back to article UK watchdog Ofcom tells broadband firms: '30 days to sort your speeds'

Ofcom is tightening the screws – sort of – on broadband providers that play fast and loose with speed promises by imposing a deadline to meet service obligations or allow customers to walk away without a penalty. Customers are able to exit a deal if velocity slips below a minimum guaranteed level and the provider can’t rectify …

  1. Blotto Bronze badge
    Facepalm

    But there is no legal imperative for these companies to comply with the code

    "But there is no legal imperative for these companies to comply with the code"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: But there is no legal imperative for these companies to comply with the code

      Of course not. Ofcome have yet again fumbled the ball - and note that even with this pissy, lukewarm, years overdue move, the fools of Ofgem have given the industry a further year's grace to keep on selling contracts that they know they can't honour. In no other area are consumer interests so poorly defended by a regulator.

      Ofcom should be abolished other than for technical regulation like spectrum licenciing, and the other industry regulators treated likewise. Then there should be a single consumer regulator to oversee all consumer interests in those regulated markets - broadband, voice, mobile, electricity, gas, water. And then they should get an absolute rottweiler to head it up, somebody who delights in giving a kicking to lard arse companies. Like Rob Offchurch who was at Ofgem last time I encountered him.

      1. moonpunk

        Re: But there is no legal imperative for these companies to comply with the code

        Agreed! A real Malcolm Tucker type!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: But there is no legal imperative for these companies to comply with the code

        "Ofcom should be abolished other than for technical regulation like spectrum licenciing"

        As a radio spectrum user, I can promise you they're no better at that. Why do we have to keep them?

      3. jerehada

        Re: But there is no legal imperative for these companies to comply with the code

        I can think of a few; water, energy, press regulation. They are all captured to some extent. But you have to remember they are commercial businesses and operate in their interests. That is not always the same as every consumers interest.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: But there is no legal imperative for these companies to comply with the code

      Ofcom, the Information given by BTWholesale Speedchecker is an antiquated joke. How do you expect any customer to measure this, other than by the ISP's own self-verification?

      Why the fcuk do customers still have to install bug ridden Adobe Flash in 2018 to use this Speedchecker?

      Ofcom, we need a tool that shows:

      ---------------------------------------------

      The speed between the FTTC/exchange and premises.

      The congestion at the FTTC/local exchange in terms of ADSL.

      The backhaul congestion regards BTOpenreach backhaul between the BT 21cn Internode/ISP.

      Congestion/faults/re-routes specific to the ISP.

      Congestion at the LINX (London Internet Exchange).

      The wholesale BT Checker is currently purposely failing to file data too, when it encounters low speeds to prevent poor statistical data ever reaching Ofcom.

      Basically, it tells you absolutely fcuk all, as a customer, why you're Internet is slow, whether that be single thread downloads, streaming, or whatever.

      Often it will give a different values each time, eventually even showing zero for both upload/download, if you re-run the test several times.

      1. rh587 Bronze badge

        Re: But there is no legal imperative for these companies to comply with the code

        The backhaul congestion regards BTOpenreach backhaul between the BT 21cn Internode/ISP.

        Congestion/faults/re-routes specific to the ISP.

        Congestion at the LINX (London Internet Exchange).

        On the topic of that last one, I've never quite understood why BT haven't invested in extending their IP core to IXMAN or indeed the other LINK locations (IXScotland/Cardiff). Manchester has a significant data centre community, and it makes absolutely zero sense to send traffic from the North down to the OpenReach core around London in order to be bounced back up to a server in Manchester. Virgin do, as do BalkBalk, Vodafone and O2, along with the big-hitting content providers like MS/Apple, Cloudflare, BBC, Akamai, etc.

        Might add some redundancy for those occasions when their Uninterruptible Power Supplies are interrupted....

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: But there is no legal imperative for these companies to comply with the code

          "I've never quite understood why BT haven't invested in extending their IP core to IXMAN or indeed the other LINK locations "

          Because they're the 9000 pound gorilla and THEY DON'T HAVE TO.

