/ Technology

Update: the ASA needs to shake-up broadband speed advertising

Buffering

We’ve looked at 6,542 broadband ads in print and newspapers since 2008 to see how many are using ‘up to’ speed claims to draw in customers…

As you’ll know we’ve been campaigning to get the advertising rules changed so that broadband providers can only advertise speeds the majority of customers can get. However, the advertising regulator has previously said that the use of ‘up to’ speed is on the decline.

Our latest research demonstrates that this simply isn’t the case.

In 2012, one in ten print ads included ‘up to’ speed claims. However, between April 2015 and March 2016 this has rocketed to 68% of print ads. And in some months it rose to as much as 80%! Check out the rise in this infographic:

Broadband speed matters

Thanks to pressure from more than 100,000 campaign supporters, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has today announced that it will research consumers’ understanding of broadband speed claims made in ads.

And we know that broadband speeds matter to many of you. In fact, nine in ten of you told us it’s an important factor when choosing your broadband provider. Yet, under the current rules, providers only have to demonstrate that 10% of their customers will achieve the advertised speed for it to be deemed compliant. That means many of us will never be able to achieve the promised speeds.

The government agrees with us

In support of our broadband speed campaign, the Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said:

‘The way broadband speeds are advertised can be misleading and I want to see more clarity to help consumers choose between providers.

‘UK consumers enjoy some of the best coverage and cheapest broadband prices in Europe, but it’s not right for internet service providers to advertise speeds that are only available to a minority of their customers.’

We agree. Last month the ASA announced that it was making the rules tougher on how prices were advertised to avoid customers being misled. This is a very welcome move, but it now needs to stop companies advertising speeds they can’t always deliver.

Carrying out consumer research is a step in that direction, but with 15.4 million homes unable to get the speeds they were initially promised, the rules need to be changed. And quickly.


Have you chosen a broadband package based on an advertised speed – then found you can’t achieve it?

Update 9 August 2016 – Vodafone scraps line rental charge

Vodafone has announced today that it will be scrapping separate line rental charges for new and upgrading home broadband customers.

Some experts have suggested that rather than a complete scrapping the the charge, line rental will instead be absorbed into a single package price. This comes following the Advertising Standards Authority’s call for broadband providers to clearly advertise cost per month charges that include line rental charges.

New and upgrading Vodafone customers who take out an 18-month contract will no longer be billed the current additional £18 charge, but instead be offered single package price starting at £22. Customers will still receive a landline connection and phone number.

With Vodafone being the first provider to make the move to simplify broadband charges it would be interesting to see how other providers proceed.

Comments
Guest
Stan says:
31 August 2016

Downloading BTs speed test sets out the requirements for a test which include switching off all mobile devices, and using an Ethernet cable between IMac and hub. Hardly realistic.

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Guest

Stan it is realistic , that test is there to save you money if you call out the engineer and the fault is yours not BT,s . It is a real test of the speed of your Internet connection as opposed to wi-fi which can be half the speed of the Ethernet cable , I can go into the technical reasons why if you want . Also it should be plugged into the master socket and all internal wiring removed by opening the master socket faceplate and unplugging it then plugging in your Ethernet cable directly to the outgoing cable . You say its “unrealistic ” , so you want high speed with various devices all plugged in as well as other broadband users in the family ? okay then pay for a higher speed bundle from your ISP but when you complain of slow speed that doesnt mean with all attachments but the speed when one device ( your computer ) is attached to it by an Ethernet cable .

Guest
Carole B says:
1 September 2016

I live well within London area on relatively new estate (4 yrs old): our broadband speed is ridiculously slow and BT say that there are no plans to change this in future but that we can contribute financially to change situation!!!! A few yards down the road, neighbours have very fast connection – I’m fuming!!

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Guest

Carole-When a new housing estate is opened up private telephone companies are given the opportunity to contribute to the costs of providing cable into the new houses most refuse.This leaves BT with the full cost of installation but also removes the legal obligation of BT providing access to those houses on the estate to private companies -IE-be the same as Virgin Media . BT have surveyed nationwide which street cabinets should be up graded to FTTC usually going by demand/population . In a new housing estate the cabinet is usually an isolated one with little demand on it , that is until some housing entrepreneur decides to buy the land and put houses on it , then the population (of that area increases but not enough to justify FTTC ) . This is due to priorities of the grants supplied by HMG to BT . I seem to be never ending in my comment that HMG will NOT provide the many £10,s Billions to cover the UK and EVERY other private telephone company didnt want to know as they were NOT willing to provide to areas where they didnt make big profits. So you are left with the situation of being the same position as if you lived in a rural area. But as BT has said , if you all get together you can pay for fibre to be put in, government grants could be available.

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Guest

To add views from the other side (surely worthwhile in any discussion whether we agree with them or not) this is what the ASA say on their website. It would surely be useful if they had constructive discussions with the “one organisation” referred to. Maybe Which? is taking part. They should not be operating behind barricades – that bedevils sensible outcomes as we see from the doctors, Southern Railway and countless other disputers.

