The speed that people get from the broadband connection is both a simple and complex affair and in the 21st century rather than complaining about the milkman delivering late in the summer we seem to enjoy complaining about our broadband speeds.
Which? who are campaigning to try and make people's lives simpler has restarted its annual campaign to try and bring about a change in broadband advertising, the core changes they want are:
The current advertising rules are that if a specific package is advertised that the speed that the fastest 10% can achieve is quoted, and providers are meant to have data to support this. The switch to a majority would essentially mean showing the median speed and is something that we already cover in our monthly round up of speed test results. While switching to the median would improve things it would still leave millions being misled and an interesting observation is that the Which? research seems to show 26% are getting the advertised speeds when only 10% need to.
"Average speeds fared even worse. We found just 17% of homes received an average speed that matched the advertised level and even fewer, 15%, managed this during the peak evening period.
Advertising guidelines say only 10% of customers need to achieve the maximum advertised speed, but we found three packages that couldn’t even meet that. Only 4% of customers on TalkTalk’s 17Mbps package, and just 1% of people on BT and Plusnet’s 76Mbps deals, were getting the top advertised speeds."Extract from Which? Campaign
When looking at speeds from our questioning over the years we have found that people do not always respond correctly to various questions and it is not totally clear which of the Which? statistics are based on their own data or Ofcom November 2014 data.
Our simple advice is to accept as with the rest of the advertising world that advertisers want to show their product in the most positive light possible and that with the Ofcom Broadband Speed Code of Practice in place you need to pay close attention to the personalised estimate that is provided when you provide your address or telephone number.
Until such time as advertising enters the world of Minority Report and the advert knows all about us, adverts in national newspapers and TV are going to be generalised and it is likely the only effect of the Which? campaign will be more lifestyle adverts such as the ones Usain Bolt does.
One potential downside to a stricter set of rules would be that people would be denied access to certain packages and people may find themselves choosing from a smaller subset of providers and this may mean that prices rise, i.e. faster lines and packages will get more attractive offers.
Update 16:22 - We would remind users that speed variations due to line quality affect FTTC services delivered over phone lines, with covers most 'fibre broadband' services, but notably excludes those provided by Virgin Media, who run a fibre co-ax hybrid network which is generally able to deliver full speeds at the local loop (between the house and nearest distribution node). Obviously this doesn't mean congestion at peak times won't slow down speeds for customers on cable services, however in terms of peak speeds, performance on cable networks is significantly better. Another important point to note is switching providers using the same FTTC technology over phone lines will usually not affect the speeds you can get if the line distance is causing you to receive slower than expected speeds, unless you switch to someone like Virgin Media.