      2. Chloe Cresswell

        Re: But there is no legal imperative for these companies to comply with the code

        The information on the current checker is amazingly out of date for some areas too, taking it past a joke.

        I have one site with an estimated speed of 2.5mbps, it's .7.

        Another has an estimated speed of 4.5, it's currently running at 10.8!

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: But there is no legal imperative for these companies to comply with the code

        The irony that BT systems probably treat any repeat access to "speedtest.btwholesale.com" as a DDoS Attack!

    3. Jove Bronze badge

      Re: But there is no legal imperative for these companies to comply with the code

      That is the usual approach - have the industry resolve an issue itself before escalating to legislation.

      It would be interesting see how such a regulation could be enforced.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: But there is no legal imperative for these companies to comply with the code

        It would be interesting see how such a regulation could be enforced.

        Very easily. All other regulated industries have to submit extensive performance reports on customer service standards to their regulator, and get caned for failure to meet targets. Of course, as this is self reported they can tell lies and hope nobody notices, but there's often an extensive external audit undertaken by the regulator or their appointee. I worked for a regulated company some years ago, and a small cabal of crooks decided to lie in the regulatory return to achieve personal bonus related targets. This was uncovered, the regulator fined the company £37m, two directors and a senior manager (all of whom I knew) were given the boot, and rightly so. They also had to endure personal investigations by the SFO, although sadly the SFO decided not to prosecute them individually.

      2. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: But there is no legal imperative for these companies to comply with the code

        Ofcom should be abolished other than for technical regulation like spectrum licenciing

        I'm not convinced that they are compentent at doing that, I seem to recall howls of protest from radio hams about powerline ethernet equipment and OFCOM refusing to use the powers that they already had to protect the spectrum from interference from unlicensed users.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: But there is no legal imperative for these companies to comply with the code

          The problem is that Ofcom are attempting to regulate things which rightfully belong in the domain of the Office of Fair Trading and thanks to the ongoing turf war, the British consumer loses out.

          (lack of) Competence at RF matters is noted but it would be hard for them to go against EU type approvals without having a shitstorm coming down - and as part of the reason that bands are allocated to hams is to allow them to research improvements in the art, they should be coming up with ways to work around the interference. The government _could_ turn around and simply increase their license fees to "unaffordable" levels (or merely cost recovery ones).

    4. moonpunk

      Re: But there is no legal imperative for these companies to comply with the code

      What is the point of having a "REGULATOR" who merely puts forward a code of practice. They need some teeth!

    5. Trigonoceps occipitalis

      Re: But there is no legal imperative for these companies to comply with the code

      They will all comply and meet their "Up To" offer.

      You can, of course, leave without penalty if they fail to get your speed down to the offer in 30 days.

  2. aidanstevens

    What is with this fetish for faster broadband speeds? May I kindly suggest that if 34.6Mbit/s is not fast enough for you then you need to get a life? Yes, a small number of people have lousy speeds and high latency, but most people are just fine.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If you're happy with those speeds fine. But how about you let the rest of society decide what speed they want?

    2. Kevin Johnston

      If I remember my maths lessons correctly, if they have not selected the correct definition of average then well over half the UK consumers could be getting less than that awesome 34.6Mbit/s

      1. adam 40

        I am not sure what you "Mean"

        The post is required, and must contain letters.

      2. Warm Braw Silver badge

        well over half the UK consumers could be getting less than that awesome 34.6Mbit/s

        It appears the figures are provided by SamKnows and even Ofcom's report accepts that the figures might be skewed towards people who have an interest in getting the best broadband performace. Around half of the people participating had FTTC-like speeds which is not entirely inline with what I observe amongst family and friends. Still, nice to know it's gradually getting better...

        1. Andy Livingstone

          Sam Knows or does he?

          According to Sam Knows I'm on a connection that does not exist. Changes shown for my local Exchange are several years out of date. The site is still in Bookmarks but no longer used for the reason given.

