Broadband News

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.


The ‘likely broadband speed’ bears little relationship to the actual upload and download speed that customers will experience because the upload and download speeds depend primarily on how many people are sharing the ISP’s network at all points on the way to the internet, as well as how the ISP connects to the internet.

It would be more meaningful and honest to publish the upload and download data rates averaged over a ten-minute period experienced at different times of day across a week, based on average delays from the exchange to a site on the internet.

  • Tfoale
  • over 12 years ago

"Explain fair usage policies clearly" How? tell their customers that fair means 30/40GB per month?

  • rian
  • over 12 years ago

BT are to blame because they should have installed fibre optic in the 1st place. Copper wire will never going to be improvement on the ADSL2+ up to 24Mbps. Ok for thouse who live right next door to the telephone exchange !

  • adslmax
  • over 12 years ago

Although it's good to see this issue make the news, it represents another piece of paper and a declaration that is not likely to benefit anyone within a time frame the affected can be bothered to wait. Another smoke screen to distract from the state of British broadband and the absence of FTTH. Superfluous and ineffective rules and statistics are surely the scourge of modern life.

  • bosie
  • over 12 years ago

Another Ofcom 'jam tomorrow' measure, designed to stall on doing anything meaningful for as long as possible and protecting ISPs from the, miserable, ungrateful masses for as long as possible. They wouldn't know 'evidence-based' if it chatted them up at a party.

  • carrot63
  • over 12 years ago

Ive wrote the small print for BT.....
"Actual speed may vary depending on when you connect, how you connect, why you connect, what you are connecting for, how long you connect, how much you connect for and be measured using the same length of string principal, customers are reminded string can be cut easily".

  • over 12 years ago

adslmax - They did in one town. They had to then re-wire Milton Keynes with copper. Unless you're suggesting that delaying broadband's introduction in the UK until very recently would of been acceptable.

More, I think you need to look into when precisely most lines in the UK were laid (it's not recent).

  • Dawn_Falcon
  • over 12 years ago

weak legislation which will affectively do very little, eg. the speed rule the isps only have to offer a lower package if it exists, the lower package doesnt have to exist and the speed is based on what they estimate not on what they advertise.

  • chrysalis
  • over 12 years ago


Just how long ago did Cabletel wire a lot of the Welsh valleys with fibre optic?

Much nearer 20 years ago than 'very recently'.

Please no bunkum about the 'copper wire between the house and kerb'..... doesn't apply in this case.

BTW - do you work for BT's misinformation dept. ?

P.S. I detest Virgin and hate being stuck with them...... until I check out the competition!

  • fox-uk
  • over 12 years ago

Virgin also gave me a free downgrade from 2.2 MB to 1MB. When I queried this with CS MD Trevor Elliot I was sent a free SIM for my mobile. But when I look around...... I'll stick with them!

  • clive4
  • over 12 years ago

Its seems to me (a very high download user ~300gb per month) that the only way to 'fairly' charge customers, is charging them by the byte.

It would make me think twice about downloading indiscriminately, thus reducing the burden on the available bandwidth, and it would eliminate the anger customers face when being sold an 'X'mbit connection and only receiving a 'Y'mbit service.

I think it is only a matter of time before 'price-per-byte broadband' becomes the norm.

Can anyone comment on the technical aspects of this?

  • mcompton69
  • over 12 years ago

quote"Its seems to me (a very high download user ~300gb per month) that the only way to 'fairly' charge customers, is charging them by the byte."

A fair and sensible remark at first glance, until you ask who actually decides what "VERY HIGH DOWNLOAD USER" actually is. Things also get more clouded as that person could in theory download 300gig from a slow server which doesnt max their connection where as someone say doing half that amount may constantly MAX their down speed..... Guess who affects the network and customers more!

  • over 12 years ago

BT are people who don't even understand their own systems let alone attempt to explain to people about Connection rates and IP Throughput.
The internet cloud is the main slowing point....