“Broadband speed is back on the agenda, with debate about whether BT has under-invested in Openreach. But where there’s talk of the UK’s broadband infrastructure, there’s often talk of broadband advertising. And in particular, broadband speed claims that appear in ads and on companies’ own websites.

What’s the background?
Current guidance, published in 2012 following a public consultation, states that speed claims must be:
• Robust and relevant to the audience targeted by the ad
• Preceded with an “up to” qualifier and
• Clear that speeds vary significantly dependent on the user’s distance from the exchange (ADSL2+ services only).

Here’s some good news: since the guidance was issued, we’ve seen a 60% drop in complaints about broadband speed advertising. We acknowledge that over that period many broadband providers have chosen to differentiate their services through price, reliability or customer service, at least in ads targeting a mass audience. The reduction in complaints is welcome, but it’s not proof our approach is set in the right place.

So where are we now?
We want to be sure consumers are protected. We know our approach doesn’t have the confidence of some politicians and stakeholders, who believe that the minimum 10% of users hitting the maximum “up to” qualified speed that the approach allows is set too low. Such has been the focus on those requirements of the guidance, there’s a danger of losing sight of the only question that matters:

Do advertised broadband speed claims that stick to our approach mislead consumers?

One organisation arguing for change has carried out its own research on the advertising of broadband speeds, but it hasn’t tried to answer that question. Nevertheless, it’s not alone amongst stakeholders and politicians who think the answer is “yes: consumers are being misled”.

We’ve listened carefully to them and we’re putting it to the test ourselves. Their concerns and the absence of a good evidence-base are why we’re currently undertaking public research that gets right to the heart of the matter.

The study we’ve commissioned – and which is underway – is presenting consumers with ads that are ok under our current approach, inviting them to comment and analysing whether they’re misled. We’ll publish the findings in the autumn. And if the study suggests consumers are being misled, we’ll act on the findings.

We’ve undertaken extensive work this year tightening up on broadband pricing claims in ads. Given the prevalence and prominence of pricing claims in broadband ads, we think that will bring big benefits to consumers. Now we’re looking in earnest at broadband speed claims. We’ll be making sure we base any action on a sound evidence-base.”

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Guest

Sadly, the UK’s ISPs are complacent and (largely) clueless. They’re raking in outrageous amounts for a very sub-standard service. Most of them are simply re-selling BT’s abysmal offerings at a mark-up. The much-vaunted “fibre internet” is nothing of the sort. It’s still the rotting twisted-pair from your house to the street-end cabinet, or ratty old TV coax if you have the misfortune to be connected to Virgin. There MAY be fibre to the cabinet, but the limitations of the final leg to your home mean that the advantages of fibre distribution are really not seen.

The only answer is to for the ISPs to provide REAL “fibre internet” – actual fibre to a terminator in your house. The hardware is relatively cheap these days (often cheaper than the dreadful VDSL modems that are “state of the art” at the moment). Every house in the UK could have 1Gb/s real internet connections at relatively little cost. The poor Windoze user would find that it was like trying to drink from a fire hose, but Mac and Linux users would be able to make full use of the speed.

I get 800Mb/s down, 260Mb/s up for $8 per month in my place in Singapore. Most of that charge is for email hosting and spam filtering. The actual connection charge is minimal! I also get over 200Mb/s down in rural France – better than is available anywhere in the UK!

There is no actual will to do anything better in this country – the ISPs are stupid, rich and complacent. There’s no way to change this except by Act of Parliament, and the corrupt members in Westminster are in the pay of the ISPs and other big businesses, so aren’t interested in making anything better.

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Guest

Most people use wireless connections but speeds advertised are for a wired connection – we all know they don’t even match up to the advertised speeds. My broadband also frequently drops its connection completely when using wireless but Virgin Media techs say there isn’t a problem with the broadband and it could be my equipment – but they supply that equipment!! Not only was I initially led astray by advertised speeds but I also now get off-loaded when complaining about dropped connections.
It’s time the whole business was investigated, never mind advertised broadband speeds.

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Guest

Ralfe- when a BT engineer comes to your house he doesnt use wi-fi to test your broadband he uses a direct connection usually a special test meter WIRED /PLUGGED into your Master socket . Wi-fi ,as you said, is only half the speed of a Ethernet cable and wi-fi is affected by the thickness of your walls /by the number of users etc. In your case its a Virgin Media engineer who would call , I suspect they would use the same test apparatus . No ISP on this earth is going to guarantee your speed within a narrow margin as there are too many domestic variations to content with , and please be aware , after all the shouting and bawling if it turns out to be your fault (internal wiring etc ) then you will be hit with a big call-out charge . BT will change their HH5/6 if it is faulty – free of charge but they have proved , after a hiccup, to be very reliable .

