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Win! Broadband providers are dropping exaggerated ‘up to’ speed claims

In a Which? campaign win, broadband companies are being forced to drop the unrealistic up to speeds they advertise following rule changes.

For too long, many consumers have been taking out broadband deals but getting speeds much slower than were advertised to them. But our latest research shows that’s now changing.

Previously, suppliers were able to advertise broadband deals which claimed ‘up to’ speeds that only one in 10 customers would ever reach.

But after our sustained campaigning, pressure from our supporters and rule changes from the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) in May, some suppliers have now reduced advertised broadband speeds by as much as 41%.

New rules

The new advertising rules mean that at least half of customers must now be able to get an advertised average speed, even during peak times (8-10pm).

We’d been calling for these vital new guidelines to be introduced since 2013 through our Broadband Speed Guaranteed campaign.

We’ve now found that 11 out of 12 major suppliers have had to cut the advertised speed of some of their deals by an average 15%.

BT, EE, John Lewis Broadband, Plusnet, Sky, Zen Internet, Post Office, SSE, TalkTalk and Utility Warehouse previously advertised their standard (ADSL) broadband deals as ‘up to 17Mbps’. The new advertised speed is now more than a third lower at 10Mbps or 11Mbps.

TalkTalk has completely dropped advertising speed claims from most of its deals. While Vodafone has even changed the name of some of its deals: Fibre 38 and Fibre 76 are now Superfast 1 and Superfast 2.

And only Virgin Media’s advertised speeds have gone up since the change.

What’s next?

Alex Neill, our Managing Director of Home Services, said:

“Customers will now have a much clearer idea of the speeds that can be achieved when they are shopping around for broadband – even though their broadband won’t get any faster.

“With the change in advertising rules now showing the true landscape of broadband speeds, the Government must press ahead with its crucial plans to increase full-fibre availability and deliver the service that broadband customers need, without it costing them the earth.”

Have you bought a broadband package that hasn’t lived up to the speeds advertised? Have you noticed a change in how providers are advertising speeds?

Mark Ledsom says:
21 July 2019

TALK TALK ( Shell Energy )
Hello – any advice – Switched from Sky to Shell – download speeds a tenth of the speed, Shell doing the assumption of I don’t know what Im doing with my router, move it, etc, etc nonsense – the only thing that has changed is the provider and they will only let me leave if I pay £360 – any one a suggested route to exit this contract fairly considering the min speed achieved is often a fraction of that 50MB and it have never been at the level – ever ( Well since Sky anyways )

Christine Tewson says:
25 July 2019

My problem is not broadband speed but something to me more serious.
I received an email from TalkTalk `sorry you are leaving`. I rang to say I wasn`t then received an email `glad you are staying`. But my line was disconnected anyway two weeks later apparently by direction of BT. TalkTalk would not believe that I had not been in touch with BT then tried to charge me £136.15 for breaking my contract!! Eventually the charge was dropped and I am now back with a landline and broadband (this time with Vodafone) but for three weeks I was without any service through no fault of my own.

S Skuse says:
28 July 2019

Have been without telephone line and internet for 4 weeks, open reach finally came to change cable on Friday 26th, from the pole in my garden to neighbors, a fault they diagnosed on the 3rd of July
It took dozens of phone calls, shaming on Twitter etc etc to get any action Internet ‘speeds’ now so slow I could scream 😱

Following a recent house move, Plusnet arranged to transfer telephone and broadband to the new property by 12 July 2019. The phone was installed, but the broadband was not installed. There have since been 9 telephone calls by me asking them to solve the problem [and several hours being passed from department to department each with its own queue] . Broadband was initially installed by 25/26 July. Within a few days it had gone. Plusnet staff told me that the broadband test at their “end” was fine, but there was a problem with my account. Apparently, it had been set up incorrectly, and could not be completed, but not all staff seemed to be aware of this situation. I asked if I could have a new account circa 30 July. Still nothing. Some staff have tried hard to help. This morning, One told me that she would fast track it to provisioning, and suggested I ring them after 0900H. However, after 15 minutes, I was cut off – the second time this has happened. I am left with the impression that Plusnet must pull its socks up. Which’s last rating for them was 73% – this is unbelievably high. How many other people are having problems like this with this company.

