The UK broadband industry has a voluntary code of practice on speeds from Ofcom and the ASA requires advertising to only mention speeds that at least 10% of customers can get, but these do not go far enough with a Which! survey revealing that six out of ten broadband customers suffer slow speeds.
"The internet is an essential part of modern life, yet millions of us are getting frustratingly slow speeds and having to wait days to get reconnected when things go wrong.
It’s less superfast broadband, more super slow service from companies who are expecting people to pay for speeds they may never get."Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director
No one disputes the opinion of those taking part in the survey, but there is little detail of the methodology used in the Which! report but BBC coverage reveals that this is survey based on opinion rather than asking people to test their speeds and tell Which! what the speed estimate was when they signed up they were asked if they had suffered from buffering when streaming or slow downloads. Even with these concerns there is a case to be answered for consumers to be given better information and education on broadband speeds and what their package can supply.
A speed guarantee for a broadband connection will probably achieve one of the following outcomes; either consumers will get used to picking between a service that guarantees 0.2 Mbps (Mega bits per second) on an ADSL2+ service and refuses to provide a service at all to those on longer lines, and on the superfast services this might guarantee might rise to 0.5 Mbps. Or a second option will be that providers will provide a guarantee but wrap it up in the many caveats that have to apply since they do not control our computers, wireless environment and the servers spread across the globe that actually make up the Internet, making the guarantee worthless.
Broadband speed issues are not just a UK problem, even in countries with millions using fully fibre optic connections, speeds still vary greatly and if anything the speed variation due to wireless and other factors are much more pronounced the faster your own broadband connection. The UK may be slightly different due to the constant price pressure with many of us chasing the best broadband deal, which invariably means the cheapest broadband deal, which all too often leaves little room for the pleasantries of compensation.
For those that feel they do have slow broadband speeds, while complaining to your broadband provider may seem the logical response, it is worth doing some research first to ensure you are getting the best from your connection already and we have a Broadband Speeds Guide that covers many of the basic issues, and running a broadband speed check and comparing this to the estimate given at sign-up can be useful.
To try and summarise is a few short words how consumers can find out if they are getting the best speeds possible, if your speed test result is close to the speed estimate given at sign-up and this speed is above 5 Mbps the chances are that any buffering may be nothing to do with your broadband connection itself but the variable nature of the Internet at large. For those where the speed test is a long way from the estimate (and how far is acceptable will depend on what price you pay) the first stage is to check what speed the broadband hardware is connected at (i.e. the connection speed, attenuation and noise margin figures) and whether a speed calculator suggests these are in the expected range, if this is the case then only by upgrading to a better broadband technology are you likely to go faster.
At the end of the day broadband speeds are a complex area and even when large sums of money are paid for guaranteed speeds on a business connection the caveats are numerous.