/ Technology

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


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.

Trevor says:
17 September 2016

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

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.


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.


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.


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.


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 ?


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.