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Does fibre mean fibre?

Fibre broadband

Fibre is the new premium standard in broadband. But with speeds seemingly dependent on whether your fibre goes to the cabinet, your home or somewhere in between, does fibre really mean fibre?

Broadband advertising is confusing. That’s something we’ve been banging on about for a while. So it’s good to see the CAP (Committee of Advertising Practice) consulting on how providers advertise ‘up to’ speeds to customers, and it’s something Which? will be responding to.

But here is another thing that might add to the confusion, especially if you are not a telecoms nerd like myself. It’s the meaning of fibre and how Internet Service Providers (ISPs) use it in their advertisements.

Faster with more fibre

When a prospective customer sees a broadband advert boasting about ‘ultra, hyper, super-douper fast [insert superlative and superlative] fibre’, do they realise that, in most cases, at least some of their connection will be made up of traditional telephone line copper wiring?

There are a number of ways in which you can get your property connected. In many instances a provider will bring the optical cable as far as the cabinet box and then, depending on how far from the cabinet you live, some other form of cabling will connect the cabinet to your property. It could be copper cabling or some other technology. This is called Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC).

Depending on where you live, some providers may provide a full fibre connection to the home, meaning the cable runs directly into your home. This is called Fibre to the Home (FTTH), or Fibre to the Premises (FTTP). At the moment, around 2% of UK homes have access to full Fibre to the Home and a very small number of altnets (alternative ISPs like Hyperoptic and Gigaclear) offer it.

At present, Virgin Media is the only provider running a slightly different operation. It’s coax-fibre hybrid network (bear with us) uses Fibre-to-the-Cabinet before a coaxial cable takes the connection to your home. Coaxial blocks interference better than standard phone lines allowing Virgin to run faster internet services.

What type of fibre connection do you have?

Fibre to the Cabinet (61%, 637 Votes)

Don't know (21%, 221 Votes)

Fibre to the Home (18%, 190 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,048

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Speed begins where fibre ends

Now what difference does an FTTH connection make? Well, speed is important and the more fibre you have in your broadband connection the higher the likelihood you’ll be enjoying faster broadband.

A fibre to the home connection should mean the speed you pay for and the speed you actually get are closer than if you have a ‘to the Cabinet’ connection. So if you’re paying for 1Gb, you’ll more than likely get 1Gb if you have an FTTH connection, or at least it should be in the same ballpark.

So is fibre really fibre if it doesn’t run all the way to your home? Do you think its fair to call an internet connection fibre when it might not be full fibre? We’d love to hear your views below.

Comments
Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Tom – It is not necessary to advertise an ‘up to’ speed.

Internet Service Providers can describe the type of connection as broadband (i.e. all copper), FTTC or FTTP and give a reasonable estimate of the broadband speed that a subscriber or potential subscriber would achieve.

Profile photo of Tom Corcoran
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Hi @wavechange, increasingly providers are advertising the type of connection and the ASA is currently consulting on the use of the word fibre in advertising. I’m trying to get at how many people actually understand that when they see a fibre product, they may not necessarily be getting FTTP.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Hi Tom – I’m glad you explained that FTTP and FTTH are the same thing. It would be good if the industry had standardised on one or the other. I don’t know why I am lucky and have FTTP broadband, because I’m not exactly in a built-up area. It’s the reliability of the service rather than the speed that appeals most to me.

I shall respond to the current consultation and push for service providers to be banned from using ‘up to’ in their marketing.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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I suggest what matters to the user is not the method of connection but the speed they will actually (generally) get. It is this information we need , and how we get hold of it. Given our phone number, for example, can a prospective provider give an estimate of the speed likely to be, on average, achieved at the inlet to our premises? I was given this by john Lewis Broadband when I was considering changing to fibre (to cabinet in my case) and it has proved a good guide.

Speeds will vary as has been explained many times elsewhere – traffic, your equipment and so on.

The ASA are consulting on the way speed should be advertised. It is likely to include an “up to” speed because that, in reality, is realistic. The question is what % of subscribers should that apply to. However, as well as a generalised speed to indicate the sort of maximum performance available I would also like to see adverts tell people how to get a personal prediction – if that is possible.

Profile photo of Tom Corcoran
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Thanks Malcolm. I think you are right, most customers are concerned about the speed they will get but as mentioned in the convo, fibre is pretty the premium product but in most cases but I’m keen to understand how many people actually understand that when they see a fibre product, it more than likely doesn’t mean FTTP.

Like I mentioned to wavechange, I’m interested in this because the ASA are consulting on the use of the word fibre.

