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Ofcom Consumer Panel wants advertising code of practice
Wednesday 19 December 2007 13:02:07 by Sebastien Lahtinen

The Ofcom Consumer Panel which provides independent representation of consumer interests in the communications market has asked Ofcom to produce a mandatory code of practice for broadband service providers in relation to advertising of broadband connection speeds. The issue of advertised broadband speeds has been controversial within the DSL marketplace since the speed available to users can vary dramatically depending on the quality of their telephone line, which is mainly governed by distance from their local telephone exchange. The longer the distance, the lower the quality of the signal and thus the slower the potential broadband service that can be provided over the line.

"We would like to see Ofcom leading discussions with industry to produce an enforceable code of practice that would be mandatory for ISPs. This code would establish agreed processes to give the customer the best information during and after the sales process, and to give them flexibility to move freely to different packages that reflect the actual speeds with which their ISPs are able to provide them."

Letter from Colette Bowe, Chairman of the Ofcom Consumer Panel

One of the suggestions is that service providers should be able to advise users during the ordering process what their expected maximum speed would be as well as what factors can affect line speed. It is also suggested that ISPs should contact users a fortnight after installation to confirm the actual line speed, tackling the problem of user awareness.

Most controversially from a service provider point of view, they suggest that if the actual speed is far below the expected speed, consumers should be able to terminate or move without penalty. This is likely to be of concern to service providers who incur costs in the setup of broadband services, and who would want to ensure such costs are refunded from wholesale operators as well.

Ofcom responded to the letter from its Consumer Panel stating it intends to engage with consumer groups early in 2008 to discuss these issues and confirms it has already started looking into many of them.


Posted by herdwick over 9 years ago
"This is likely to be of concern to service providers" - it should also be of concern to customers, as regulation is never free and the rest of us will pick up the tab for someone who plugs the phone line into the ethernet port of their router and demands a refund.
Posted by whatever2 over 9 years ago
if you continue to have cheap broadband which doesnt do what it's sold as for a variety of reasons then you will never get the foundation necessary for high speed services which might inject money back into the equations.

whats the point of IPTV for instance if many cant sustain it's speed or contain it within their FUP?
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
QUOTE"One of the suggestions is that service providers should be able to advise users during the ordering process what their expected maximum speed would be"

They stole my idea lol, seriously though im glad the pressure is finally mounting, its about time ISPs advertising became more honest.
Posted by herdwick over 9 years ago
"They stole my idea" - it's standard practice with the majority of ISP online signup processes. Step 1 is enter your number and be told availability and speed. Talk Talk, Orange, BT, etc all do it.
Posted by blueberryman over 9 years ago
Before I signed up to "Up to 8M", BT suggested (via the online checker, and via email) that I would get up to 5 Meg. Since I joined, It's been around 2.3M, and for the last week has dropped to 475K. Previously, I was on BT 2M, and it always gave me around 1.9M. I'd hoped that joining "Up to 8M" would at least double my speed. I'd love to get out of my contract !
Posted by keith_thfc over 9 years ago
"This code would establish agreed processes to give the customer the best information during and after the sales process"

I think there are two parts to this:

1) Making people more aware of the maximum speed they are likely to see.

2) Making people aware that these maximum speeds may not be obtained during peak hours due to traffic management.

Posted by whatever2 over 9 years ago
3) Making people aware that even with traffic management and sync speed being a restriction a vague and undefined FUP that applies to the unlimited download aspect might suddenly kick in whenever it's triggered by an unknown trigger.
Posted by ETEE over 9 years ago
Maybe Ofcom should explain to the masses what line sync rate and download speed rate means? I doubt many taking part in an Ofcom consumer survey would know.
Posted by AdamGz0r over 9 years ago
ISPs will try and wriggle out of this one by saying that customers are indeed connecting at xx mbit and can obtain that speed within theyre own internal network and blame slow speeds on other factors of which I am sure you will all know what Im on about.

