to move house then one of the major considerations would be whether i could get Virgin broadband at the new house.

        1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

          Re: Considerations when moving house

          If I had to move house then one of the major considerations would be whether i could get Virgin broadband at the new house.

          That is only half the story. Another part is how many others in the street are leeching off the same bit of NTL Coax that I would be using.

          The final question to ask is what is the download speed between 14:00 and 23:59?

          (supplemental is to find out the speeds when a new release of something like GTA or Call of Duty is released)

          It is not use getting 200Mbits when at the time you want to use it, all you can get is 1Mbit because every man and their dogs are download GOT or something.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: VM and Hub 3

          I have VM 200mb and do get the full speed. And for myself and my family it's brilliant. I get around 50mb on wifi devices round the house. I have Hub 2 but I once asked the engineer about the Hub 3- while he was here doing some work. He was very clear that I should avoid it. And that's their engineer!

          AC because I know there's no chance that VM would be able to identify me from my posts, and track the nice engineer down, but even so...

  7. Kevin Johnston

    Advertising Standards

    It seems those standards are low but the ASA are proudly announcing that they are now out of the gutter and laying in the road instead.

    While it is good that there has been a change you wonder how this rates as an improvement as they have been given clear permission to continue re-interpreting words to enhance the appearance of their offerings. Do you think I would get off a speeding ticket if I could show my average speed was within the stated limit?

  8. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Is anyone thinking "About f**king time"?

    Given how long UK ISP's have gotten away with this sort of BS.

    It's a very small step in the right direction.

    1. Haku

      Re: Is anyone thinking "About f**king time"?

      Exactly my thoughts, they've been getting away with that crap since the dialup days.

      I applaud this move from the advertising regulator, although it remains to be seen what deception the ISPs will now try to get away with since they can no longer use "up to".

      However it's too late for me, I am now actually getting the "up to" speeds on my Infinity 2 connection, well, when it doesn't cut out at random intervals usually between a minute and ten minutes, except for that time the router couldn't connect for 3 and a half bloody hours.

      1. PiltdownMan

        Re: Is anyone thinking "About f**king time"?

        The ISPs will just refuse to connect low speed users, to bump up their own 'Average' speeds.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Is anyone thinking "About f**king time"?

          Then they'll complain, and not-spots can be plotted, meaning bad press for them.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Is anyone thinking "About f**king time"?

            "Then they'll complain, and not-spots can be plotted, meaning bad press for them."

            You think? Most ISPs only serve certain areas today.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Given how long UK ISP's have gotten away with this sort of BS.

      oh, it's only been what, about... TWENTY years? At least this is when I joined a "broad" band club. The "up to" might have gone back further, mind you.

  9. Lee D Silver badge

    Moved into new flat.

    Got bothered by the "management agent's official ISP" (never heard of them, but they were "official"). Told them where to stick it, as it was just a BT line in the flat anyway.

    Went on the broadband checkers. Apparently, in the middle of a major town within the M25, I can get "up to 3Mbps" if I go with ADSL, "up to 5Mbps" if I go VDSL ("fibre"). I literally never bothered to activate the line. That's just LUDICROUS.

    Bought a 4G Wifi router instead. No phone rental. No sales calls. My existing 4G phones all get 10's of Mbps and perfect signal. And there's a package for 40Gb for less than I would have to pay to run a BT line + line rental. Lots of neighbours have similar, judging by the Wifi SSID names nearby.

    God knows what BT think they are playing at. Those cables or the local exchange must be bloody atrocious.

  10. Mike Scott 1

    ISPs are already dodging numbers by using phrases like 'fastest ever', which is entirely meaningless, but good enough to convince the average consumer it's just dandy. Expecting service providers to be honest? It'll never catch on.

  11. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Stop

    Maybe, part of the problem is .... punters ?

    It's all very well obsessing about download speed. But that's just one metric in a constellation of parameters. Howabout DNS responses, wasted bandwidth due to advertising cruft, round trip times, contention, latency.

    It's like only talking about a cars top speed, rather than any other features which might tip the balance - e.g. boot space, fuel economy etc.

