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UK ISP Entanet Criticises Sky Broadband’s Move to Shun Sub-2Mbps Lines

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017 (12:48 am) - Score 1,044
entanet uk

Communications provider Entanet has warned that Sky Broadband’s recent decision to stop selling broadband to customers with a Minimum Access Line Speed (MALS) of 2Mbps or less (here) is “bad news for consumers” and could end up “stretching the digital divide instead of closing it.”

Sky’s surprise policy change was quietly implemented on 13th December 2016, just before they adopted “average speeds” into their broadband advertising and it would have gone unnoticed for a lot longer had one of our sources not pointed me in the right direction.

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) and apparently that’s reason enough not to sell to them. The ISP will at least offer an alternative FTTC (VDSL2) based “fibre broadband” connection to related areas if it’s available, but FTTC coverage is not universal and many rural areas will be left out.

Entanet’s Head of Marketing, Darren Farnden, suggests that Sky’s move is akin to “cherry picking” which customers they want to supply and thus refusing those that would negatively affect their average speed calculations (blog). Darren warns that this will reduce consumer choice in the market and lead to an “increased digital divide.”

Darren Farnden said:

“At a time when the Government is attempting to bridge the gap and plug the holes across the UK to ensure everyone can achieve a decent Internet service, Sky seem to be putting a proverbial spanner in the works. The Government is working to ensure a minimum speed of at least 10Mbps for all, yet Sky are clearly shunning any users that can’t even get 2Mbps – hardly helpful!

Of greater concern to us is that where Sky lead others may follow, which will leave consumers already struggling to obtain any level of decent service hamstrung even further through an increasingly restricted choice of providers, stretching the digital divide instead of closing it. Let’s hope not!

On the flip side, it’s good to see more compliance from the larger providers and a commitment to adopting advertising approaches that are clear and provide potentially more accurate speed information, it’s just a shame they are so keen to protect that ‘average speed’ they are willing to exclude some customers from receiving a service at all. “

The assumption here is that Sky will be able to present a stronger average speed to potential subscribers (i.e. by rejecting slower broadband lines from their service). However initially we suspect that this won’t have much of an immediate impact, not unless they decided to throw existing customers with sub-2Mbps lines off their service and there’s currently no sign of that happening.

At present Sky is the only major ISP to adopt this practice, although that might change once the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) unveil their new rules for tackling how broadband speeds are advertised (expected soon). We don’t know precisely what approach they will adopt but the smart money seems to be pointing towards something similar to Sky’s “average speeds“.

Right now there are no firm rules to stop Sky acting against potential broadband subscribers in this way, although if other ISPs were to follow then that would perhaps be a signal for Ofcom to take a closer look. As Entanet says, those in digitally disadvantaged areas already have enough problems with broadband performance to worry about without having ISPs reject their orders too.

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Mark Jackson
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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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5 Responses
  1. DTMark

    I’m reminded of a comment I made some time ago which ran roughly thus:

    “Small ISPs will find themselves in the niche position of selling largely ADSL products at higher prices than now.”

    That 2Mbps service cut-off limit is going to become 10Mpbs in a fairly short space of time as on-demand TV escalates in priority. It’s not about “the broadband speed”, it’s about “the things that people want it to be capable of doing”.

    • eM

      A lonely “I’m on 2 Mbps ADSL and I feel fine” comment passing through 🙂
      Well, seriously, I’m able to use YouTube at 480p, catch up TV apps also work fine and some even skip ads after they buffer for a while 🙂 2 Mbps is enough to load pages quickly, ping is around 35ms and online games work. The only thing that doesn’t work (well) is downloads – but I can go to a library with a flash drive for this.
      Final point – I live in g.fast trial area and I’m not sure if I want to upgrade. 330 Mbps won’t improve my life dramatically.

  2. Vince

    On the flip side, Enta will sell the connection, but they have have so many undocumented, unconfirmed (until you fight them on it, repeatedly) capacity issues, and such a poor attitude to addressing it and accepting the huge disruption they cause, making this finger pointing at other ISPs simply choosing the customer base they want laughable.

    Sky are entitled to choose customers like anyone else – and if they were really cherry picking to boot numbers they’d be accepting FTTP orders, but they don’t. They do however have good cause not to want sub 2 meg customers – only one the recent Ofcom ruling (this is the unintended side effect they created, not Sky!), but secondly, as they provide quite a bit of on-demand content and ultimately want customers to have Sky TV and use the other services, it will be in Sky’s best interest to have customers who can take advantage of other offerings, and sub 2 meg it does not.

  3. Chris

    Well, I am on an apparently sub 2Mbps line receiving 3Mbps through Sky. Sure, 3Mbps stinks but I can do many things. I can stream HD Netflix, browse the internet, work from home over VPN etc. My other option is BT and they were completely and utterly hopeless when I was with them. Sky is currently the best of a bad lot of options so people losing this option will suffer. I understand why Sky might want to do this but let us not pretend it is to protect the end user from a bad experience. I think it is an area that Ofcom need to look at to protect those of us on the wrong side of the digital divide.

    As it is I am weeks away from getting fixed wireless internet so will be leaving Sky and Openreach.

    Chris.

  4. Rich

    What else would you expect if people push and push for speeds to be “average” or “50th percentile” etc.

    Just wait, it will get much worse, and the speeds quoted will still be of no relevance – all that matters is the speed your line syncs at, but instead you’ll end up buying based on how many customers with short lines an ISP has, even though that won’t make any difference to your line.

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