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        " if they have not selected the correct definition of average"

        For starters, there's mean, median and mode to consider

        There are also standard deviations to factor in.

        Simply stating an "average" speed without any more detail is a cop out all in itself.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I bet you're one of those people with 640k of ram.

    4. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

      Wasn't there a similar opinion once upon a time?

      640k ought to be enough for everyone

      1. Usermane

        Re: Wasn't there a similar opinion once upon a time?

        Or a dialup

    5. Steve the Cynic Silver badge

      May I kindly suggest that if 34.6Mbit/s is not fast enough for you then you need to get a life?

      Having gone from "up to 20 Mbps"(1) that was normally around 11-12 Mbps directly to "at least 200 Mbps"(2) that was in fact anywhere up to 300 Mbps, I can say that going back is one of the least desirable changes I can imagine in my internet service.

      Bear in mind that 300 Mbps is 37.5 MBYTE/s. I can download a GB of whatever it is I want to download in less than 30 seconds.(3)

      Oh, yeah, and 100 Mbps *up*, so that two megabyte .JPG that I attach to mails from time to time goes up in almost no time at all.

      (1) Well, really it was advertised as "jusqu'à 20 Mbps", but that's just Froglandish for the same thing.

      (2) "Au moins 200 Mbps". Froglandish, obviously.

      (3) With 7 Mbps of TCP ACK packets in the other direction. In a way, that's the most remarkable part of the whole thing.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "With 7 Mbps of TCP ACK packets in the other direction."

        You need to be retuning your algorithms - you'll get better speed and lower latencies if you do.

        1. Steve the Cynic Silver badge

          You need to be retuning your algorithms - you'll get better speed and lower latencies if you do.

          Sort of, maybe. It's getting 300 Mbps down at that rate, so the speed is probably bounded by the fibre's traffic shaping more than any TCP window size / RTT / ack-fraction / etc. that might be going on.

          I *could* even up the rate to 500 Mbps down / 400 Mbps up, but (a) it costs enough more that I can't be bothered to pay the extra and (b) 300 Mbps is near the upper limits of the UTM's performance, and it's the fastest one the company makes that's fanless.

    6. rh587 Bronze badge

      Yes, a small number of people have lousy speeds and high latency

      When you say "a small number", Virgin towing that average up with 100-300Mbps DOCSIS services should tell you just how shonky the xDSL services are that many people have access to.

      If the average is 34.6Mb/s then for each Virgin Customer receiving 100Mbps, there are two DSL customers receiving ~1Mb/s.

      Virgin have 4.2million broadband customers. You do the maths.

      1. Nick Kew Silver badge

        @ rh587

        Virgin speeds as in this speed, or maybe this ?

        I wouldn't mind slow speeds so much if only the buggers could be contacted to fix it when they grind to a halt altogether! A much higher priority for Ofcom should be to insist on a functioning customer service!

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Well it would be nice to actually get 34Mbs, even on fttc, where due to the miss-selling by BT/OR it will never happen due to cabinet being too far away, while there are others closer, 21Mbs is the norm, but OR refuse to put you on those, despite the fact that they are taxpayer funded, and cover the postcode in question.

      Had to laugh the other day, checked out BT site for going to fibre, yes up to 38Mbs , but when I went to purchase, 56Mbs available!! Don't think so not on my allocated cabinet.

      Yet Another Great British Ripoff.

      And a few people with lousy speeds, don't think so, check out the isp community sites.

    8. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      May I kindly suggest that if 34.6Mbit/s is not fast enough for you then you need to get a life?

      It's not really about the actual speed that someone gets - it's about that person knowing in advance what they will get, and being able to leave without penalty if they don't get it. At the moment, you know what the pricelist says the cost is for a (for example) "up to 80M FTTC" connection, and they'll tell you what they think you are likely to get - but if you can't get anything even near that then you still end up paying for the 18/24 month contract, or paying penalties to leave early.

      A bit like buying "a tub" of something online - and them not telling you whether that's a 100g tub or a 1kg tub, just that it's "up to" 1kg.

