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UK ISP Customers Call for End to Misleading Broadband Speeds

Tuesday, Aug 2nd, 2016 (1:37 am) - Score 680

Consumers are still frustrated by the way in which most broadband ISPs advertise their Internet service speeds. A new online survey of 1,267 ISPreview.co.uk readers has discovered that 80.8% think the way in which providers advertise their speeds is “misleading” and 89% want tougher rules to tackle it.

At present the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) only requires that the headline speed being promoted by an ISP is achievable by at least 10% of their customers and all speed claims must be preceded with an “up to” qualifier, including a description of any caveats that could affect connection performance.

However Ed Vaizey MP, the Government’s former Digital Economy Minister, recently called for a “crack down on how providers advertise their speeds” and he further suggested that “at least 75% of people should be getting the speeds that the broadband providers are advertising” (here).

In keeping with that the ASA has already announced a new research project, which will examine whether existing broadband speed claims are fair and this could eventually result in new guidelines.

Do you find how ISPs advertise broadband speeds to be misleading?
Yes – 80.8%
No – 19.1%

Should the advertising watchdog introduce tougher rules to tackle how speeds are promoted?
Yes – 89%
No – 10.9%

The current guidance requires that the headline “up to” speed being promoted by an ISP must be achievable by at least 10% of customers. What % would you pick?
75% – 48.3%
50% – 24.3%
Other method – 14.5%
10% (current rule) – 7.8%
25% – 4.8%

Most of our readers appear to agree with Ed Vaizey and only 10% support the current rule. Never the less we must not forget that broadband speeds can fluctuate due to all sorts of reasons, such as traffic management policies, long copper lines, slow home WiFi, poor home wiring and peak time network congestion. But some of those are beyond the ability of most ISPs to control.

Many ISPs would perhaps also point out that they are beholden to Openreach’s (BT) national copper network and its many limitations, yet Openreach are not directly held to account by related rules and so only ISPs suffer the main punishment when performance drops below par, even if it’s not always their fault. The situation is of course different for those ISPs that do control their own infrastructure, such as Virgin Media, Hyperoptic or Gigaclear etc.

Recently some reports have indicated that the ASA could adjust their policy so as to require that ISPs only advertise average speeds for their various packages and we’ll find out if that’s the case later this autumn. Meanwhile this month’s new survey asks whether or not you’re familiar with broadband upload speeds? Vote Here.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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