  12. Terry 6 Silver badge
    Flame

    Weasel words

    The fact that the ASA allows such phrases at all tells us all we need to know about the ASA and nothing about the broadband or any other product. Clearly "Up to..." is fully 100% meaningless in any context ( e.g.the " up to 80% off " in the sales when nothing anyone wants to buy will be reduced by >15% ).

  13. Peter Galbavy
    FAIL

    the law of unintended consequences ...

    Just like schools who either refuse to take on or later exclude poorly performing pupils to keep their grade averages up this may well result in a similar impact on those who test as having lower performance; "Sorry, we are unable to provide you a service as we cannot guarantee performance" or similar weasel words.

    So, unless this is tied to a kind of universal service obligation then it will actually result in less (but on average faster) broadband. Sigh.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: the law of unintended consequences ...

      But people refused service like that will tend to complain. Get enough of them and you can end up with negative press coverage.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: the law of unintended consequences ...

        What do you think that would achieve?

        Outside of a USO there's no way that a private company can be forced to provide service at a loss.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: the law of unintended consequences ...

          Isn't there one already to cover rural areas? If not, there should be...AND a requirement that businesses serve the people first, make money second.

  14. Nick Kew

    Red herring

    What exactly is not clear about "up to" in an advert?

    Today's news is basically that silly agitators have won on an matter of trivia. So none of the Chattering Classes are looking at poor reliability and service levels. Let alone the Great Firewall (aka IWF).

    1. Spanners Silver badge
      Pirate

      Re: Red herring

      What exactly is not clear about "up to" in an advert?

      I explain it as meaning the same as "no more than" or "less than" but they never want to tell you just how much less.

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Red herring

      Nick Kew

      Maybe you're just trolling..

      Else, what is not clear in any "up to" statement is what is actually likely to be provided. "Up to 80% off" means that possibly as little as that there is at least one item somewhere that had been reduced by 80%. Up to 200 mb could mean as little as that a lucky individual somewhere might be able to get 200mb sometimes. OFCOM have insisted on this being actually available to at least a rather small percentage of punters somewhere. For the rest the offer is purely smoke and mirrors.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Red herring

        My broadband provider describes my package as "up to" 16Mbit/s. When I put my phone number into their checker it reports that given the length and type of my line I will get at most 4.5Mbit/s. To no-one's great surprise I get 4.5Mbit/s.

        Where is the confusion with "up to xxx"? It doesn't say "equal to', it doesn't say "everyone will get xxx", it just says that depending on where you live you will get, at most, xxx MBit/s.

        Let's say that some customers get 50Mbit/s, some get 5, but for most people it's around 20. What number should they put in the ads? They can put 20, but other ISPs will offer 30 on the same line simply by refusing to accept customers who'd get < 10, hence pushing their average up.

        "up to" some value depending on the line is an honest and accurate statement. Obviously if they say that your specific installation will get 20, and due to a poor line you only get 10, you have grounds to complain, but if you assume that "up to xxx" means you're guaranteed xxx then you're daft.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Red herring

          ""up to" some value depending on the line is an honest and accurate statement.

          No, it's a misleading half-truth (and you know the saying, half the truth, twice the lie) and needs to be replaced with TWO measurements: a mean/median speed (whichever is lower) with a legally-binding guaranteed minimum speed. This should keep the ISPs honest since those who advertise higher speeds by excluding customers will soon get flak from those excluded customers.

          It's like with infomercials where in small print on the bottom you read, "Results are atypical." Advertisements should be considered cases before the public and subject to extremely tight levels of scrutiny concerning honesty. All testimonials need to be of typical results, and all claims need to be made in the conservative, worst-case terms. Better to be pleasantly surprised than to be disappointed.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Red herring

            ""up to" some value depending on the line is an honest and accurate statement.

            Virginmedia can't even get the "up to bit" correct. I routinely get 220 Mbps on a connection sold and billed as "up to" 200 Mbps.

            Bwahahahahahahahahaa......except the latency problems caused by their faulty Superhub 3.