This is going to head absolutely nowhere.
Posted by whatever2 over 9 years ago
i suppose it is down to ofcom's definition of what the "best information" for the could be all the information, or it could fall short and bury the problem under waffle and apathy.
Posted by keith_thfc over 9 years ago
"whenever it's triggered by an unknown trigger"

I love that quote. It neatly sums up what a FUP really is. Given Ofcom have turned a blind eye to this for so long I don't hold out much hope they will do much to protect the customer.
Posted by AndrueC over 9 years ago
It's a nice idea but I just don't see how it can work. There are two many factors at play which makes prediction difficult. Worse still it can vary by week or even by day.

And that's even assuming that the average customer can get their heads around the complexities.

The problems with "up to" are symptomatic of the real issue. People that understand the technology have no problems with "up to". Obviously the greater, non-technical public does.
Posted by hasand over 9 years ago
I just used "Myspeed" to test my virgin 'up to 20Mbps'. Speeds to London servers was 12Mbps. Speed to California server was a little over 2Mbps.
The bigger problem is the congestion on the lines over to the States. That's where bandwidth needs to improve.
Posted by paulbeattie87 over 9 years ago
I really love this, when the ISP starts charging the real price of the product they are using as they want the speed and whatever everybody will just shut up.

99% of the people who complained to Ofcom don't have a clue what they are speaking about, on the BBC yesterday their was some guy complaining that BT had gave his Virgin connection high pings!!!!!
Posted by carpet over 9 years ago
If ISPs were more realistic about the kind of speeds a customer is likely to get, maybe even slightly underestimating, imagine all the satisfied customers they'd get when they started delivering faster speeds than they'd estimated!
Posted by whatever2 over 9 years ago
there's probably 2 important things that may need to be made clear, the 1st being the physical speed restrictions due to line length and quality, the 2nd being that exchange or ISP congestion, port/packet throttling and an unFUP might affect their speed.

I see no reason why ofcom can't force ISP's to state clearly what & how throttling takes place, and when and how a FUP will kick in.
Posted by keith_thfc over 9 years ago
Easy solution really......

Just ban the word FUP.

Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
quote"Easy solution really......

Just ban the word FUP."

Oh pleeease no all these numpty ISPs will then drop the 'Fair' bit and just call it an UP policy. I dare say some would even be dishonest and be happy to say they have a UP policy on connections, and try to make it sound a positive thing.
Posted by keith_thfc over 9 years ago
My thinking wa to drop the use of misleading jargon like FUP and force ISP's to state actual restrictions in place.

On their product description pages/ads.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
quote"My thinking wa to drop the use of misleading jargon like FUP and force ISP's to state actual restrictions in place."
Yea i gathered that really ;) i was being a little sarcastic with the UP policy thing ;)
To be honest i agree with you, again though our regulator is gutless so thats never gonna happen.
Posted by aciddave over 9 years ago
Personally I applaud the fact that OFCOM are going to look into this. I've had broadband for around 3 years from different providers, and althought BT says i can attain up to 5mbps, until recently when i move to ukonline, i could never get more than 3! (Cont.)
Posted by aciddave over 9 years ago
I think that the customer should also be informed of contention etc before they sign up and then be given two weeks. I had one hell of a fight with both pipex and orange (I know, I know) to get out of my contracts with them as they informed me when i signed up that i'd get five, but rarely got near 3! Hopefully OFCOM will make ISP's tell customers what speeds to expect before they sign up.
Posted by aciddave over 9 years ago

Didn't you know that you can get virgin through DSl as well as Cable? Maybe the guy on the BBC had Virgin DSL?
Posted by Fireblade40 over 9 years ago
Hi All

For me all my problems are due to a lack of investment in my ISP buying capacity from BT.
I am with virgin ADSL. When I first got broadband got a 1meg line which i was happy with. I then upgraded to 8 meg and naturally like 100% of Joe public expected I would get a product that was 8 times better (I know, unrealistic at only 50% more cost as went from 9.99 to 15 or 17 quid but I didn't know that then, perhaps not all that unrealistic with technology as this computer I am on is 6 times faster than my last one but cost the same)
Now a crappy 0.5 meg all the time from virgin.