Guest
RALFE says:
2 September 2016

duncan lucas,
You’re missing the point. You say, ‘No ISP on this earth is going to guarantee your speed within a narrow margin as there are too many domestic variations to content with’. If that is the case then why are they allowed to advertise so prominently in their favour?
Hasn’t VW just been pulled for advertising favourable exhaust emissions and fuel savings, only to find they can only be attained in special circumstances in a perfect environment. Ergo, BT, Virgin and the rest with their optimistic advertising.

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Guest

I wouldnt argue that point Ralfe.

Guest
Porlains says:
5 September 2016

I would argue that point
Good arguing ralfe
they should give you better internet. I get better 4g connection than wifi on my iPhone and I love the taste of raspberries
All gmail need to do is take a digger to the cook Islands and make a pre order for the new modern ward are game or something. Who knows but my internet is t as good as it should be wired or wireless it’s pants. Absolute pants

[This comment has been edited to align with our Community Guidelines. Thanks, mods]

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Guest

I am trying to understand the reasoning of Porlains comment probably as I dont understand the wording apart from -they should give you better Internet which should apply to many things in life we complain about but its obvious that Porlains hasnt read Which,s multiple Convo,s on subjects relating to this over the years and would then have posted a more informed and reasoned opinion . I take it the comment “pants ” being an “Americanism ” as the original English meaning of the word is trousers means something in a derogatory fashion in the US but I have never heard any Englishman or for that matter Scots/Welsh /Irish use that word other than referring to underpants, they usually say–underpants, so I am lost for an intelligent reply to this post.

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Guest

To say something “is pants” is a common derogatory expression from the last ten years that has largely fallen into disuse now, such is the pace of change in popular argot. I believe it was primarily UK English and its perceived offensive connotations were indeed associated with underwear. The American English word ‘pants’ always refers to trousers or slacks [i.e. outer garments], the words ‘underpants’ for males and ‘panties’ for females being used in the USA to refer to undergarments.

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Guest

‘Pants’ means ‘rubbish’ or terrible as far as I know. So if something is ‘absolute pants’, it’s ‘absolutely terrible’.

Anyway, here’s just a friendly reminder to be friendly to one another 🙂

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Guest

Patrick-So in other words, like many I have come across on multiple websites he is acting like a Troll . I expect that on the many controversial websites I have posted on and replied in a manner questioning their IQ level etc. I expected more from Which , which,as other regular posters keep reminding us is of a higher intellectual standard than other websites of the same type worldwide . I could reply in kind but that would mean lowering my standards as applied to Which, which at the moment has a high standard of intellect. I have absolutely no problem with those with limited schooling , even swearing , anger etc but I have zero tolerance for Trolls and didnt think they existed here on Which. I will of coarse lower my expectations of Which.

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Guest

You forget, Duncan: this site is open to all, not simply Which? members.

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Guest

Hi @duncan-lucas, I think that’s a little unfair. We always like to give new commenters the benefit of the doubt, and offer them a warning like the one I’ve given. We’ve also slightly edited the comment as it did not fully align with our community guidlines: https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines/. Often a friendly word is all that’s needed, so I’d like to leave it with that for now.

Hopefully now we can all move back to talking about broadband.

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Guest

The ‘pants’ expression might be 19th C and originated in the US:

OED:
[h=3]P1. U.S. colloq. (a person’s) name is pants and variants: indicating that someone is discredited or unpopular, or has failed. Now rare.[/h]

1886 College Courier (Monmouth, Illinois) Jan. 15/2 O! dignity, thy name is pants when thou essayist to hold a candle to the Coup.

1893 Puck (N.Y.) 12 July 324/2 When things don’t come a man’s way right off he gits to thinkin’ his name is pants.

1921 Hamburg (Iowa) Reporter 9 June, We will never be able to play another ball game and our name will be ‘pants’ from this day on for ever more.

1931 Moberly (Missouri) Monitor-Index14 Oct. 7/5 Farmer’s prayer… O Mighty Hoover, who are in Washington, when not fishing on the Rapidan. Thy name is pants.

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Guest

Ian you know thats not the point I stated above . I have no problem with real democracy as I have spent years fighting for it but if somebody can only express themselves in the language of a Troll without backing up what they say with a constructive opinion then this website will be full of Trolls shortly.

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Guest

I will say no more on the subject Patrick but watch with interest to see what occurs.

Guest
dieseltaylor says:
5 September 2016

So that we can have more fun with pants I found this : )

“So, you might have heard of the internet meme some time ago, where you replace a word in a movie quote with the word “pants”. My favorite examples are from Star Wars (“I find your lack of pants disturbing”) and Lord of the Rings (“Gondor has no pants. Gondor needs no pants.”) It is hilarious and giggly and allows us all to be twelve for a while.

The other night, I played a new version of the game, which I’m calling Shakespeare’s Pants.
My favorites that I can remember (please forgive any errors in original quotes):

Give me your pants, if we be friends.
We are such stuff as pants are made on. (Alternate: We are such pants as dreams are made on.)
Pants delight not me: no, nor skirts neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.
If our trousers have offended, think but this, and pants are mended…
Know that Macduff was from his mother’s pants untimely ripped. “

Guest
dieseltaylor says:
5 September 2016

“Which? exists to make individuals as powerful as the pants they have to deal with in their daily lives”
!

