Reliable sources have informed ISPreview.co.uk that Sky Broadband has recently made a stealthy change to their Internet access packages, which means they are no longer selling broadband (of any type) to customers with a Minimum Access Line Speed (MALS) of 2Mbps or less.
The move, which effectively locks out many of those still stuck on slower or poor quality copper ADSL lines (e.g. people in remote rural areas), comes shortly after Sky made the headlines by announcing that their broadband packages would start promoting “average speeds” alongside the more optimistic / standard “up to” rates (here).
One of the fears about adopting an approach that advocates advertising “average speeds” is that it could encourage some providers to start rejecting orders from those with slower lines, which over the longer term may result in the ISP being able to raise their “average speeds” in promotions (i.e. the speeds would no longer be dragged down as much by those with slower lines).
This also limits the choice for those who still suffer from 2Mbps or slower lines, perhaps unfairly so. On the other hand Ofcom estimates that only around 1% of UK premises cannot get a download speed of more than 2Mbps (here), although the real-world figure may be a tiny bit higher.
At this point we should highlight that most Sky Broadband subscribers use the ISPs unbundled (LLU) network, which is available to a little over 90% of the United Kingdom. However Sky does still connect a fair few subscribers in the remaining 10% of the UK via their off-net BT based broadband service (a good proportion of these will be slower or rural lines).
Sky has confirmed to us that the policy change was implemented on 13th December 2016, just before they adopted “average speeds” and perhaps unsurprisingly it’s been done very quietly. Separately we also note that some of Sky’s On-Demand video content requires a compatible box and minimum download speed of 2Mbps.
In Sky’s view those who suffer speeds of 2Mbps or less on ADSL lines will encounter a poor broadband experience (e.g. trouble streaming video), but the ISP did inform us that they will offer an FTTC (VDSL) based “fibre broadband” connection as an alternative if its available and of course that’s assuming it can go faster than 2Mbps (note: many ISPs also consider sub-2Mbps speeds on VDSL/FTTC to be where they draw the viable performance line).