Member
Sarah says:
24 June 2017

Hi, I would hope, being told I could receive up to ‘N’ of something, that this would be pretty close.. I find that more insulting. I understand that advertisers expect us to be stupid and believe everything that they tell us..

This is my frustration.. we’re ‘supposed’ to receive ‘up to’ 17Mbps the standard… and I understand that if I was one of those lucky people that live in the correct areas with the most up to date exchanges, cabinets etc I’d probably get around 10Mbps…

I’ve just done one of your speed tests.. (done a few in fact..) the most recent was this:-

Response: 1260ms
Download Speed: 0.9Mbps
Upload Speed: 1Mbps

What upsets me most is, that I pay the same price as those customers in the ‘right area with the right technology’… and they get super speed and I go to my friends house if I want to upload or download anything….

0.9Mbps is not close to 17Mbps, but technically, it is ‘up to’….. Stinks! I want decent internet please!!!
(Thanks!)

Profile photo of John Ward
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I think the word “fibre” should only be used in advertising if the entire connexion from the local exchange to the master socket is in optical fibre. Virgin Media have made great play of the fact that their coaxial cable from their cabinet to the master socket allows for enhanced performance; I am not sure whether it is always superior to uninterrupted optical fibre all the way. Promoting the rival services can be done without confusing people with incomprehensible descriptions of different technologies.

How many people really know what speed they realistically require for their actual functions? For many, Ofcom’s project to get 95% of properties within reach of ‘decent broadband’ – 10 Mbps – will be adequate. But there will be many others for whom a much faster service will be necessary and I believe that is governed more by the capacity of the trunk cables between the exchange and the local cabinet, as well as the capacity of the cabinet itself [that is, the number of properties it has to serve], than by the technical composition of the final section [unless the distance is exceptional].

Profile photo of Tom Corcoran
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Thanks @johnward. Really interesting to hear your perspective on it, I guess we’ll need to see what the ASA comes out with post consultation.

You are really right about people knowing what speeds they need. I think most providers are pretty good at recommending what you need but I do think it still happens. On the 10 Mbps, that number has been cited for the USO (Universal Service Obligation) to reach the last 5% of people. The idea of the 10 Mbps is that it will be a safety net and will allow people to stream TV and do other day to day things.

Profile photo of John Ward
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I am now confused, Tom. I thought the USO was to provide 95% of the connexions to the network with 10 Mbps broadband or higher speed where possible. The remaining 5% would either not get broadband or something less than 10 Mbps. It really would help if Ofcom could be persuaded to come back to us and clarify all this. A different Conversation revealed that a substantial number of people were still getting minimal broadband speeds and frequent drop outs. It also showed that there were inconsistencies between what Openreach said was available and what people could actually get. It would be really useful to have official confirmation of where the unserved 5% will be, how the coverage will be determined, when the fast broadband roll-out will be completed [scheduled for end of 2017], and whether anything will be done later for those who are outside the 95%.

I also think we need some answers from Ofcom on how they are approaching the problem of local capacity being consumed to the detriment of other subscribers by content that requires high speed and high capacity and therefore aggravates the contention ratio; it is suggested, and with some credibility, that the companies generating this traffic are not making a proper contribution to the costs of the national fast broadband project although the telecom service providers supplying these services are charging their customers a high price for them.

I am not entirely sure that the providers do give correct advice to customers as to their broadband speed requirements; they have a strong financial interest in getting people to pay for higher speeds than they will actually use. Since in many cases it seems they cannot reliably deliver the speeds they charge for there is, therefore, a double whammy. Many consumer services are now sold in packages and bundles so there are plenty of opportunities for the companies to bamboozle people and take advantage of them.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Last 5 % to get 10Mbps -COMPULSORY !!! instead of ignoring all my posts that I have posted on Which for a very long time saying -HOW ???? do you provide 10 Mbps for the last 5 % ???? please elucidate for me with practical-down to earth answers- no “fast talk ” no – advertising “word bites ” as is common now just the truth . FTTP/H will cost a fortune for them as I have said countless times , please read all my previous posts on the subject who is going to pay up to £10,000 /line NOT the con advertising speech of “£500 ” . It is total insanity to suggest that is the cost of customers with 10 span of overhead COPPER wire , long underground COPPER cable 2 MILES + through valley,s, over rivers , through forests . The ONLY (except for satellite ) practical answer is microwave which Norway and many other countries have . Please don’t ignore me answer me or I will think Which has now gone into the realms of full blown advertising to the government+big businesses political+ monetary advantage .