            1. Terry 6 Silver badge

              Re: Red herring

              I asked them about that. In fact they do say that they up the speed slightly above the offered.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Red herring - Virginmedia actual speeds above contracted.

                In fact they do say that they up the speed slightly above the offered.

                Then logically the "up to" claim is untrue. Complaints are hardly going to flood in for being given more than was promised, but even so, why promise a maximum value 10% below what they are aiming for?

                On reflection, I guess that the maths of using multiple channels and set frequencies means that they end up having with non-round number speed increments (eg my circa 221 Mbps), but their marketers have concluded that they need to use nice round numbers to avoid confusing the peasants.

          2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            Re: Red herring

            you know the saying, half the truth, twice the lie

            That makes no sense, either semantically or mathematically. Perhaps you meant "up to twice the lie"? :)

            needs to be replaced with TWO measurements: a mean/median speed (whichever is lower) with a legally-binding guaranteed minimum speed

            That would be worse, for a number of reasons. Most people have a poor grasp of statistics, and won't recognise the difference between mean and median. At best they'll take it as being a "sort-of average". Worse is that they know that internet performance varies with time of day, etc., and are very likely to assume this means that "on average" their line should produce that speed. They won't recognise it as applying to the network as a whole (why should they, they don't care about the network, only their line). Start publishing numbers like that in adverts and the ISPs will be inundated with complaints that "you said we'll get an average of 20, and I never get more than 5".

            Also, as you note, there is an incentive for the ISPs to bump up the median value by declining to serve customers whose lines will only support low speeds. They won't care about flak from those people, they aren't customers.

            Better to be pleasantly surprised than to be disappointed.

            Best of all to have a simple, honest statement. "Our network uses technology that can support up to X. On your line we can provide Y".

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: Red herring

              "Most people have a poor grasp of statistics, and won't recognise the difference between mean and median."

              Thus you always take the LOWER of the two.

              "Best of all to have a simple, honest statement. "Our network uses technology that can support up to X. On your line we can provide Y"."

              "Also, as you note, there is an incentive for the ISPs to bump up the median value by declining to serve customers whose lines will only support low speeds. They won't care about flak from those people, they aren't customers."

              They'll care because bad press spreads quicker than good press, and non-customers (or worse, EX-customers) can create network effects, meaning not just fewer potential customers but also defections (LOST customers). Look what's been happening recently with sexual abuse scandals: network effects in action.

              But as you've said, your mileage may vary for reasons beyond the provider's control, and there may be no simple way to give a concrete answer. I'm saying for anything they can't concretely answer (the "up to" part), they need to say things in the conservative (IOW, in terms they're MORE likely to achieve rather than LESS) to prevent misleading the customer (intentionally or not).

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Red herring

                Reading through this conversation, how should ISP's advertise line speeds?

                As the line speed is based on physical attributes of a given property (which ISP's are available and what speeds can they offer based on the distance from exchange, number of other subscribers sharing the service etc) other than offering "better than 2Mbps downstream" what would be an accurate offer?

                The key thing is that none of this discussion alters the speeds that consumers get for the vast majority of those affected...

                1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                  Re: Red herring

                  "As the line speed is based on physical attributes of a given property (which ISP's are available and what speeds can they offer based on the distance from exchange, number of other subscribers sharing the service etc) other than offering "better than 2Mbps downstream" what would be an accurate offer?"

                  A CONSERVATIVE one: one that the vast majority of ALL in their service area can expect even under worst-case conditions: perhaps with service obligations to prevent cherry-picking. Terms can perhaps limit it to their physical infrastructure which can be tested occasionally and without notice to make sure they're up to standard. If there's no way to assure say a baseline speed within their physical infrastructure, there can be case to say they're not fit for purpose.

                  Yes, Internet connections can be affected by things beyond their control, but in those cases the ISP can probably ask up and pinpoint significant trouble spots if they arise (say an upstream provider went on the blink or there was a major power failure).

  15. Joe Montana

    Up to?

    Saying "up to" is the only real way to describe an internet connection, where the quoted figure is either the technical capability of the physical technology in use, or an arbitrary figure to which the provider has capped the service.