      This new rule is like the seller of the something having to tell you the minimum amount you'll get in the tub. So for example you might be told that you'll get no less than 600g - and if you do get less then you have the right to cancel. So no more telling you that "you're likely to get 600g" and then delivering a tub with just 50g in it - and you having no recourse.

    9. philebbeer

      I'm sure we could nearly all manage with low broadband speeds, the point is surely that we are PAYING for promised higher speeds which we then don't receive

      How would you feel if you bought a car which you were promised would get 500 mpg, only to find it only got 50 mpg?

  3. Peter Galbavy

    Local loop is all very well, but if your ISP is too stingy to buy decent transit then having 100Mb/s+ FTTP is pointless. If these measurements are against well known speed test sites then all they have to do is host one of the test servers and voila!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If these measurements are against well known speed test sites then all they have to do is host one of the test servers and voila!

      If there were a competent regulator they'd realise this risk, and make it illegal for ISPs who prioritise speed server traffic. Given the dubious practices common in telecoms retailing, that wouldn't stop some ISPs, but the obvious thing would theerfore be to have eye watering fines. In fact, it is about time that ISPs had to do regulatory reporting to Ofcom on all important quality of service indicators - average speeds, customers connected by speed band, speeds delivered relative to contract, number of service interruptions per customer, customer minutes lost, average latency, packet losses.

      But sadly Ofcom are out to lunch, and none of this will happen.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "make it illegal for ISPs who prioritise speed server traffic"

        Unfortunately the speed servers are in on the game, look at who pays for their banner adverts.

        They're not going to bite the hand that feeds them and anyone who sets up on the basis of showing realworld speeds isn't going to have the money to run the system for long.

    2. Steve the Cynic Silver badge

      That's a fair point, but where I am, I can get 300 Mbps downloads from servers in Paris, and 7ms ping RTT from home (Lille) to those servers. That's an hour by train, so the best part of 180 miles(1), so definitely it gets out onto the backhaul from my exchange.

      (1) French high speed trains(2) actually *are* high speed, thanks.

      (2) "TGV" is an abbreviation of the French for "high speed train", duh.

    3. moonpunk

      And that's the point that SO many people miss! I love it when they tell me their ISP gives them a 200Mbps internet connection, and I tell them - no they don't! They give you 200Mbps connection to their network, that's not the same as a 200Mbps connection to the Internet!

  4. JimmyPage Silver badge

    Without doing any research ...

    to ensure the proper Brexit debate, but I wonder if somewhere deep down the pipeline there's an EU directive bubbling away which would have forced Ofcoms hand ?

    I'm asking the question, not asserting a fact, btw ....

    1. Jove Bronze badge

      Re: Without doing any research ...

      The EU is now looking at options to use a bit-tax as a direct EU Tax to fill part of the EUR 10bn gap left in it's funding in the post-Brexit period. So no it is not, and another attempt at quisling scaremongering.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Without doing any research ...

      You might have something there, actually. I notice that buried in EU upcoming regs, is a proposed ban on plastic straws.

      You don't honestly think Gove had that idea himself.

      (I made £10 by betting it would pop up as a UK "initiative" when it flitted past my screen last year.)

  5. Andy 97

    ISP's knows how to "game" speed checks.

    I suspect that the quantity of evidence that would be required is beyond the skill set many users.

    1. The Dogs Meevonks

      Re: ISP's knows how to "game" speed checks.

      Virgin Media are one of the worst for this... they host a speedtest server... so I refuse to use the server they suggest and opt for others closest to me... And I do comparative tests using the netflix based fast.com.

      VM speetest is always at least 50% higher... whilst when I sel;ect non VM based servers or use fast.com, I get speeds ranging from next to nothing up to 20Mbps... with the worst one being 68kbps. Yup you read that right... as bad as a 90's dial up modem.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: ISP's knows how to "game" speed checks.

