/ Technology

Broadband: No one likes being short-changed

Fibre broadband network concept

If you bought a pint of milk and found when you got home it was only a quarter full, you’d be well within your rights to demand what you’d paid for, and to complain further if you didn’t get it.

Broadband is now an essential part of daily life.

But because weasels write broadband ads, there’s usually an ‘up to’ prefix before the headline speed on offer.

This means that if you’re paying for ‘up to 16’ Megabits per second, but spending your evenings watching the shimmering petals of the buffering icon rather than Gardeners’ World, you could face the frustration of your provider simply pointing to its small print.

Slow broadband affects millions

I’ve recently been house-hunting in rural Devon and found that download speeds varied from a painfully slow 0.1Mbps, up to 16Mbps. But this is far from a localised issue – slow broadband affects millions of people all over the UK.

Weasel illustration illustration by: Gillian Blease

In our recent survey we found that 13 million households in the UK experience problems with their internet connection. Nearly half of those surveyed had experienced much slower speeds than normal, and for most this was a frequent problem, not a one-off.

Companies have a plethora of excuses: you might be too far from the exchange (a common theme for those in rural areas); there may be too many people using the connection at one time; your walls might be ‘too thick’, or high-speed fibre might not have arrived in your area yet (again, a common complaint for rural areas) despite the ubiquitous ads for fibre connections.

For many in rural areas, particularly those who aren’t able to get about, broadband is much more than a convenience; it can be their connection to friends, family, shops and increasingly employment, too. It is high time that broadband providers delivered on their promises.


“weasels write broadband ads”. The purpose of ads is to persuade you to buy; they will be written by people whose professional training is to push the positives and leave out the negatives. We have to see through this. If there are customers who can get the full speed declared, then the ad is not stricly misleading; distance from the exchange, other users, the location of your wireless hub and equipment, will surely have an effect on the speed you achieve. How would you increase the speed for these customers? It seems fibre is the answer and this needs to be rolled out as quickly as possible. But if you do choose to live in a rural area, or are househunting, you should be aware of broadband speed problems that currently exist. And what did these rural communities do before broadband?
In short, I think you are blaming a situation on advertisers when it is a physical problem that is gradually being addressed. If a company wilfully misleads you by promising something it does not deliver, then they need taking to task. But if you just can’t yet get what you’d like, that’s a different matter.


Advertisers should be legally obliged to state the range of speeds they can supply, from the slowest to the fastest, so that shoppers will be alerted to the reality and prompted to inquire how fast their particular connection will be. Perhaps the price should be tailored to the actual speed delivered, too. That would incentivise the ICT companies to improve their infrastructure.


I have formally asked my MP to take matters up
as to broadband speeds.. at a dismal 1.4 Mbps on
download AND a miserable 0.4 Mbps on upload in
a recent test, all in a (reasonably prosperous?) suburb
of west London.

The requirement of a reasonable broadband speed is
fully attainable in this age as is the UNwarranted imposition of a fettered
binding contract that he has been instructed to take up
as well. I shd NOT expect to have to pay more to achieve
a faster speed.

A chum sent recently as to broadband Mbps speeds in:
Singapore 61, Thailand 17.5 and Malaysia 5.1
averaging… it is believed South Korea is probably the fastest
at 85 or much higher.

Ben says:
23 May 2014

Yes. But there are probably less people using Internet there so will be faster. Im sort of assuming that there are more people living in London than in South Korea.

Mark says:
23 June 2014

I dont understand why more people paying for a service in close proximity means they might expect that service to to be worse rather than better.
Internet slow because we live too close together: internet too slow because we live more remotely. Which is it? Am I to pay for ISPs to have it both ways?


The very first Conversation was about consumers being cheated over broadband speed, and we are still having to complain about the same problem. 🙁

After many complaints, my ISP has dropped the ‘up to’ claim in its advertising and instead provided the range of speeds that can be expected in my postcode area. Why cannot BT and other large companies be honest?

The only thing that will focus the minds of companies whose advertising focuses on misrepresentation is large fines. Let’s put an end to the ‘weasels’.

Tavistock Superfast Broadband says:
21 May 2014

There is a simple solution – people should pay for the speed they get as a proportion of the so called top speed. That of course is being fair and liable to cost providers millions in lost revenue.

Try house hunting in Superfast Cornwall – you will find Fibre Cabinets in the middle of no-where.

Michael Guest says:
21 May 2014

having phoned my internet provider numerous times finally had enough according to recent reports my 20 Mb service regularly would be in the top 50 of the worst broad bands in the country after the first call today my service increased 5 times lost contact with Aol 2nd call service increased to 7 times then service went to that low that a speed test would not work 3rd call because of almost loss of service they are sending an engineer that may be chargeable what ever does the phrase “Unfit for Purpose” Re the sale of Goods act 1974 mean to these people or Does it not apply and Why Noy