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Which? Criticises Advertised Broadband Speeds
By: MarkJ - 02 August, 2007 (8:47 AM)

Consumer group Which? has criticised the broadband speeds advertised by ISP's and called on Ofcom to investigate because the actual performance received often falls considerably lower.

More than a third of the groups members apparently subscribe to an 'up to' 8Mbps product, yet over 300 of those found that they could only achieve an average of 2.7Mbps, with the lowest speed being just 0.09Mbps:

The Advertising Standards Agency says that using the words ‘up to’ is acceptable if most people can get close to those speeds.

Investigation call

But we believe that the advertised speeds can be misleading and want Ofcom and Trading Standards to investigate providers’ claims.

The test results are published alongside our twice-yearly ISP satisfaction survey, which shows that just 30% of Which? members on average are very satisfied with their service.

Smaller providers Global, Waitrose and Zen come out top, with big names AOL, BT and Virgin Media rated below average.

Internet service providers

Which? Online Editor Malcolm Coles said: ‘It’s shocking that internet service providers can advertise ever-increasing speeds that seem to bear little resemblance to what most people can achieve in reality.

‘If it’s unlikely you’ll reach the advertised speed it should be made clear up front, so that you know with some certainty what you’re buying.

‘Do your research to check what speed you’re likely to get before upgrading, and if you think what you’re getting differs vastly from what you’ve paid for, speak to your provider – or if they won’t help, report them to Ofcom.

There's nothing new in this news and by now it's practically common knowledge that the expected speed will always be lower, often considerably, than the stated headline figure. Interestingly the maximum speed recorded by Which? was 6.7Mbps.

However investigating such an issue would be difficult due to the variability of individual connections and complex differences between providers and technology. It's known that Ofcom are working with the ASA to see what could be done but we don't expect any significant changes.

Thankfully just 10% of Which?'s members actually expected to receive the headline speed, suggesting that people are broadly aware of the reality. Still, if it causes this much hassle with 'up to' 8Mbps products then just imagine the "fun" we'll have with 'up to' 24Mbps services next year! Perhaps then a re-think of advertising will become truly essential as the gap turns to chasm.

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