The move away from ‘up to’ speed claims took a long time coming but the next problem to be tackled is the provision of decent broadband for citizens of the UK. The industry has written to our new prime minister pushing the case for fibre broadband: https://www.ispa.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Cross-Industry-Letter-to-PM.pdf The PM had indicated that he recognised the need for full fibre broadband before he was elected and with no clear indication of where the money is to come from, perhaps he may now look a little silly: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-49209013

Notwithstanding, the PM is right to face up to the fact that we need to move to proper (FTTP) fibre broadband and I hope will be able to secure funding from companies that profit from providing services dependent on fast broadband (largely entertainment). It’s not just a matter of speed. It’s often not recognised that fibre broadband can be more reliable than services still dependent on copper or aluminium wire.

3 August 2019
Caroline Normand, Which? Director of Advocacy, said:
“Our lives are becoming increasingly more connected and in turn more reliant on a decent broadband connection, but yet the UK lags behind many other countries with only a tiny percentage of us having access to a full fibre connection.

According to Ofcom “connected nations” report spring 2019:
“While more properties can now access superfast broadband (as defined as download speeds of 30Mbit/s and above), the proportion of the UK with access to superfast connections remains broadly stable, rising by one percentage point (300k premises) to 95% of UK premises. • Ultrafast broadband (>300Mbit/s)1 is now available to just over half of UK properties, with the percentage of properties covered having increased from 49% to 53%.”

From an Ofcom report 2016:
“Any universal broadband policy may require some limits on eligibility and cost. The cost-per-premises of delivering decent broadband to the very hardest-to-reach premises could be very high. Premises in the final 1% have an average cost that ranges from £2,780 per connection for standard broadband to £3,350 for superfast broadband. Those in the final 0.5% can cost between £4,460 and £5,100. The cost of serving the most expensive premises is estimated to be around £45,000 in all three of our scenarios. This could support the need to introduce a reasonable cost threshold (RCT) to limit the upper bound of the costs.”

Three questions spring to mind about the Which?statement.
1. “a tiny percentage of us” – is this talking about those who are connected to super- or ultra-fast, or does it include households for which access that is available but who have not chosen to take the service?
2. What speed do users really need? Do they expect ultrafast, and is that to cope with streaming services like music, film and online gaming?
3. Who is going to provide the money of we suggest giving everyone very high speed access?

I suggest if streaming entertainment is a main use of such access then those who provide the services should provide the funds – they profit from people using them.

However, as I haven’t seen the industry letter, and it is not given a link, perhaps Which? could explain what they are asking for, why, and who they think should fund it.

Found the link. https://www.ispa.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Cross-Industry-Letter-to-PM.pdf. Why can Which? not provide this?

£3.5 bn – is super (ultra?) -fast broadband such a priority service or, given the apparent 95% access to superfast broadband already available, something that could wait while we sort out social care, potholes, mental health services and other things that some might regard as more important at present?

However, by all means remove the regulatory hurdles, although wayleaves are a perpetual problem. in many villages and towns fixing street lights neatly to buildings rather than on unsightly columns used to be frustrated by wayleaves – and probably still is.

I don’t call this a win.

Our contract is up for renewal.

We knew the top speed available to us was 40Mbps. I rarely got below 38Mbps on a speed test.

Because of the new rules on averages, we should now get between 29.7Mbps and 36.9Mbps and our speed is now guaranteed at 26.9 Mbps.

Previously 26.9Mbps would have been acknowledged as a problem.

Here is a relevant article: https://www.computerweekly.com/news/252446283/Advertised-broadband-speeds-dropping-across-UK The description has changed but is there evidence that ISPs are turning down the speeds that customers experience?

We keep spending money on fibre to the cabinet and that will be wasted when customers are moved to FTTP.

Thanks for the link wavechange.

I have never had a problem with an ‘up to’ speed knowing what should be possible and have always got nearly the upper speed limit. Anything lower than near the max means there is a problem that needs sorting out.

I won’t be happy if our speed drops, and will be monitoring it regularly.

The change is, I think, of most benefit to those who don’t get speeds of anything near the maximum and not people like you who can get near the maximum.

When copper cable has to support greater use speeds can be expected to fall in future, particularly at peak times. If your speed is fairly stable throughout the day, that suggests there are few users and you might not see a change in future.

When I was on an all-copper broadband my connection was consistently slow (too far from the exchange) but the speed never seemed to change.

Ever since my speed was increased by a factor of three or four as a result of a phone call, I have not hesitated to complain. That was in the early days.

Jessica Rudin says:
23 August 2019

We recently moved into a new build property and have not been able to chose our own broadband provider. We have been advised that the only provider is FiberNest and we are unable to have any other service provider. We feel this is wrong. Not only are we stuck with this provider but our completion date was the 28th June and we are still without broadband (today is 23rd August) so this is nearly 2 months without service. We have been provided with an internet dongle but it only has a small amount of credit on it (we can’t top this up) and for the second month we have run out of credit. Can anyone help with this, I feel there must be some issues with the legality of this. Thank you.

Here is what FibreNest have to say. https://www.fibrenest.com/why-fibrenest. It seems like you are tied into them.

Hi Jessica – FibreNest is owned by Persimmon. Here is some background information: https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2019/06/persimmon-homes-seeks-to-boost-own-uk-fttp-broadband-rollout.html

The good news is that – when you eventually have access to it – you will have proper fibre broadband (FTTP) rather than FTTC, where is a copper cable running to a cabinet. FTTP offers faster speed and is more reliable The prices look reasonable except that you will have to pay extra for a VOIP phone connection. If you plan to use mobile phones the charge can be avoided. That means that phones are connected to the router rather than a landline. Not many people have access to VOIP at present but it will gradually make landlines redundant.

The bad news is that FibreNest owns their network and it seems to be a monopoly. Other internet service providers cannot use the FN network, much in the same way that other ISP’s cannot use the network owned by Virgin Media. I think it’s high time that the Competition and Markets Authority looked into this.

FibreNest has this information on their website:
“When will my service be live?
We endeavour to have your service ready on the day you move in to your new home. However, occasionally factors beyond FibreNest’s control can cause delays to service activation. Where this is the case, we will keep you updated with your expected go-live date and may provide you with a complimentary mobile router to ensure you have a level of connectivity until such time that your service is established.”

I suggest that you politely but firmly make it clear that their temporary measures are less than satisfactory. It might be worth discussing this with Citizens Advice, but it is worth first checking the small print in the contract you have signed.

It would be good if you can update us when you can.

I consider the FibreNest arrangements to be anti-competitive, and unjustifiably so. The company makes great play of the alleged inconvenience of getting hooked up to other service providers but I do not think there is much hard evidence of that. Better house-builders than Persimmon seem to have no difficulty in getting a prompt, speedy and reliable FTTP broadband service from BT or one of the other major networks. Perhaps that tells us something and explains the situation. I was under the impression that FTTP was virtually mandatory for all new housing developments [subject to technical conditions].

The company also seems to be saying that it will only facilitate an alternative service provider if they will provide a comparable standard of service; some residents might be content with a basic service at a lower price. It should also be possible without fuss or extra expense to have a basic telephone line to a property. While using a mobile phone might be a potential substitute, people moving to a new development from another area might not be on a compatible network.

FibreNest’s escape clause for when the service is not available on moving-in day seems particularly elaborate suggesting to me that it is not an unusual experience. The gas, water, electricity, drains and sewers can all get delivered on time – why not the broadband?

I agree that this should be examined and tested; if this was in the purchase contract a good solicitor would have spotted it and pointed it out to the buyers. If it wasn’t visible then it possibly isn’t a fair arrangement in the legal sense.

The notion that Persimmon are doing this for altruistic reasons rather than commercial [mercenary?] ones is not sustainable. The company has a track record.

John – We do not know the reason for the delay in providing Jessica with the normal service. Providing a customer with a mobile broadband router is a common way of dealing with this problem and providing that there is a decent mobile signal, it is a reasonable temporary solution. What is not acceptable is that the data allowance has been inadequate and has run out. This needs to be challenged.

