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Which? campaigning again to get broadband advertising changed
Thursday 18 June 2015 09:19:05 by Andrew Ferguson

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:

  • Providers to back up superfast claims
  • Advertising to give priority to the speed the majority will get
  • Public and Which? to convince ASA/BCAP to block confusing broadband adverts

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.


Posted by Oldjim about 1 year ago
I believe that the Which results were from their own speed testing and are therefore comparing apples and oranges - connection speed which is what OFCOM require and speed test results which will always be less that sync speed
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
Which appear to be using a mixture of their own data and the Ofcom panel and data provided by suppliers to Ofcom.

Their own speed test does not ask ISP or location, which makes comparing speeds to what is possible in area difficult and matching to products impossible.
Posted by Oldjim about 1 year ago
In the case of fibre - as the end user likely won't know the connection speed they must be using speed tests which is why the 1% figure must be completely wrong
Posted by taras about 1 year ago
Speed tests are always an indicative of the actual speed, sometimes masked by many factors, some of which are not to do with the isp :( .

Which's recommendations do not address the issue that they are targeting
Posted by csimon about 1 year ago
This shows again they don't understand the technology.Both Ofcom & Which have their single mind set on being able to switch if the speed is not satisfactory. That's useless. I'm not happy with my 0.4mpbs on an up-to-24mbps product.So I switch.I get 0.4mbps with my next provider.And so on.The ability to switch seems to be the main aim of competition but it doesn't actually do anything or improve service. Instead they should ensure the personal speed estimate is the only guideline that should be made. Perhaps abolish up-to speeds completely as they're clearly still not getting it right.
Posted by csimon about 1 year ago
It's the ISPs' fault that the broadband speeds are not good enough for millions in this day ana dage, it's the fault of the people who provide the infrastructure.
Posted by AndrueC about 1 year ago
Did Which ask its testers to use a wired connection?
Posted by joe_pineapples about 1 year ago
Its the pricing structure which needs changing. Though I guess if we all paid for only the percentage of speed we actually received, the whole economics of the system would fall apart.
Posted by vimtogirl about 1 year ago
Oldjim, advertising speeds are regulated by the ASA, not OFCOM.

The ASA use the BCAP guidance which states:
- "maximum speed claims should be based on the actual experience of users"
- "speed claims should be based on speed testing"
- " 'Download speed' claims should be based on tests of protocols relevant to downloading large files"

If Plusnet whacked everyone on a 5 Mb/s profile, they couldn't still advertise up to 76 Mb Download Speed just based on sync speeds.
Posted by tommy45 about 1 year ago
I would imagine that BT FTTC customers would get closer to this magical 76mbps figure that even with a full sync rate you cannot achieve due to overheads and the BT Wholesale IP profile (throughput)
Plusnet customers are further restricted by their own IP profile which by default is always set to a lower figure than the BT wholesale , they also manage traffic both reduce throughput by around 2mbps, but no one seems to be bothered about that , I would bet that none if any of plusnet customers where able to reach a speed of 76mbps (throughput)
Posted by tommy45 about 1 year ago
NO FTTC customers as they do offer a trial or did trial FTTP so this would not apply to these customers
Posted by Oldjim about 1 year ago
I agree with your comment on the IP profile which - on a BT line - is about 77.3Mb/s for a top sync speed and 77Mb/s for Plusnet
With respect to the ASA (not OFCOM whoops) guidelines I have no idea how the ISP is supposed to meet them wrt speed tests as they don't do speed tests. So I would assume that they work from the synch rate and ignore the small print
Posted by Dixinormous about 1 year ago
I'll take the speed tests from Samknows over Which? testing.
Posted by Michael_Chare about 1 year ago
Which send me an email asking me to support their campaign. It lacked an option to say that I definitely do not support the campaign. I just have to do this be default.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
Strikes me that there is no point advertising any of the existing speeds. 10%, means or medians mean nothing to the user whatsoever.

The primary thing that matters is the speed the user will get, which they can only be given on an individual basis, as today.

But that is tempered by the technology available, or the package limit if lower. So today's "up to" does tell you something.

All of it is then affected by the overload figures, and VM doesn't escape those.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
How can you best combine the effects of
- technology capabilities
- deliberate package limits
- individual estimate
- likelihood & performance during overload???

I'm pretty sure that the average/mean, the median, or the 10% figure bears no relationship to any of it.
Posted by Teefenn1 about 1 year ago
Posted by csimon
"This shows again they don't understand the technology.Both Ofcom & Which have their single mind set on being able to switch if the speed is not satisfactory. That's useless."
Agree 100%. All Which campaigns seem to be focused on nannying for the most stupid consumers.
Posted by Teefenn1 about 1 year ago
The most legitimate reason that should entitle people to leave an ISP free of charge while under contract is when their throughput speed falls significantly below the sync speed because of congestion due to the ISP having under capacity at the exchange. Neither useless OFCOM nor irrelevant Which propose anything to facilitate this.
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