/ Technology

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?


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 )

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…

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.

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Plusnet guarantee a download speed of 36.2mbps. However, we are not getting anything like that. In fact, according to BT, the maximum speed possible on our line is 28.4mbps. On our account details on Plusnet’s website they still quote the 36.2 mbps “guarantee” but also say our current speed is 28.4! I presume Plusnet will be able to wriggle out of their promise stating factors outside their control etc, but if their infrastructure provider says the “guarantee” speed cannot be attained, I wonder why it was stated in the first place?

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Problems with Zen internet which we only signed up to based on which review. The signal is so poor we are not receiving internet in half of the house. Zen now want me to sign up to there guarantee every room which will mean more expense per extender required and you have to sign up to 12 month contract for this service. My initial contract will run out in 5/6 months. Why should I have to pay for extenders to provide what I am already paying for. The contract for extenders/repeaters will exceed my initial contract.

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Hi Jackie, I agree with Duncan’s comments here.

I’m sure you’re not alone in enjoying the luxury of a house that is too big and/or too sturdily constructed to allow a single router to provide good wifi everywhere.

Many folk seem to need to buy wifi extenders, for example just look at all the different ones sold by Sainburys/Argos:-https://www.argos.co.uk/browse/technology/laptops-and-pcs/networking/wi-fi-boosters/c:649215/

I think Which? also reviewed this topic in their September issue.

As a simple example, one of my friends has a very solidly built 1930’s 3-bedroom local authority house. Their Virgin router is in the most north westerly corner of the downstairs, so reaching the upstairs east bedrooms is only possible with the aid of a wifi extender roughly halfway between those points, i.e. at the top of the stairs in their case.

Hi I’ve been having ongoing problems with buffering and dropping of my broadband being provided by NowTV – they sent a BT engineer out to my property last week to look into the issue – he readily admitted that he didn’t know what he was doing and ended up unplugging everything and leaving with me no connectivity I reset everything up and continued having the same problems – this morning I contacted Now Broadband customer services to be told that I have only been getting an 8th of the internet speed I am paying for and that they recommend I move provider – I’m in a 12 month contract which they have confirmed I will have to pay a penalty charge to leave. I have two questions
1 will I have to pay the penalty charge to leave the contract?
2 how long will it take for a new provider to pick up my broadband and who do I choose so I don’t end up in the this situation again?
Thank you in advance for your help and advice

I assume if your current provider cannot provide the speed you were promised then, if they cannot fix it, they are in breach of contract and you are entitled to change provider without penalty.

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This comment was removed at the request of the user

The above posts are all to common……I have suffered a loss of service from BT. This service is the loss of broadband speed. I have a new BT set up and have a guaranteed minimum speed of 18mb.

The speed dropped to below 6mb on or around 6th Oct 2019 and on 11th Oct I informed BT, they sent an engineer round to check the equipment and internal line. All was OK.

They then sent a line engineer out a week later, who told us he had fixed the fault, but this was not the case and we still had low speed.

The above process was followed again and I spoke to the engineer at length who used a new “pair” of cables to the house. This fixed the fault and we were back up and running at about 22mb.

This process has taken until 12th December to be fixed.

I called BT to ask about the compensation for them not meeting the guaranteed minimum spreed and was told I was entitled to £8 per day for the loss of service, totalling £448.

They then put me through to another department to sort this out who then offered me £40. ON stating what I had been told earlier they said that the person must have made a mistake, and they then offered me 2 months rental as a compensation totalling £191.

I was still unhappy and they said they would raise a complaint and a manager would get in touch with me in a few days.

I believe that I am entitled to £8 per day for loss of service in that my guarantee is for 18mb and I was receiving significantly lower than this, and whilst there may have been a service it was not at the minimum guaranteed level, hence it was a loss

The contract for this service started in June 2019.

What am I entitled too.

Brian Adams says:
20 January 2020

With Post Office. Only service available specified at speed range 0-2 mb/sec. This is not normally a contractually enforceable condition, no MGALS, but Post Office did not opt for Ombudsman Control. They are providing 0.1-0.4mbs/sec. Question is, is specifying 0mb/sec as the lower limit of a speed range part of an unfair contract since it contractually requires payment for no service.

Upgraded I thought to fibre broadband with Post Office, With around 30-35 mbs.
On day 1 it was at 29 mbs using wifi. Day 2 it dropped to between 4-8 still on wifi.
Day 3 its still slow. After ringing the helpline. I was asked to connect to the router via an ethernet cable and run a speed test. Which was 39 mbs.
They now tell me that their part of the contract is fulfilled, because I am getting the advertised meg/sec. But only with the ethernet cable. So now paying an extra £1.90 a month, for what exactly?

The lower speed using WiFi will be due to interference or the computer is too far from the router, neither of which the Post Office (or other internet service provider) has any control over. Carrying out tests with a wired connection is standard practice to identify if these problems exist. The advertised speed will assume a wired connection and that any phone network has been disconnected because that too can be a cause of poor speed.

It helps to have the router reasonably high and it may be possible to switch channel to reduce interference. The manufacturer’s website or the instruction booklet will explain how to do this. If distance is a problem or you live in a house with very thick walls it’s possible to add a booster to extend the range.

Many modern laptops don’t come with an ethernet connection, nor do tablets, so there is plenty of advice online about tackling interference problems.

We had the same problem with a laptop where the fault turned out to be an older laptop internal wireless network adaptor.

We bought a ‘TP-Link AC600 Dual-Band Wi-Fi USB Adapter – Archer T2U’ from Argos that solves the problem and gives the speed we expect.


It’s also curious that some desktop PC’s will only function with an ethernet connection.

A desktop PC is modular and you can specify whichever features you need. In an office environment, most desktop machines are probably still connected via ethernet and that provides greater security’

I understand that, but a friend took it for granted that their new desktop PC would operate either with or without a wired connection to the router [in the hall!]. Their previous and rather old PC worked happily wirelessly anywhere in the house, so something else to look out for among all the other specifications.

When buying a car, many don’t bother to find out whether it will have a spare wheel. Caveat emptor, unfortunately.

There is a great deal of criticism of the unreliability of product reviews but the absence of WiFi is something that some reviewers are likely to pick up.

Most decent PC reviews include listings of machines’ specifications. That should include their networking capabilities.

I still use cable connections for most of my desktop PC’s (and also my DVD player, which has some “smart TV” functions.

I think a lot of people by their kit on-line without paying much attention to the critical parts of the specification!

My desktop PC is cable-connected and is certainly a very reliable connection. The laptop is wireless and there are occasional hiccups in transmission.

I confess to buying an expensive PC from PC World without thinking about the need for speakers. 🙁 PCW does not always up-sell.

BTOpenreach installed a new street cabinet in my hamlet nearly a year ago to bring us FTTC. So far they haven’t bothered to connect it to fibre, so it’s a waste of time and money. The upgrade is being paid for by Hampshire County Council and they don’t seem to be interested that the work hasn’t been completed. When I ask BT engineers what’s happening they don’t know and BT doesn’t talk to private individuals. My ISP is EE, which is owned by BT and they don’t know what’s happening either.

Have internet with quick link and upgraded to 30 mb but only getting less than 5 they told me to check speed on open Speedtest where it shows 25mb but every other speed test shows about 4-5 mb and I can tell it is not running very fast no wonder they say to use that site

Andy says:
7 February 2020

I have Fibre Extra with PlusNet, I was original promised a speed of 72Mbps were as I only got 56Mbps in reality. I was okay with that, but now my speed has dropped to a max 36Mbps. I have complained, but nothing has really happened so I will be switching as no point paying for what they can’t deliver.