Ofcom says broadband speed promise gap is widening

Broadband speeds advertised by internet service providers (ISPs) and the speeds we actually get are very different according to Ofcom.

In a report the watchdog said the gap between this had grown over the last year. It said the actual average speed of 5Mb in May was less than half that of the 11.5Mb headline speed. It added that last year the actual speeds were 42 percent lower than the figure advertised.

Ofcom said companies such as BT, Sky, TalkTalk and O2 were advertising broadband speeds of ‘up to’ 20 or even 24 MB per second, however, almost two-thirds of people who pay for these services are left frustrated with the average user only receiving 8MB or less.

Only one in 50 customers received 14MB or higher.

To combat this problem the watchdog has said that it will introduce a new voluntary code across the industry. It is hoped that this will give a small minority of customers the right to leave their ISP if they are receiving a particularly poor level of service, without incurring any penalty fees.

However it will take up to 12 months to come into force.

It also wants to introduce a “Typical Speed Range”, equivalent to miles per gallon used by the car industry, to make it clearer to consumers what level of service they will actually receive.

This has been welcomed by both the Communications Consumer Panel and Which?

Anna Bradley, Consumer Panel Chair, said: “The code leaves it to consumers to find out what speed they are getting. We believe that there should be greater emphasis on internet service providers (ISPs) to provide even more practical support to consumers.

“That’s why the Panel is calling on ISPs to go back to consumers within a month of their contract starting to tell them what actual speeds they are getting, giving them a discount or moving them to a lower cost package if they aren’t getting the speeds they were expecting.”

Peter Vicary-Smith, Chief Executive of Which? agrees: “It’s great that Ofcom has taken action to improve the information provided by ISPs at the point of sale, and that customers are now able to end their contract without penalty if the service they receive is significantly different to that promised,” he said.

“However, some internet service providers continue to advertise ever-increasing speeds that bear little resemblance to what most people can achieve in reality.  We want the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to step up to the mark and put an end to these misleading claims once and for all.”

While speed is proving a problem to some, it hasn’t stopped Virgin from pioneering fibre optic lines. The ISP said today that it has teamed up with Surf Telecom to give residents of the Welsh village of Crumlin , Caerphilly, the opportunity to trial ultrafast broadband delivered over existing electricity poles.

The trial, which is the first in the UK, will see homes in the village connected directly to Virgin Media ’s fibre optic network, which Virgin claims will effectively increase local broadband speeds ten-fold. Here is a picture of a Virgin technician getting friendly with a Pole in Wales: