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Ofcom Revising Broadband Speed Code of Practice for UK ISPs

Friday, March 21st, 2014 (1:49 pm) - Score 1,059

The communications regulator has confirmed to ISPreview.co.uk that they’re currently working to finalise a number of revisions to their Voluntary Code of Practice for Broadband Speeds, which requires ISPs to adhere to a certain set of standards when communicating what performance a customer can expect to receive.

At present ISPs who have signed up to the Code commit to give consumers a more accurate and consistent estimate of the maximum speed achievable on their line, which also includes a requirement to publish clearer and more detailed information on any Fair Usage Policies (FUP) or Traffic Management measures.

The member ISPs (list) also agree to help consumers resolve any problems where speeds fall significantly below the original estimate for their line, which if the issue cannot be resolved includes the ability to leave their provider (without penalty) within the first 3 months of a contract.

But in light of today’s new campaign by Which? (here), and not to mention the imminent release of Ofcom’s next fixed line broadband speeds report, we decided to ask whether the regulator was still happy with their code of practice. The short answer is that Ofcom are happy and they claim it’s working, although some changes will be introduced.

The revisions are currently being finalised but Ofcom said that the updated code would remain voluntary for ISPs, although they are proposing to improve the signposting of information to consumers and to ensure that it is “effectively serving consumers’ needs“, particularly in light of the increased take-up of superfast broadband packages. The original code was designed when slower ADSL based services were the only choice, outside of Virgin Media’s cable platform and a few niche alternatives.

However the updated code is expected to be completed over the coming months, which suggests that we might not see the end result until the regulator’s autumn speeds report. In addition, it must be noted that there are actually two speed codes (the 2008 [v1.0] and the current 2010 [v2.0] edition) and only the latest 2010 version includes the ability to leave your contract without penalty (though most of the member ISPs are the same for each).

We suspect that the changes won’t be enough to dissuade the codes critics from thinking that it’s still not tough enough. But then more often than not the problems with performance aren’t so much caused by your ISP as poor home wiring, slow wifi links or the underlying infrastructure, the latter of which is usually managed by BTOpenreach (exception for Virgin Media and some smaller altnet ISPs).

If only everything was truly always the ISPs fault then this would be a lot easier.

Leave a Comment
9 Responses
  1. Avatar James Harrison says:

    I wonder if they’ll clamp down on advertisement of FTTC as “fibre internet”…

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      ..about as probable as a Russian withdrawal from Crimea.

    2. Avatar JNeuhoff says:

      “I wonder if they’ll clamp down on advertisement of FTTC as “fibre internet”…”

      Even this very website continues to use misleading headlines, see e.g. the recent “Worcestershire UK Confirms the Phase 2 Fibre Broadband Rollout Areas”. It is not until your read the actual article that you will find out it is actually mainly dealing with copper-based VDSL services, funded via the BDUK.

      This Ofcom nonsense of mis-applying technical terms such as “fibre broadband” has become a widespread issue especially in the UK!

    3. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      I’d put “Fibre Broadband” in speech marks for headlines too but special characters don’t play well with some character encoding methods and syndicated news feeds (when we do it some things stop working), plus it’s how the service is expressed to us and we have to reflect that.

      But as you’ve noted we always do speech marks in the context and state FTTC/P, which mainstream media doesn’t. We sometimes use FTTC in titles too but this is not what ISPs are using to describe the service, they all call it “fibre”, and we’ve found only saying FTTC can cause confusion (VDSL is even worse).

      I’d love it if the regulator or ASA did something to clarify all this but they won’t. Fibre broadband is here to stay, even if it’s not true fibre.

    4. Avatar Steve Jones says:

      The rot set in when the Advertising Standards Agency Virgin Media were allowed to call their fibre/coax hybrid “fibre” in 2008.

      It’s about time that this was changed and a more accurate description was mandated for all suppliers. Perhaps “fibre to the cabinet” or some such, albeit that’s a bit clunky.


    5. Avatar Steve Jones says:

      Oops – apologies for the grammar in the first sentence.

  2. Avatar colin says:

    If you have a fibre cable entering your property then it can be said that you have fibre broadband.If you don’t…… YOU DON’T!

    There should be no mention of fibre from any ISP for any VDSL product.

    1. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Or any coax product, if you are going to make rules make sure they are applied properly.

      Anyway… nothing will change, its just a small minority of moaners who didn’t mind when Virgin started using that term but obviously want to get the boot in when the panto villain starts using it.

  3. Avatar Matthew says:

    As services headline speeds get faster I think more needs to be done to educate people it’s not always the ISP’s fault for slow speeds.

    Of course sometimes the ISPs are to blame but equally it could just be the source you are downloading from is slow or congestion elsewhere on the internet.

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