Incidentally I still think its a rubbish mission statement possibly even pants. Preference –
” Which?; to make individuals powerful.”
more precisely it is the Consumers’ Association; which owns the magazine .

Guest
dieseltaylor says:
5 September 2016

While Ian has quoted the usage as to why it might be derogatory may be back to Shakespeares time. Pantalone [Pantaloon in English] was not a nice man.

” None of Pantalone’s physical actions should look easy, for his is truly “the oldest of the old.” In the well-known “all the world’s a stage” speech in Shakespeare’s As You Like It (II, vii), Jaques describes the second-last stage of life as “the lean and slippered pantaloon.”
Because of his skinny legs, Pantalone is portrayed wearing trousers rather than knee-breeches (which Jaques refers to as “his youthful hose, well sav’d, a world too wide/For his shrunk shank”). He therefore became the origin of the name of a type of trouser called “pantaloons,” which was later shortened to “pants.”[3]”

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Guest

Thank you, Ian, for the historical references proving ‘pants’ to be a longstanding insult. Of course, the American idiom would have exclusively referred to trousers. The recent British usage is most definitely related to underwear.

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Guest

Maybe the mission statement could be “liar, liar, pants on fire” (anon) as some topics seem to head in that direction. If it were true, it would sift out a lot of politicians in a very visible (and noisy) way.
In an effort to stay on topic maybe this is an award the ASA could make whenever they reject an advert – just as an example, broadband speed – for not meeting the “honest and truthful” requirement.

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Guest

Do hope this is what Patrick meant when he lauded the occasional ‘interesting and humorous’ diversions… 🙂

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Guest

I hope so Ian. I thought Malcolm’s suggestion was absolutely fabulous.

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Guest

🤐

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Guest

The Advertising Standards Authority have said:
“The study we’ve commissioned – and which is underway – is presenting consumers with ads that are ok under our current approach, inviting them to comment and analysing whether they’re misled. We’ll publish the findings in the autumn. And if the study suggests consumers are being misled, we’ll act on the findings.”
It will be interesting to see what the results are. Will Which? keep in touch with the ASA so we can see the outcome? Might form the subject of another Convo.

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Guest

I look forward to a Convo on advertising on TV with great relish as I have a lot to say on the subject malcolm and how about one on North Yorkshire hospitals where they are going to be overweight and smoking patients banned from routine operations and other regions are taking an interest . Add to that the proposal of making receptionists at doctors surgeries do simple medical tests . You do know this is creeping full privatisation of the NHS but never fear maybe some of the money made by the revelation that the the UK is now -5-9-2016 -the number 2 world arms dealer could be given to the NHS as doctors and staff are blaming financial cut-backs for causing this and prioritizing where the money is spent . Its the old propaganda= the government cant afford it , only BB can help by taking over full control of the NHS.

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duncan, may I point out this Convo is about broadband, and although I hold my hand up to occasionally going off topic (yes, really 🙂 ) I am trying to work out the link between your topic and this Convo’s subject.

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Guest

You were talking about a subject for another Convo malcolm I was just bringing up some (controversial ) points that could be used as such . I am sure it would attract many posters.

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Guest

Agreed duncan, I just worry when we blame most things on the Americans, government and “big business”. Perhaps a Convo on how the NHS could cut its coat according to its (our) cloth, and examine just why costs seem so high, might be instructive. I had to go to a small clinic today. As usual, two receptionists on the desk, doing nothing most of the time. Too many ancillary staff?But I wonder how we will react to the ASA’s findings on broadband advertising.

Guest
dieseltaylor says:
5 September 2016

And to possibly add to the off-topic I offer these Government Dept statistics. They are to deal with a rather crucial aspect of the Government and us. I mention them as people still tend to think that results are solid when evidently they are not.

Anyway for anyone who has wrestled with Verify:
” Never mind what these categories mean – security, certified companies and verification – in each case there have been about 11,100 respondents out of 821,000 or so GOV.UK Verify accountholders. That’s a 1.35% response rate.

About 821,000 accounts have been created. They have been used about 844,000 times, i.e. about once each:

How many accountholders are there? GDS provide no answer. If each accountholder has seven accounts, one with each of the remaining “identity providers”, we could be talking about only 118,000 people, not 821,000.
………
GDS are meant to be the experts in data analytics. If this is how they handle statistics, they are in danger of suffering the same fate as the pollsters who get referendum and general election results hopelessly wrong – no-one will believe them.”

I do wonder if we need Which? to liaise with those charities that deal with analysing data so that we can have faith that Which? is going to meaningfully able to challenge things inflicted by the Govt , or ASA, on us consumers.

BTW my wife struggled for hours to be verified using two different companies. Eventually succeeded. Next time she visited they had forgotten her. She uses Govt Gateway now.

To increase accuracy the thinking is that your social accounts could assist the Govt to identify you. Oh boy!