        As a long standing customer of Vermin Media, I'm well pissed off with their poor service and the rubbish Hub 3, but to give them their due I almost always get just above my contracted speed of 200 Mbps.

        A test just now against fast.com reports 210 Mbps, and against a Paris server run by Bouygues Telecom (so international, not local, no links to VM, and unlikely to be prioritised) comes in at 231 Mbps. Transatlantic tests using obscure test services see half that, but even so, looks like some people (me) are getting what they pay for.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: ISP's knows how to "game" speed checks.

        "Virgin Media are one of the worst for this... they host a speedtest server... so I refuse to use the server they suggest and opt for others closest to me... And I do comparative tests using the netflix based fast.com."

        Depends on how you look at it. Having a speed test inside the ISP network can work as evidence that the "fault" is inside the ISP network. Low speeds off-net might be evidence of faults outside the ISPs control OR or might indicate the ISP cheaping out on peering.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ISP's knows how to "game" speed checks.

      It's interesting how quickly speeds jump back once you just access "speedtest.btwholesale.com" and that's not even running a test, as though it flags something at BT HQ to give you a few more crumbs.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: ISP's knows how to "game" speed checks.

        "It's interesting how quickly speeds jump back once you just access "speedtest.btwholesale.com" "

        A cron job might be in order then. :)

        1. Andy Livingstone

          So how do we feel about Google's speed test?

          Comments?

  6. psychonaut

    it will make no difference

    most of the issues , at least round here, are to do with the last leg of the journey over copper / aluminium / string.

    changing ISP using the same product adsl or fttc (so not to virgin fibre or 4g or satellite or radio) will make fuck all difference anyway.

    1. John G Imrie Silver badge

      Re: it will make no difference

      Not so sure about that, if everyone on your street switches ISP once every 30 days even if to come back to the original provider once every two to three months it's going to cost the ISP an arm an a leg to create and then remove the accounts. If you can get everyone in your neighbourhood to do it then the ISP's might just discover that replacing the string with some fibre is the cheaper option.

      PS if you are in an area with only one ISP, cancel your order then sign up for a new one. It will still drive the ISP nuts with all the additional paperwork.

      1. psychonaut

        Re: it will make no difference

        no, not really.

        no-one gets fttp that i have ever heard of (residential anyway)

        its, at best, fttc. then the last leg is copper, aluminium etc. they wont replace the last leg with fibre.

        and adding a new contract is not going to be as expensive as fixing the problem. (i.e. lay at least new copper)

        and, also, who would bother to coordinate a campaign of a load of neighbours to do all this every few months??

        cant see it myself.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: it will make no difference

          "no-one gets fttp that i have ever heard of (residential anyway)"

          Several towns and cities in the UK have had their pavements dug up to install FTTP. In our small street in a not-huge Yorkshire city we have both 200Mb cable and 1Gb fibre available to each house - although in our case this does mean a choice between Virgin and TalkTalk.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          re: no-one gets fttp that i have ever heard of (residential anyway)

          HA2 post code had it in 1993. Videotron (bought by NTL IIRC).

    2. Red Bren

      Re: it will make no difference

      Customer: Hello, I'm not getting the broadband speed you advertised. If you can't fix it, I'd like to leave.

      Provider 1: it's not our fault it's BT. Cheerio.

      30 days later...

      Customer: Hello, I'm not getting the broadband speed you advertised. If you can't fix it, I'd like to leave.

      Provider 2: it's not our fault it's BT. Cheerio.

      n x 30 days later...

      Customer: Hello, I'm not getting the broadband speed you advertised. If you can't fix it, I'd like to leave.

      Provider N: it's not our fault it's BT. Cheerio.

      Customer: So how do I actually get the advertised speed?

      Providers: You can't. You get what you're given or go without.

      Rather than giving customers the option to cancel the contract without, perhaps OFCOM should be forcing ISPs to provide the service the customer signed up to in good faith or suffer a penalty? Perhaps give customers the right to withold payment when the service doesn't meet the minimum standard?

