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MP's Cast Critical Eye Over Broadband Providers

Posted: 12th Jun, 2007 By: MarkJ
Peter Luff (MP), head of the DTI's select committee on trade and industry, has given a fascinating interview to The Register (here). In it several of the questions touch on issues related to broadband ISP's; we’ve posted a small sample below:

Let's talk about mis-selling. In broadband you have some unique types of...well I won't call it mis-selling because I have not researched it, but you have statements to the effect of: 'this is free broadband'. Consumer advocates often say the use of the word 'free' is inherently misleading because it is not free when you have to purchase something else to get it. And you've also seen these claims of 'up to 8 megabits per second' and after thousands of tests most of the connections are actually a small fraction of the promised speed. What's your view on this?

It's such a complex area for the consumer to understand actually what is being offered. My concern in the mobile telephone market is that there is almost too much competition. The offers are so bewildering - how on earth do you compare what's being offered? On what rational basis do you reach a decision? And broadband - it's technical offering actually bewilders most consumers because you are asking for a degree of technological sophistication they won't have.

But if I am promised 'up to 8 megabits per second' and I consistently receive less than 2 megabits per second...

I had a problem with my broadband connection at home - no one could work out why it was not delivering a much higher rate...eventually we just put a new router in and the rate went up again. I got the rate I wanted, which is a reasonable rate anyhow.

The problem is that people say, "I'm terribly sorry, it's not our fault", particularly when it's a problem with BT providing the infrastructure. There's a lot of buck passing that goes on as well. So, it's quite difficult to regulate in each case: "Our computer is not functioning", "the router is not functioning properly", "there is someone down in the street that has done something"...

'You live too far from the telephone exchange' - I've seen all types of excuses.

It's really difficult. Well, I think the industry has got to be really careful about not making excessive claims and if it doesn't then there will be a toughening up of the regulatory environment.

Sadly, while there are some constructive and interesting responses, for the most part it’s a very "safe" interview. That is to say, there's a lot of agreement with the questions asked but not a lot of constructive movement.
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