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Guest

Malcolm the problem is I take an international view I know exactly whats going on at this very moment and the US has admitted it will take over the EU and eventually , run the UK . The Americans are at least upfront in their motives , they dont try to hide it. I dont hate the American public its the government I hate . I spend time on US websites and communicate by email with them and as far as advertising goes even Obama would be proud of me . 2 years ago I posted on a well known (in America ) consumer products and software website that is watched by millions of Americans , praising a well know virus scanning programme which I used when I had Windows . It took me years to believe in it but MS dont like it and thats a positive . Today I got an email from them ( the fourth ) praising me for the number of hits on it which is now over 21,000 and urging me to post another one . Now this website is “right on ” American all for advertising and BB so you see malcolm I dont hate advertising per se its just the blatant lies from a lot of them where the truth is hidden away. If I threw away all my morals I could make a good advertising exec. but I couldnt live with myself . When you take a world view BB +big banks run most of the world even Russia although Putin has seen the light and is giving up the petro- dollar for other currency so breaking the ability to use quantitative easing , check out the latest US debt , and long term economic forecasts.

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Guest

You do realise that the email you got “praising (you) for the number of hits on it” was almost certainly a covert branch of the CIA, working for an ‘off books’ branch of Homeland security posting for their own, highly suspect, reasons, probably to identify you, your address and the shops you use with a view to booby-trapping the next bottle of snake oil you try to buy? 🙂

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We tried Verify and chose the Post Office. Having put in most of the data required one bit could not be “verified” so the process stopped. As requested an email was sent to the PO – no response. Concerned about this we phoned the Dept on their website number to tell of the problem, who then dealt with the future pension request there and then on the phone and promised to let us have a forecast in 2 weeks. Why the other rigmarole?

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Guest

Tongue in cheek -Ian ? By the way nobody works for nothing they all get paid (paid posters ) , identify me ? you dont know how the digital structure of the Internet works saying that , even Which knows how that works , we are all easily identified as soon as we click on our browsers and access the web , in the case of windows that info is sent minute by minute to MS . Hide my name ? rubbish, I gave my real name with a statement years ago because all this pseudonym business is laughable building up a false sense of security that isnt there as proved time and time again so conning the public . But I know what you are getting at “conspiracy theories ” well guess what ? all those with the intellectual capacity to think on a higher level in the States and Europe are saying in the international news and on multiple platforms a continuous stream of conspiracy theories have been coming out of the American government in the form of propaganda since this “hate one country ” has started and has reached fever pitch by clinton to win the election. Its so bad its a joke and thats coming from those that run or potentially run a country ruling the world (western ) Even HMG know its a pack of lies .

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Guest

I was thinking of an extension to this broadband speed Convo when the ASA publish the results of their “misled or not” investigation.

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I think the key issue with current “up to” adverts is that “under the current rules, providers only have to demonstrate that 10% of their customers will achieve the advertised speed for it to be deemed compliant.”

If the ASA makes these rules, then they ought to change that aspect of them.

Otherwise, these adverts are a bit like saying “your new VW car will do up to 500mpg”… (i.e. running downhill with its throttle shut).

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Guest

Rather 10% of drivers should get 60 mpg on average. The difficulty with mpg is the variability of driver, load, terrain etc so just how do you give a meaningful figure? The best is probably an average with a range perhaps. For broadband however you can get a very good estimate for your own premises (at least at the inlet connection) by giving a potential provider your telephone number. This should be prominently stated in adverts. The “up to” figure whether met by 10%, 50% or 90% does not help your particular circumstance, so is a bit of a red herring. If you still get 0.5 when 90% of people get 8 would you be any happier?

Guest
Karen Kotzek says:
12 September 2016

Plusnet service SUCKS¬!¬!¬!¬!¬!

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Guest

No it doesn’t, I’ve been with them for years, and any problems I have had have been due to the BT wiring between my master socket and the exchange. I’d have got htat with any ISP.

In fact, PlusNet’s service is the best, they don’t treat me like an idiot when I call, and understand that I’m quite technical and have tried the easy things first.

I have recommended them to several friends. And no, I don’t work there, I’m just a happy customer

Guest
Trevor says:
17 September 2016

Yes Plus net does Suck, and they do slow you down.

Guest
Mr payne says:
20 September 2016

This internet is not what it all seems. BT do give a rotten service along with other companys who they represent. Virgin media is also rotten, along with its so called customer service. I am with EE, and upgraded from copper to fibre . I still have buffering, freezing and volume turning up and down is cutting in and out. I am in a built up area, and internet needs to be shared out much better. Iphones tablets more then two computer in houses is causing all our problems, it drags the servers down and causes all our problems. When the kids are on holiday, its a nightmare as everybody gets problems. For what we are being charged, its about time the BT companys and rotten virgin media get it sorted out. But they do not give a damm, except their big profits.