    Beyond that, the actual transfer rate you could achieve at any given time is dependent on so many factors that there's no way to realistically estimate.

    This bit about "so long as part of the connection is delivered over fibre" is stupid tho... I could use fibre to link my desktop to a 14.4kbps modem, would that be a fibre connection by their definition? In fact virtually all internet connections would at some point be delivered over fibre if you follow the traceroute.

    1. tim 13

      Re: Up to?

      I was thinking that. If your the host of the website you are browsing is connected by fibre to the neet, you have fibre broadband?

    2. David Nash Silver badge

      Re: Up to?

      They could use "maximum" instead of "up to".

      But that still doesn't tell you what you will get.

    3. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Up to?

      My car can get "up to" 99mpg. I know. I've seen it happen. And it actually can get more but the display doesn't have a third digit to show it.

      From a consumer point of view, that's an absolutely STUPID number to sell. It works to the manufacturer's advantage, but does not reflect real-world usage in the slightest.

      Hence, regulators put in tests (that are illegal / stupid to "cheat", as VW found out) that simulate real-world usage to give you a sense that my car, going back and forth to work, would only get the 30-45mpg that it actually gets. This is no different to broadband speeds - nobody can guarantee your MPG, or factor in every possible cause of fluctuation in it, but they can give you a real-world figure that actually reflects something about how efficient the car is.

      Just because it's ACCURATE does not mean it's not MISLEADING.

      I have "at least" 2 arms. That's suggestive that actually I may have MORE than 2 arms.

      I can type at "up to" 1000wpm. So long as it's one word, the letters are close and I'm prepared for it.

      That's not to say that averages can't be both accurate and misleading either. But they are a damn sight closer to something you can base a decision on than "up to".

      There could be anything up to 7 billion people in my living room right now.

      My favourite phrase: "Up to 50% off or more!" - it literally could mean ANY NUMBER in the world.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Up to?

      "Saying "up to" is the only real way to describe an internet connection"

      No, it's a blatant lie and doesn't describe anything at all.

      "You may live up to 110 years old" or you may die tomorrow. You call that "a description" of your future life time?

      I don't: It doesn't describe anything at all and it's even worse than totally random guess.

      Only context "up to" is useful is when bigger numbers are something we try to avoid, like error margin or rate of death.

      In advertised context speed can be anything between zero and whatever marketing droid shakes out of his sleeve: There's no way to know unless _after you've bought it_. And that part is a crime in EU: Both price and the content of the product or the service must be announced beforehand. In this case content is whatever ISP bothers to give you, today.

      Most probably there isn't even a single person who actually get the advertised speed, not even the guy sitting on the ISP machine room.

      Not only that, these a**holes sell 6 different "speed categories" all "up to" something while it's obvious they are all the same speed (up to some error margin) in reality and paying more isn't giving you anything at all. That's the best sell, sell totally imaginary thing by blatant lying to customers.

      And these thieves know it. Only difference is that the poor sod who pays for higher speed, doesn't know.

      So no, it's blatant stealing and ISPs know it. That's why _all of them_ is doing it: It brings money in. Lot of money.

  16. my fingers stuck

    broadband speeds... never larfed so much

    went on a telecoms site enterwd my phone number then up pops a box showing my download speed at 8mbs -12mbs to double check i put in my address, got the same results, so i then checked on their covarage map, they dont even serve my area...

  17. Fading
    Happy

    About time....

    Though "up to" is now forever synonymous with "un-bloody-likely".

    A little advice to all you VM subscribers everywhere. Use the equivalent of 2 months subs and go out a buy your own router - put the not so "super" hub (version 1,2 or 3) in modem mode and connect your nice new router (some good deals already available due to America's black Friday event - happy thanks giving to our colonial cousins btw) .

    With your new (half decent) router you will be able to prioritise traffic, set your own rules, have shared storage and have wonderful wifi and cabled internet speeds. Best thing I ever did (home network wise).

    1. David Nash Silver badge

      Re: About time....

      "have shared storage"

      Genuine question...what's that got to do with a router?