As you say, FTTP is being installed when homes are built. From Openreach: “To help us do this, we’ll build a full fibre, Fibre to the Premises, network to new residential or mixed residential/commercial sites.” In Jessica’s case the service has been provided by FibreNest/Persimmon, not Openreach, meaning that there is no opportunity at present to switch provider. I do not know how many other customers are affected by a monopoly but it deserves to be investigated by the CMA.

Jessica’s house has no conventional copper landline and uses VOIP as I explained. There is a charge if you want to use landline phones. Most of us are on tariffs that provide both broadband and phone services but we are moving towards separating the charges, so that those who only want broadband do not pay for a phone service.

While a mobile broadband router might be an acceptable short-term work-around for a line failure pending repair, it is not adequate redress for a failure to install a service. Jessica has had to wait nearly two months from her moving-in date and I expect Persimmons knew six weeks or more before that that her property was being purchased. Whatever the delay I regard it as inexcusable and the relief offered completely unsatisfactory.

As well as the CMA, I feel that Ofcom might like to see what is going on. There is a general telecoms policy of open access so that other service providers can use capacity in existing ducts, on poles, and in cabinets to avoid a multiplicity of infrastructure and disruption. Persimmon appear to be frustrating that and making alternative provision difficult if not impossible.

Any resident should have the right to have a simple economical landline telephone connection. It might, on a new development, have to be carried into the property on a fibre line. but that should not be an issue. While alternative technology has become more reliable, an ordinary telephone service is generally more secure and dependable which, for some people, might be the chief concern.

While it is right that those who only want broadband do not pay for a phone service it works the other way – those who only want a phone service should not have to subsidise the cost of broadband.

John – I made a mistake and the figure of £9.99 a month refers to a telephone service without broadband. If you want broadband, the cost of adding calls is £4.99 a month. That’s not bad in my opinion, and I’m looking forward to better sound quality, improved security and other benefits that VOIP is claimed to offer.

On new FTTP installations there is no copper landline and ‘landline’ phones are connected to the router*. When I received a new router recently it came with the adaptor to connect my phones to the router but VOIP is not available where I live.

*Regarding our previous discussion I discovered that some new FTTP systems were linked to a master socket, as you pointed out, but that limits the broadband speed and was probably a transitional arrangement.

I agree that Ofcom should look at the problem, as well as the CMA.

KPrice says:
26 August 2019

Virgin told me (when I complained about getting 1mbp) That any speed is not guaranteed. Wifi is slow ethernet helps! I have never had a contract with virgin – At least they have never told me – that they were entering me into a contract…

Edward Cowie says:
20 September 2019

It took three years of letters, emails, phone calls to BT to finally pay ANY attention to constant ultra LOW broadband speeds (less than 2!!) and yet were paying the same as others with so-called fast broadband. Ultimately we gave up..NO compensation for years of over-paying and broken promises. BT? Utterly appalling. BUT we paid a great deal to get a new provider who promised fast broadband. True we get 19 in one minute bursts but the average is still around 10 which is ‘typical’. The truth is that those of us in rural areas are still being robbed and under-provided-for. I’d be happy to join a network of others to pay for legal action against government AND cheating providers. IT’S TIME WE PUT A STOP TO THIS FRAUD!

jonathan says:
3 October 2019

BT IS the worst always have to restart it.

In the above 3 posts it looks bad for BT and Virgin , what has to be learned is that they are privatised companies , BT has been hobbled by HMG to allow private companies to use the BT external network and all those companies have scooped up the big money revenue earners– Cities/large towns etc leaving BT with all the criticism for those in remote /rural areas who are miles from a street cabinet /exchange and are on copper cable .
Its now down to a few percent of the UK population but of course they are the most vociferous in their complaints but I don’t blame them under the old GPO everybody was equal , it might have been slow to fix things but it eventually got things done neither favouring the rich or powerful .
I used to go to severely handicapped people in rural locations and install a whole telephone system and got it up and running — cost to the handicapped person ??–ZERO !
Try getting a privatised company to do that ?
It was done under a GPO Union -latterly CWU agreement.

Having said all that Openreach is on a FTTP drive as we speak and is making great strides.