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Guest

Mr Payne – you didn’t “upgrade from copper to fibre”. There’s no such upgrade unless they actually run fibre into your home (which they won’t). All they’ve done is alter the speed restriction on your service. They may have delivered you a new modem as well, but you’re actually still getting the same old crappy service with a slightly modified speed limit.

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I can remember back in early 90’s being on JANET (academic network) and trying to download some software. Our local speed was 100Mb and the link to JANET was likewise really speedy. The download took ages because the host on the other end was only on 64kb or slower. That’s one reason why advertising always needs to be “up to”. A speed drop may not be due to anything in the ISP’s control but if they promised a speed and someone didn’t get it you can bet that one someone would try legal action which would need to countered.

At home we have a monitoring box that checks speed and other factors regularly during the day and I can get graphs showing how speed/ping/packet loss varies over the day, day of week and so on. I can see that my service pretty much remains at expected figures where there is no outage. The figures are shared with the ISP so they can also see where problems may occur.

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Guest

A significant part of the problem isn’t just the raw speed – it’s the Contention Ratio: how much your speed is shared with other users. Most service providers are very happy to tell you the speed that you should expect, but will never admit the Contention Ratio!

There are NO Internet Service Providers who actually provide the level of service that they claim to – with the exception of Andrews and Arnold, who are much too expensive for ordinary domestic use.
It has to be remembered that most service providers are simply re-selling BT services. There will be no difference in performance between (say) Talk Talk, Sky and PlusNet – they’re all exactly the same (poor quality) product.

The only one that’s any different is Virgin – provided down the UK’s only cable TV service. Before Virgin bought out all the small companies, service could be quite good (in some, lucky areas), but since Virgin took over, there’s no competition for them, and service quality has collapsed.

Our neighbourhood is a cabled area, and one nearby street had an outage of all TV and internet services – caused by a single broken coaxial core in the street cabinet – that lasted for nearly four weeks! It was a trivial fault that could have been repaired by any competent technician in five minutes. There wasn’t any recompense for loss of service – there wasn’t even any apology!

If the Government was serious about providing good, reliable connectivity, they would be employing the various communication service providers to connect actual fibre to every dwelling and business premises in the country – not this half-baked “fibre to the cabinet” nonsense that’s sold as “fibre internet” (it’s nothing of the sort. Actual fibre service could be at 1Gb/s at little or no cost to the service providers. The only thing that the ISPs could properly charge for would be spam and malware filtering and mailbox hosting. The Government should allocate areas – perhaps by postcode – to ISPs and give them a “due date” by which time every user is to have a real fibre connection. If they fail to deliver, they should be billed per connection per day until the service is provided.

Other countries have successfully employed this draconian approach, and it has worked well. This would shake BT and the rest out of their complacent torpor, and give the inhabitants of the UK the service that they deserve.

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Wouldnt argue with that Albert– except –who -pays ? As I have said countless times on this issue only BT agreed to the governments roll out of FTTC –ALL the others knocked it back because it would cost them money and their shareholders wouldnt wear it. BT got government money ( tax payers money ) to help with this but your vision of a complete UK fibre roil out –FTTP/H would cost 10,s of £ Billions nearly as much as Trident replacement not even BT could afford to lay out that sort of money . So the question I have to ask is= are you and every tax payer in the UK prepared to pay for it, and if not how to you expect it to be funded ? The US has said the UK must build up its defense and Britain is paying £billions for Trident replacement -£Billions for the F35 – £Billions for the new nuke power stations to be built like Hinkley – cutting the welfare benefits down to the ground for the poor-sick-old causing soup kitchens to reach epic numbers and food banks not seen since the Great Depression , so who pays ?

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Just a couple of notes on two points in your otherwise accurate comment, Duncan:

1. The US has not told the UK to upgrade its defence capability; it has asked all NATO members to honour their commitment to spend 2% of their GDP in line with the USA’s contribution. The UK’s spending had declined under previous governments but is now being restored to over 2%. The government was pleased to make that commitment in order to maintain warfare capabilities that exceed our troop numbers and enable the projection of power to places not coloured red on the map. Obviously, whether that is better than welfare is a matter of opinion.

2. While there has been some government investment in Hinkley Point C, as is normal with large infrastructure projects, the cost of the power station will be met by external funding from EDF [Électricité de France S.A.] and CGN [China General Nuclear Power Group]. To help pay back the construction costs the government has kindly allowed EDF to charge much more than the usual price per megawatt of output so the impact will only be felt by UK electricity consumers, not taxpayers generally [which include tourists, off-shore investors, and so on]. This is clearly a progressive move at a difficult time.

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If a subscriber wants to have Fibre To The Premises [FTTP], that is all the way indoors to the master socket, is there not a way in which they can pay for that last link back to the Cabinet as a one-off charge? Not everyone would want it so it should not be a charge to the taxpayer.

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I think you are right John , I am sure BT will do it , it could cost a £1000 or so but I will verify it before I commit myself.

