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UK ISPs Welcome Ofcoms New Broadband Speed CoP
By: MarkJ - 05 June, 2008 (1:16 PM)

This morning’s introduction of a new broadband speed Code of Practice (CoP) by Ofcom appears to have generated a lot of interest. ISPreview's inbox has literally been flooded with comments on the subject coming from right across the industry.

Broadly speaking, and despite the odd exception, most UK ISPs and industry figures appear to welcome the move, though we've yet to hear from everybody. Naturally the UK Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) starts the ball rolling:

ISPA: The Internet Services Providers’ Association (ISPA) UK and its members support the principle of the CoP and its aims and participated in its drafting. ISPA encourages its members to display openness and transparency when dealing with their customers and believes the CoP supports this.

ISPA would like to see the CoP extended to include wireless mobile operators that provide broadband over their networks as well as fixed line broadband providers, to ensure minimal confusion to consumers.

ISPA members also feel that while the CoP focuses on access line speed, throughput speed is of much greater value to the user. Access line speed only gives an approximation of the speed they will receive. ISPA looks forward to continuing our work with Ofcom and the Internet industry to determine a methodology for collecting accurate information on throughput speeds to give to the consumer at the point of purchase.

Oli White, Head of Marketing at Be (O2) Broadband, said “Be Broadband has never hidden away from providing customers with the true broadband speed they would receive. Now, with the biggest ISPs signing up, broadband customers will see just how much faster Be Broadband’s service is compared to other ISP providers.

The estimated access line speed is a useful starting point but the real test will be an independent 'throughput' test which measures how each ISP performs in practice.

Oli White also noted that 'Be' had been left off Ofcom's initial list of supporting ISPs, which appears to be in error because they are already members. Likewise another ISP, Fast.co.uk, has also joined the code and should soon appear on Ofcom's list.

A Virgin Media spokesperson said: "Virgin Media welcomes Ofcom's new code of practice. Not all broadband services are the same and we agree that consumers are sometimes confused by competing marketing claims. We hope the code will help de-mystify what's on offer and allow consumers to choose the product that's right for them."

Zen Internet statement: "We fully support the spirit of the Code and welcome the notion that customers should be given a realistic expectation of the speed of their Broadband. We will be reviewing, and amending where necessary, our own processes over the course of the next six months to ensure we comply fully with the Principles set out in the Code. We will also continue to work with Ofcom with regards the further development of the Code.

Further updates will be provided on our Web site over the coming weeks.

Gavin Johns, Managing Director of broadband performance monitoring company Epitiro says, "This code and Ofcom's research programme is great as it recognises the importance of broadband performance, not just price. However line speed is just one indicator of broadband performance, but there are many others.

For example reliability of broadband connections is important. Many would say it's more frustrating not to have a connection than to have a slow connection. This is a positive move by Ofcom which will reduce consumers' over reliance on crude and unreliable speed tests, which do not take into consideration issues such as traffic management policies.

However, the COO of Entanet International, James Blessing, wasn't quite so welcoming and offered a very personal viewpoint on the subject (Note: These are personal views not a company or ISPA position). Entanet was notable by its absence from Ofcom’s initial list:

"This isn't going to solve any problems, decent ISP's have been doing this (and much more) since day 1. In some cases they have lost business in some cases because of their honesty to 'unlimited' advertisers).

Now Ofcom are 'imposing' conditions that won't protect the user, they are obsessing on connection speed rather than performance and have only actually spoken to anyone out side the 'big 6 cartel' with much reluctance.

Blessing was also concerned that Ofcom's related broadband speed research project might only utilise the largest providers’ networks and exclude smaller operations. More comments may follow in due course.

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