The Ofcom Consumer Panel Chairman has written a letter to the top six largest broadband service providers to ask them to provide clearer information to consumers about the speeds they should expect to receive on their broadband service.
Concern has been expressed by consumers who see speeds advertised as "up to", typically "up to 8 meg" but they find once their service is live, the speeds do not measure up. This can be a difficult task since the speeds vary depending on the quality of the telephone lines connecting homes and businesses to the telephone exchange. However it is possible to give users some indication of the likely speeds based on the line length which is something broadband service providers can look up.
The panel feels that at present consumers are not able to see what they are buying, how the products they are considering are likely to perform and what they can do if they are having performance problems once subscribed.
"...we believe that broadband customers are not at the moment getting enough information. We are of course aware of the technical reasons for the “up to” terminology that you use. I would however like to have your views about how these technical issues might be better addressed in terms of giving clearer information to potential customers"Letter from Consumer Panel Chairman to large ISPs
The Consumer Panel has asked ISPs to also extend the cooling off period so customers can test out the connection speeds before they commit to a long term contract, a move which is likely to be criticised by service providers who often subsidise the costs associated with setup/termination of a connection as well as allowing customers to exit from longer contracts early if the quality of the service is well below the advertised speeds on a consistent basis.
Perhaps the biggest area we see broadband providers failing is when offering upgrades to existing users. The provider could very easily find out the speed the customer is currently getting and offer an estimate of what is possible based on the actual data from the ADSL hardware. This will often give a much better indicator than the BT Wholesale estimator. Of course you can do this yourself by finding out the current line speeds, attenuation, and noise margin figures from your ADSL modem and visiting sites such as this ADSL/ADSL2+ speed estimator.
One myth we often hear is people saying they have been told by their service provider that their new up to 8Mbps connection will stabilise after a ten day training period. The simple reality is that while the service may be more stable after a week or two of settling in, if conditions change (e.g. longer and colder evenings mean lots more electrical noise or people add phone extensions to the property) then the speeds you connect at may vary. Of course by stalling a customer for a few days they will probably be outside the seven day cooling off period and now stuck for the duration of the contract or face expensive get-out clauses.