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Ofcom Reveals Broadband Speed Code of Practice
By: MarkJ - 05 June, 2008 (8:45 AM)

Ofcom has this morning announced the long awaited introduction of its new VOLUNTARY broadband speed Code of Practice (CoP), which is designed to ensure that UK ISPs offer greater clarity over what customers' can truly expect to receive from their service.

The regulator is concerned that consumers could be misled or misinformed when choosing their broadband services by ISPs advertising headline speeds that are higher than users can receive in practice. Though to be fair, it took a significant amount of consumer campaigning and pressure before they finally took notice of the issue.

Roughly 32 ISPs (listed further down), including most of the major providers (90% of the market), have agreed to honour the new code, which demands the following:

The Code of Practice
Steps that fixed-line ISPs are required to take under the voluntary Code include:

  • providing customers at the point of sale with an accurate estimate of the maximum speed that the line can support, whether it is in the shop, over the internet or on the phone;

  • resolving technical issues to improve speed and offering customers the choice to move onto a lower speed package when estimates given are inaccurate;

  • ensuring all sales and promotion staff have a proper understanding of the products they are selling so they can explain to their customers the meaning of the estimates provided at the point of sale; and

  • providing consumers with information on usage limits and alerting customers when they have breached them.

The key aspects above are merely basic summary bullet points and don't cover the full details, which can be read HERE. ISPs have been given six months to implement the code after signup and Ofcom will consider formal regulation if it proves ineffective. Those signed up so far are as follows:

AOL Broadband
BT Total Broadband
Eclipse Internet
Exa Networks
Firefly Internet
Greenbee Broadband
Netplan Internet Solutions Ltd
O2 Business Broadband
O2 Home Broadband
Orange Home
Pipex Homecall
Pipex Internet
PlusNet Broadband
Polestar Interactive Ltd
Pro-Net Internet Services Ltd
Surf Anytime
TalkTalk Business
UK Online
Virgin Media
Waitrose Broadband
Zen Internet

This list will be updated as more ISPs join:

Ofcom will monitor compliance, including through mystery shopping exercises, to determine if ISPs are meeting both the letter and spirit of the Code. The regulator is also considering whether or not to extend the code to 'Mobile Broadband' services, which could be risky given the markets infancy.

Ed Richards, Ofcoms Chief Executive, said: Broadband is a thriving market in the UK. We want to encourage real clarity for consumers about the actual broadband speeds they can receive. This voluntary Code is a significant step in this direction.

To some the new code lacks teeth and we wouldn't be surprised if the rules aren't precisely adhered to by all of its members, although it is indeed a first and necessary step in the right direction. The regulator now hopes to conduct a programme of independent research to identify the actual performance of broadband for consumers, results of which will surface sometime during H2-2008.

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