      1. flokie

        Re: About time....

        Not sure that's still the case nowadays, but a lot of ISP provided routers only had 100Mb Ethernet ports, not 1Gb. A bit slow for NAS especially if you intend to stream HD videos to your TV.

        The issue now is more likely to be modems doing away with RJ45 entirely as wi-fi is now fast enough - but many NAS boxes will only offer wired connections.

        Or maybe they had something else in mind entirely, as I now find that the SH3 has Gigabit ports!

        But shared storage was the reason I purchased a Gigabit router years ago.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: About time....

          "The issue now is more likely to be modems doing away with RJ45 entirely as wi-fi is now fast enough"

          Wifi still have this latency problem, you know? So it is fast enough for streaming or something like that but for small amounts of data most time is spent on latency, not actual data transfer.

          Example:

          100ms from laptop to router via wifi, 15ms more from router (VDSL) to ISP GW and then few more to the world.

          Contra CAT5e and router sitting on fibre: 2ms to ISP GW and few more to the world. about 50 times faster even if "announced speed" is the same.

          Even VDSL can get 15ms latency from desktop to ISP GW. That's lightning speed compared to Wifi.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: About time....

            If your laptop is hitting 100ms latency over WiFi, you have some serious interference. I'm sat here in my office of around 30-40 people with |18 laptops on the WiFi via a single UniFi UAP-AC-Lite and my ping to the router is ~2ms average.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: About time....

        "have shared storage"

        Genuine question...what's that got to do with a router?

        It's something a lot of routers offer these days - stick a USB socket on the side of the router and let the punters plug a thumb drive into it and it appears on the network. The good news is you don't have to use it.

      3. Fading

        Re: About time....

        Unlike many of the ISP provided routers other main brands provide USB sockets for external storage drives. I was merely highlighting other functionality provided by non-ISP provided routers so that the investment in your own router is above an beyond solving wifi bandwidth/conectivity problems.

    2. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: About time....your own router

      A word of warning on home routers.

      Running a VM router in modem mode with a Buffalo router doing the heavy lifting. We get about 160 Mb/sec which is the maximum rated throughput of the original SH. [Note that we could have a free upgrade to 200 Mb/sec with the SH3 but all reports including this thread suggest we are better off as we are.]

      I was investigating conbection problems a while back and swapped the Buffalo for a TP-Link currently being used as an AP. Line speed dropped to about 140 Mb/sec. Routers swapped back and all well, but difference in performance noted.

      I recently saw a table which showed that the processor in the TP-Link had roughly half the grunt of the one in the Buffalo.

      So even if you buy your own router make sure that it is capable of supporting your line speed. I don't recall any obvious "up to" values being quoted for either router. This raises the possibility that there are people out there grumbling about performance when it is their own router which is at fault.

  18. John70

    Will they be forced to advertise in big bold letters that they do traffic shaping at peak times as well?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "traffic shaping at peak times"

      And that their peak times extend from something like 2am to 1am?

  19. Milton Silver badge

    Cognitive dissonance?

    So one speck of good news—that ISPs will be compelled to tell fewer barefaced lies when conning their customers—is matched by a spot of (let's face it, much more predictable) stupidity:

    'CAP's sister body, the Advertising Standards Authority, also today ruled that it is not materially misleading to describe broadband services that use fibre-optic cables for only part of the connection as "fibre broadband"'

    —because no matter how many miles of fibre there are, the choke point will always be the non-fibre section, which makes non-fibre the most significant part of the entire connection. Even if you've got just six feet of non-fibre, that's going to be the bottleneck. You'd think that even the dozy pillocks at Advertising Standards would comprehend this and insist that providers cannot describe a connection as "fibre", with the clear implication you'll get fibre speeds, if in fact you will get speeds limited to non-fibre transport.

    If Nissan market a new car as having a top speed of 180 mph when it's got a governor on the engine that limits it to 110mph, will Advertising Standards tell us that's ok?

    1. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Cognitive dissonance?

      In the interests of balance, it should be noted that although copper is generally slower than fibre the throttling effect is likely to be far less to the cabinet across the street than over a mile or more to the exchange.