  • william963
  • over 12 years ago

"300gig from a slow server ... doesn't max their connection"

It's not necessarily "their connection" that's the problem, it's wherever the most expensive bit is (in terms of £ per Mbit/s). For most ISPs, that's where the retail ISP connects to the BTwholesale national/regional network.

"the internet cloud" is not usually the main restriction (in cost terms, and that's what matters to ISPs).


  • c_j_
  • over 12 years ago

Pay per MB was invented a few years back by Metronet. It still works (at Plusnet), but you can't sign up for it now. Today's equivalent seems to be "unmetered offpeak". You have to be quite lucky to get 300GB/month in off peak hours, even though some ISPs used to offer that.

300GB/month is enough for a 2Mbit line maxed out 50% of the time. Sensible ISPs call that heavy.

  • c_j_
  • over 12 years ago

quote"300GB/month is enough for a 2Mbit line maxed out 50% of the time. Sensible ISPs call that heavy."

Thats where problems occur though if 300gig is heavy what is 400gig? Or how about what is medium?? If thats 150gig (half that 300gig figure) than what is light?? If light is 75gig (half that 150gig figure) that why do so many offer less than that per month? All this heavy use, light use blah blah use is complete BS whats light to one person isnt to another, theres no set in stone ISP wide definition of what heavy or light is.

  • over 12 years ago

You cant say charge heavy or light people per Mb/Gb or whatever if everybody can not agree what heavy and light actually is.
It wouldnt achieve anything, various ISPs have various prices we pay now, even if you said charge people for every bit and byte prices would still vary accross the industry, so all the charg heavy or charge light users talk is pretty much POINTLESS!

  • over 12 years ago

"theres no set in stone ISP wide definition of what heavy or light is."

There's an average, and if you use a lot more than average, it's heavy, and a lot less than average is light. Clear enough for you?

The average may vary over time and by ISP but for a lot of people on a lot of ISPs the average is a lot closer to 30GB/month than 300GB/month.

Most ISPs are stuck with BT Woolsale, whose pricing/usage model is public courtesy of Ofcom.

Bandwidth isn't free; the more you need, the more it costs. It's POINTLESS to ignore that.

  • c_j_
  • over 12 years ago

c_j_ - So 50% are "heavy" users? Worthless definition - ISP's will tell you it's perhaps 5% of customers who use 50% of their bandwith.

ISP's have universally chosen to provide a model with usage allowances. They understand that the public has little interest in being faced with up-front charges for what is seen as a value-added service to a phone line.

  • Dawn_Falcon
  • over 12 years ago

quote"There's an average, and if you use a lot more than average, it's heavy, and a lot less than average is light. Clear enough for you?"

Whats is "average" again depends on who you speak to and what figures are produced.

quote"The average may vary over time and by ISP but for a lot of people on a lot of ISPs the average is a lot closer to 30GB/month than 300GB/month."
Again doesnt wash, imagine no 300Gig user wanted to pay for their net use and stopped using the net... Who is a heavy user then? You cant suddenly say the 30gig'r users left are suddenly heavy.

  • over 12 years ago

quote"Bandwidth isn't free; the more you need, the more it costs. It's POINTLESS to ignore that."
I agree, what i dont agree with is tagging anyone with the term heavy, light or other nonsense terms.

I also agree with Dawn Falcon (rarely) the definition is worthless as ISPs always state its only a small percent that are heavy users... If everyone used only 500MEG a month what would it make someone who suddenly did 1GIG.... I spose suddenly they are the heavy user, even though previously they were tagged with the "light" user badge of honour.

  • over 12 years ago

yeah, 'heavy' is just a 'tad' less useful than saying dont do tto much , or too little! my method of transport goes very fast, uses stuff that costs a little bit, and is nice and low...

Am I being vague enough yet??? :D :D

  • comnut
  • over 12 years ago

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