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Very secretive on the actual installation charge rather than the rental etc but a 2012 post on BT,s forum website comments on ( non -quotable ) price of £1000 for a distance of 500M + a £500 installation charge that is for individual – FTTP/H NOT for a general installation of many subscribers in a particular area . Add into that you will need to check if your area is covered by inputting address etc to Openreach. Businesses , of coarse are treated differently ( higher priority ) .

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Found a business engineering costs analysis website supplying a graph of actual costs with stepped breakdowns . Total for Urban up to £2000 – Suburban up to £4000 – Rural up to £12000 , those are actual calculated costs for installation by the company and depend on distance and other variables. Take into consideration that multiple installation is cheaper than a single one and also depends on competitiveness of other suppliers on the price dropping .

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Thanks, Duncan. As a new-build property, FTTP was already installed when we bought it. I can’t believe it would always cost the amounts you have found but it will depend on the ductwork and capacity available as well as the location of the cabinet.

Looking back to Albert H’s comments that set off this sub-thread, do you have any thoughts on why the Contention Ratio is a closely guarded secret ?- It seems critical to understanding the available broadband speed.

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John-Contention Ratio can be applied to both computer users and BT,s users on a particular cabinet . In a computer its the number of family members using your bandwidth , the more that use it the lower the speed thats why so many people using wi-fi in flats now check up to see if their next door neighbour is “piggy-backing ” them a small app installed can tell you who is using your wi-fi . In the same context the more users on a copper OR a fibre cable the more noise is generated , yes fibre doesnt have so much “overhearing ” as we called it in BT but it still counts . As more and more people get fast broadband , more and more people then use it for all the family for games/ films / etc and therefore in an area the speed in a fibre cable goes down , its supply+demand fighting against each other . I have read many reports of customers kicking up hell about children in their street at the weekends/holidays bringing their speed down to a very low level and then blaming BT . Bt has to keep it within a certain bundle limit to keep from being challenged as to the cost of the bundle but unless it is constantly ( over several days ) below their minimum speed they will not be reimbursed. You can therefore see why BT appear to be “secretive ” on the issue as it is not a fixed constant.

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That’s very helpful, Duncan. Thank you.

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Noel Robinson says:
9 October 2016

I have just checked my speed 46Mb/s this is BT infinity 2, absolute joke. I also have Sky Q TV and the amount of times it says it cannot find the broadband is a joke also. This companies really need chasing.

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As a matter of interest Noel, what is it you cannot do at the 46 Mbps you are getting, and how far is that speed short of what you were promised? Many of those with much lower speeds would regard your situation as fantastic – although if you have to pay a lot more for the Infinity 2 service that, presumably, you believe you are not getting, you are entitled to feel aggrieved; the vagaries of broadband speeds mean that you might find things little worse in terms of functionality if you dropped down to a lower-priced tariff.

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John top speed for Infinity 2 is 75Mbps sometimes it goes higher , I get near 80Mbps . Infinity 1= “up” to 52Mbps -average speed around 35Mbps –Infinity 2 “up” to 76Mbps average speed around 62Mbps -. As you know John I am forever advising them to first use a Ethernet cable plugged into the Master socket NO wi-fi + disconnect ALL internal cable by opening the master socket by taking off the cover and plugging the Ethernet cable into that , THEN if the speed is constantly low over several days make a complaint but it also depends on your area whether it is congested or the distance between house and cabinet a lot of variables .

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Yes, thank you for that, Duncan, but I am still a bit mystified by how bad 46 Mbps is for most activities and why there is this constant quest for higher speeds. I am not looking to you for an answer to this but I should like to know what people are prevented from doing at 46 Mbps, or how much worse is their internet experience than it would be at 75 Mbps. I agree that if people are paying for a higher speed than they can ever get then they should certainly take that up with BT; however, as you say, 75 Mbps is the top speed for Infinity 2 and might only be available at 3 a.m. I agree people should measure the speed at the intake point with all other services disconnected otherwise it is not a fair test.

I am hoping you might know the answer to this question also, Duncan. If BT has supplied fibre to the premises [FTTP] in order to carry Infinity 1 or 2, and the subscriber subsequently decides they do not want that level of service and opts for a lower broadband service on a lower tariff, does BT physically remove or downgrade the FFTP line [such as by inserting some resistance into the circuit] to prevent the customer from still getting a higher speed? I could accept the answer to this being commercially confidential!