      Customer: Hello, I'm not getting the broadband speed you advertised. Until it's fixed, I don't have to pay!

      Providers: Oy! BT! If we don't get paid, you don't get paid, so sort it out!

      1. psychonaut

        Re: it will make no difference

        ok, fair enough, a small number of people have fttp...that must be lovely actually!

        red bren - you are definitely onto something there!

        although, they are getting the speed advertised. "up to" x Mb/s.

        0.1 is "up" to 1 million under those terms.

        that they are allowed to sell it under those conditions is outrageous though.

        1. King Jack
          Headmaster

          Re: it will make no difference

          "Upto" should be banned from advertising as it is too vague and includes anything. A shampoo that removes upto 100% of dandruff could be tap water or it might contain some active ingredient. Nobody knows. If they stated 80% or better then that would tell the buyer that the thing is expected to work.

          But no. These adverts air on a daily basis. So much for watchdogs and regulations. Complaining about stuff gets you upto 100% results.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: it will make no difference

        Provider 1: it's not our fault it's BT. Cheerio.

        Actually, if you take a trip over to ISPreview.co.uk, you'll find that not all ISPs are the same. Certainly the big ones (VM, TT, BT, Sky, EE, Plusnet) have the same shitty customer service model. But if you look at the rating fro the smaller companies, you'll find several able to get better results out of Openreach.

        I'd accept that if you're miles from the cabinet those Openreach ISPs can't do much about the physics, but in terms of customer service and tech support you get what you pay for.

  7. psychonaut

    one of my customer has two infinity lines. (fttc).

    he gets, absolute max, on either, 14 down and 1 up. this is when there is a fair wind, it is a tuesday, there an ascendant armadillo in uranus and all his neighbours are on holiday.

    you cant bond, because it all goes to shit, theres just not enough wiggle room on the upload, particularly when it sits at 100k like it does most of the time. and even if we bond 4 lines, its still 4 x shit. ive tried it, it doesn't work.

    the problem is that the copper (possibly alumiium) is buried in the road, not even in conduit.

    cant run over poles as there arent any.

    he was quoted £26k (just construction costs, then £400 per month for the service) to run fibre as a leased line.

    gonna try 4g next

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "one of my customer has two infinity lines. (fttc).

      he gets, absolute max, on either, 14 down and 1 up. "

      Then he has good cause to go to small claims on an "unfit for the purpose for which it is advertised" case - and should be haranguing his local trading standards too.

      1. psychonaut

        i dont know what he would claim for though. he's not worried about the cost he's currently paying, he's got boat loads of money (but baulks at 26 thousand pounds, although he could easily afford it), he needs better service. which means new lines at least for phone based broadband.

  8. Commswonk Silver badge

    The OFCOM...

    ...the SI Unit of Uselessness.

    1. Corp-Rat

      Re: The OFCOM...

      Addition to the Reg standards? after all Ofcom is british and hardly an international standard.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The OFCOM...

      I'd hate to think what the SI Unit is for Ofgem. K(Jeremy Hunt) watts per hour?

  9. Roopee
    WTF?

    What planet are they on?

    ...the average speed of domestic connections is 34.6Mb/s... Last I heard it was about 10, and that seemed exaggerated to me, based on what my hundreds of domestic clients get! I know people on cable generally get 50+, and people on VDSL usually get 25-38, but the majority are on ADSL and typically get 5-10. If you're lucky, like me, and live a short stroll from the exchange you might get 20, but it drops off very quickly with every minute's walk!

  10. tuttyfruity

    Hi

    Is there a minimum speed that companies must adhere to.

    I am on a deal with Talktalk offering speeds up to 17 Mbs which would be fine how ever I am receiving speeds of 0.5 to 1.6 Mbs. When I queried this I was told that I was 3 kilometers from the supply and this was what I could expect. I was told that I could sign up for high speed but neighbours tell me this results in speeds of approx 6 Mbs which is what I expect to get at the moment.

    Also when talking to TalkTalk I was told that I was still in contract.

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