Posted by aciddave over 9 years ago
@Fireblade40 -
Have you tried running a line speed test on your line? Like

? That should give an indication of roughly your max spped ( although BT one is a bit leanient!)
Posted by jaycee6868 over 9 years ago
It's about time the industry was made to come clean about the, often, dire speeds available - even when you are only a few hundred meters from the exchange. It will help the buyer and the ISP in the long run. 8Mbit anyone?
Posted by whatever2 over 9 years ago
8mbit on both my lines, but until i went to an isp that clearly showed it's central data and a clear policy on throttling I often got less than that.

Of course, if BT hadn't changed their speedchecker to include the ISP leg, then it would be easier to find the source of the problem. I suspect some ISP's actually were glad they did.
Posted by Guzzo over 9 years ago
Virgin again eh? I remember long ago Pipex wanted £50 to take me from my 2mb speed to the 8mb speed after 2 years great service. One phone call got me the MAC code and I never looked back. whjy dont people just leave Virgin instead of complaining daily?

Posted by Guzzo over 9 years ago
Using a Netgear Router taking the MTU to 1492 and setting the LAN in XP to match the ISP own DNS Server took 6.4mb speed to 7.5 on an LLU line. No problems so far. shows a test of 7.3 daily. I'm happy :)))))
Posted by chrysalis over 9 years ago
Seems to be as a result of the channel5 program as they only mention speeds and not the misleading unlimited advertising.
Posted by lmschuffer over 9 years ago
Am I the only user who has noticed that ISP web sites give an estimate of the expected line speed it will support when you enter your phone number.
I have helped several friends to get ADSL with different ISP's and every time the estimate has been very accurate, on a few occasions the estimate has been lower than that achieved.
Is there some confusion as to the difference between the connection speed and the throughput.
Nobody can predict what the throughput will be at any given time, but the connection speed is very consistent.
Posted by RegNirrab over 9 years ago
Maybe ISPs would be happy with a service and payment structure that worked like this: The ISP provides "up to xxMb" bandwidth. The ISP actually provides, say 60% of the xx bandwidth. Next months bill from the ISP will be reduced by a similar proportion. i.e. you pay for what you get!
(I'm sending this during a brief sojourn to cloud cuckoo land).
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
^^^ Ive suggested something similar to that in the forums here RegNirrab, only problem is it still doesnt satisfy people and they then use the old why should i pay the same as a heavy user arguement.
Posted by g-bhxu over 9 years ago
Must admit I'm in favor of only paying for the speed you get.

e.g. if a user connects at 5MB they should only be paying 5/8 of the cost.

The only good thing about this is that for those users with ISPs that have a FUP, it takes them longer to reach the unspecified limit when the FUP kicks in and your connection speed is throttled.

This is for those of you that are in the "why should a light user pay the same a a heavy user camp"

You pay the same for a TV License whether you're a couch potato or somone who just watches the odd programme now and again.

Posted by tedhunt over 9 years ago
Tiscali insisted I had a 5 - 6 meg connection speed, even when I never got a speed above 2 meg on the 'think broadband'speed test. I switched to Namesco and immediately got a m uch better connection. There must be some independent test of speed.
Posted by webdfeet over 9 years ago
Being rural-based with an exchange at max distance, I lived fairly happily for three years on 512kb broadband....then Pipex offered to upgrade it. It appeared that my exchange could now handle a faster connection, but in fact it isn't proving to be that much faster at all. On their "up to 8Mb" package, I've yet to top 2.5 Mb download. All speedtests I've used have shown this, and the much touted Dan Elwell test won't even give a figure! I suppose I should be grateful that it's at least twice as fast as before
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