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What I find with those complaining of speeds like 46Mbps is that they and their children use internet games and watch videos ,downloaded at the same time on various types of computers all on wi-fi , even then that speed should be sufficient but those playing games at the highest resolution settings ,higher than standard HD , might lose a bit of speed and reaction if the router is congested , that upsets many gamers as they compete with one -another to get the highest points. They want cutting edge all the time , if their computer isnt a “gaming rig ” then their computer itself will slow you down as will Windows 10 . Changing categories of Internet packages , involves , nowadays programming digitally , on a computer interface , no need to run wires here and there , every telephone exchange has a TO ( technical officer ) who can interrogate the state of a persons line , as well as that it can be done remotely . FTTP/H allows you to purchase a package for speeds up to 330Mbps ( at present ) , it depends on whether you want to pay for it , Wavechange has FTTP/H but he is happy with ordinary speeds . WBC (wholesale Broadband Connect ) allows for those high speeds , you will need to check with your supplier as to whether they can deliver that , its one thing living in the City of London and having a wide choice of suppliers of 1000Mbps or more its another in that wee cottage with the lovely view of roaming hills and dales with tweety birds and babbling brooks but several miles from the cabinet ,in FTTP/H you would still get high speed ( up to 80 Mbps ) but not 330Mbps . You dont need it, I am happy with what I have but I dont have Windows 10 slowing me down and I have a direct line all the way to the joint outside my rear of the house , no wi-fi no games etc . BT can limit any subscriber or do anything it wants to your connection,as can GCHQ but it advertises Infinity 2 as Unlimited ,in other words your speed isnt restricted even though you use many Gigs every month , previously there was a limit . Looking at BT , not all exchanges can provide the highest speeds ( 330Mbps upwards ) and you are hit with an installation charge £100 and over £22 /C.month (approx ) or £30/C.month ( usage allowance 2-units ) limited usage./day there is an enhanced care package with some £12 pcm /Premium – £12 pcm, a lot variables again John.

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The problem is that quoting ‘up to’ figures is dishonest. I’m satisfied with my ISP because I pay for 50Mbps and that’s a slight underestimate of what I get. When I had copper broadband, my speed was around 8Mbps – within the speed range predicted by my ISP, albeit near the bottom of the range. If Noel had subscribed to a service offering 30Mbps he would be a happy customer when he had 46Mbps.

With fibre broadband the speed can be downgraded by the ISP, which is why different speeds can be offered.

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Thanks, Duncan. I had overlooked the potential for multiple gaming to be such a drain on the broadband service. It doesn’t happen on-line in our house.

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Duncan – As you say, I’m happy with lower broadband speeds. The reason I moved to fibre was because I moved to an area where the copper broadband was little better than old fashioned dial-up. I don’t download films or play online games, so about the only times that the faster speeds are beneficial is for software updates.

John – Downloading large files such as films is much quicker with a fast connection. That’s not something I do, but I can understand the appeal.

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Are we talking seconds or whole minutes faster, Wavechange? On the rare occasions when I download something I usually have something else I can be doing in the meantime.

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I don’t download films myself, John. Software downloads can be much faster with decent broadband but having been online since 14.4kbps modems were the best available for home computing, I just let the computer get on with it. Broadband speed is only one factor and the I have found the time taken to download larger files can vary from less than a minute to 20 minutes, depending on the server. Those playing online games need a fast upload speed as well as download, whereas this is less important for many purposes.

One of the reasons I bought my first laptop, back in the 90s, was so that I could take it to work and use the fast network to do software updates that sometimes timed out on my dial-up connection.

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I am getting 46 Mbps Download and 38 Mbps Upload speeds with Infinity 1 and it meets all my requirements.

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“quoting ‘up to’ figures is dishonest”. No it isn’t, it is stating what happens. But not very usefully. Many seem to choose to ignore what “up to” means . Whether it is what 10% get, 50% or an average speed is not much value to me. I’d like to know what I will get at my house. Much better to publicise that what you need to do is check with your prospective supplier what you might expect to get – they should give you a decent estimate – with the proviso that it will be at the inlet to your premises and will depend upon your, and others load on the system. and your equipment. That is as I understand it.

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On one I got to work =75Mbps/download-20Mbps . I have been told on one Firefox with HTTPS doesnt give full speed and wanted me to go to non-encrypted website -uh no ! Most want Flash installed-never ! Tried HTML5 one knocked me back for no java script .on the other hand—- check out your browser for being tracked , mine came out excellent – check at – panopticlick.eff.org/tracker.

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The problem malcolm for a true test you have to load it with something to test it , pinging it isnt enough , in other words use it like you were downloading large files from the customer end thats what a true download test does , so giving out a calculated speed is fraught with errors , including how heavy is the local use of broadband at the cabinet, is it full of young games players , film buffs downloading HD films etc , its nigh on impossible and could get BT into even more trouble with the media.

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It’s a step better than a vague “up to” or “average”though, isn’t it duncan. Just how would you best declare what a customer might get? We need something meaningful to publish.

Just a thought, are we going to criticise the DfT for putting 70 mph speed limits on roads when you can actually travel “up to” 70 if you are lucky, and often it is much less (as on the M25 tonight). 🙂

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For BT customers to test your speed you need to go through 4 or more stages including verification of your account , gone are the days of anybody using it , security I take it. – bt.com/help/home/broadband/speedtest/?s_intcid=con_hp_help_speed and click on — test my broadband speed.

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Yes, I got there in the end but it was a bit of a performance and it blanked me twice on the account recognition process [not going past 99% so blocking further access]. I don’t criticise BT for denying access to non-subscribers but they could make it easier for subscribers who just want to check their speed. The whole emphasis seems to be around “you must have a broadband problem” :: No! I just want to check my speed.