      So fibre to the cabinet is likely to be a better performer than old style copper to the exchange.

      I agree that being allowed to describe FTTC as a fibre link is disingenuous at best.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The guidance will take effect on May 23

    which year?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The guidance will take effect on May 23

      https://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2017/11/22/advertising_standards_agency_bt_tv_broadband/

      Search for changes afoot, oh ok, c&p

      According to the BBC

      Broadband firms will no longer be able to advertise their fast net services based on the speeds just a few customers get, from May next year.

      BT should really concentrate on providing a decent phone/broadband service instead of pissing about competing with the likes of Sky providing tv channels.

      The rule should be, 1 GBP for 1Mb speed per month, no line rental.

      If the service drops, then you pay for what you get, retrospectively , then maybe there will be an incentive to provide a decent service.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The guidance will take effect on May 23

        No, there’d be an incentive for ISPs to decline to offer service. The cost of provision remains the same, regardless of speed. Your rule would make some customers unprofitable to serve. If BT prices below cost they’d be breaking the law (competition act) and no other company would ever be able to compete - you’d have engineered predatory pricing into the market.

        How do you think the countries with very, very high speeds in the international broadband tables achieve that position? Fibre in cities, nothing in rural areas.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: The guidance will take effect on May 23

          Those countries tend to be very dense to begin with, not to mention usually very SMALL (South Korea, for example, is only the size of the state of Illinois). Smaller countries are cheaper to wire up while denser countries provide more potential return for that investment. This is one reason the US has trouble staying up on the list: vast sparsely-populated areas to cover.

  21. Tubz

    I'm sure the ISP already have the excuses pre-written on why they failed to follow rules and promise not to do it again or run the ads, 6 months after the fact or have a spreadsheet waiting to fiddle the figures. Waste of time !

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Virgin 100mb

    They've upgraded me again, along with a price increase but why the hell can't I go back to Blueyonder's original 10mb/s at 1/5th of the price?

  23. Paul J Turner

    'Fibre Broadband'

    The new 1336x768 'HD'.

  24. Adam JC

    Misleading title

    <Quote> CAP's sister body, the Advertising Standards Authority, also today ruled that it is not materially misleading to describe broadband services that use fibre-optic cables for only part of the connection as "fibre broadband"

    </Quote>

    Uhm... 'technically' the infrastructure from the exchange to the next hop further up is fibre, if we're being finnicky are they going to be allowed to sell ADSL/ADSL2 as 'fibre' services!? Shirley not...

  25. Mark M.

    Advertising: "On average you will get..."

    The problem now, is that those who still get below the "average" BB speeds will still complain loudly, even if it's not the ISP's fault that their customer's line is so crappy and it's all the fault of the infrastructure maintainer.

    Maybe the ISPs ought to advertise "speeds of upwards of 1bps!!!!".

  26. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge
    Trollface

    FTTE

    We have fibre broadband around here.

    It is known as Fibre To The Exchange.

  27. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Honest description ...

    Instead of potentially allowing them to get away with 'fibre' when it's simply a fibre exchange backbone, perhaps they should be forced to describe the lowest speed component? FTP, FTC, 'high speed' copper, wet string between poles, carrier pigeon, smoke signals ...

    That's a question which need an El Reg investigation - which has the greater bandwidth, a carrier pigeon or smoke signals?

  28. rmullen0

    Must not be in the United States

    I know this must be in Britain or somewhere else. It makes too much sense. In the United States pretty soon they will require ISPs to charge for every bit sent to maximize profits for the oligarchs. Then give them tax breaks. Like what they did with GE who actually received money from the IRS rather than the other way around. Of course even this didn't help GE who I recently read is in financial trouble. Better bail them out. Institute a tax on the poor and middle class. This cannot stand until the 1% has it ALL and everyone else is homeless and living on the streets begging.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Must not be in the United States

      But if everyone else is on the streets destitute, who will buy their stuff? Unless they're thinking the poor will be like Cockbill Street where appearances are more important than food.

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