Broadband speeds code of practice comes into effect 5th December
It is not clear how much use a voluntary code of practice on broadband speeds will be, but hopefully if providers who have agreed to it consistently break the rules Ofcom will act with a larger stick to ensure compliance.
The Broadband Speeds Code of Practice was first announced on 5th June 2008, and on the six month anniversary of the initial release Ofcom is keen to point out that providers covering 95% of broadband users are signed up.
The code is mainly about ensuring consumers are better informed about potential speeds, to avoid people seeing headline figures of 24Mbps and not being aware that with ADSL2+ only around 15% of lines will ever connect at speeds like this. The main points of the code are:
- provide consumers at the point of sale with an accurate estimate of the maximum speed that their line can support;
- explain clearly and simply how technical factors may slow down speeds and giving help and advice to consumers to improve the situation at home;
- offer an alternative package (if there is one) without any penalties, if the actual speed is a lot lower than the original estimate; and
- explain fair usage policies clearly and alert consumers when they have been breached.
The last six months has seen some progress with estimates of line connection speeds featuring more prominently in many providers sign-up processes. Of course the speed your ADSL/ADSL2+/cable broadband connects at does not mean you will always see download speeds close to this; congestion from the millions of others potentially online at the same time is a big factor too.
One area where progress still seems to be slack is informing consumers of when they're breaching a fair use policy. Far too many still appear moaning of slow broadband speeds to find they've entered a different traffic management level. While fair use policies are generally designed to be dynamic and often do not kick in unless a providers network is very busy, the average consumer may get a better idea of what is considered high usage if the levels from the previous month were published on the providers website.
The broadband industry is a highly competitive one, and with many people attempting to cut back on spending, the pressure and attractiveness on providers of skirting around areas like traffic management is at an all time high. What effect this code will have on solutions sold as unlimited, but where different types of traffic are throttled is impossible to tell. For many consumers they may not care, but those embracing all that is possible with broadband very soon start to notice the problems, e.g. when a 5 Meg connection is unable to stream a 1 Meg video stream, but the neighours slower 2Meg connection with a different provider is able to play video streams for hours on end.