Profile photo of Tom Corcoran
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The BDUK superfast coverage and also other commercial roll outs will make the 95% however for the remaining 5% (1.4 million odd people), a USO of 10 Mbps will be introduced. Ofcom have consulted on the USO and have reported back to DCMS on it. So for the most part, everything is still being discussed.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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@tcorcoran, if I may say so it is good to see a Convo author not only reading comments but, where appropriate, responding to them, and fairly quickly. It makes Convos so much more useful! 🙂

Profile photo of Tom Corcoran
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Hi Duncan, I hope you don’t think I was ignoring you, it wasn’t my intention. I’m jumping on and off Convo as much as I can but it’s rather busy at the moment.

Ofcom recently consulted on all of the options for the USO, including how it will be funded (by industry or by government) and have sent their report to the Government. You can see their report from here; https://www.ofcom.org.uk/consultations-and-statements/category-1/broadband-uso

Profile photo of John Ward
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Thank you very much for your responses, Tom, but no wonder we’re confused. Ofcom’s CEO said in her Which? Conversation piece on 12 April 2017 that “around 5% of homes and offices can’t get decent broadband of 10Mbps”. Some of the unserved 5% presumably cannot get broadband at all. We have had many comments in various Conversations since then that give extremely low speeds in numerous different parts of the country. Personally, I find it hard to believe that 10 Mbps+ [which Ofcom calls “decent broadband”] is actually available to much more than 80% of UK premises. With six months to go before the 95% target is supposed to be fully achieved it would be useful to have an update. I should also be interested to know what is Ofcom’s definition of ‘superfast’ which is what the 95% are expecting – this has never been explained.

Looking back to the Ofcom Conversation many pertinent questions have been raised by various contributors but there have been no answers. Duncan’s point about reaching the final five percent has been expressed in different ways by different contributors but has always been ignored. Mixing this issue up with the 4G mobile signal roll-out did nothing for comprehension of the various statistics and timescales. I think it’s time that the people who will be left out of the superfast broadband programme are informed so they can consider their plans.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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In your last two sentences you express my fears that some type of agenda is being pursued John , I dont mind if its admitted but I dont accept it being intentionally obtuse so as to confuse as we then get into the “PsyOps ” of advertising to a “higher authority ” . Other countries are honest , even the USA, “sorry folks ” we cant supply you with FTTP/H- period but we can and will supply Microwave radio and in NORWAY – we will pay for the installation of satellite also , as I have posted recently in reply to a poster , the EU is NOW subsidizing top of the range satellite broadband reception equipment FREE . This went down like a “wet balloon ” on Which – it all went quiet ! I even provided the EU directive link -why?-Brexit , like the cut price roaming calls it wont apply here –in the future.

Profile photo of John Ward
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I am not sure there is a specific or sinister agenda, Duncan, just the usual British muddle-headed Civil Service way of going on and keeping the population in the dark under the guise of transparency. Sharon White’s [Ofcom’s CEO] Conversation was launched on 12 April. The general election was announced on 18 April at which point all government offices went into ‘purdah’ on policy matters, so that is why it has all gone quiet. But if you take another look at that Conversation [“Ofcom: calling for a cultural change in the telecoms industry”] all the relevant questions have been posed in the comments from contributors and answers have been called for. It is high time to end the confusion and be open and honest with people throughout the UK.

See: https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/ofcom-sharon-white-broadband-mobile-services/

Profile photo of Tom Corcoran
Member

Thanks @malcolm-r! I think in order for us to properly understand what’s going on, we need to be able to engage in the discussion.

Profile photo of Tom Corcoran
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@johnward @duncan-lucas You’ve both raised some interesting points, the one thing I will say on the USO is that the whole thing is still very much being decided and consulted on (like who even pays for it?) and whilst I would share some of your concerns, I do think both Ofcom and industry are doing a lot of serious thinking before they embark on the process to make sure we get it right.

Member
Gray says:
17 June 2017

A lot depends on what you mean by ‘need’. My wife and I could probably manage most of the time with 10Mbs but add a daughter visiting with family and an extra three or even four devices are likely to be at work, one of them researching homework, others on social media as they chat. What is ‘needed’ then? I do have friends not so far away who struggle to get 2Mbs but in fact I usually get 30Mbs or so.

Profile photo of John Ward
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What is needed, Gray, is the return of the art of conversation instead of digital telegrams.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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I have already posted most of this already –many times but I see the debate is about the word “Fibre ” , I notice this is an issue now that the 95 % mark is approaching and for those taken up with the modern advertising methods , not so much in relation to the ISP,s but as Wavechange has pointed out previously Big Media is not happy with the profits they are getting and are pushing for higher speeds .Much advertising is done night+ day on get this app -get this game- get this social media programme , but only achievable if high levels of broadband speed is available . Just have a look at Sky advertising , also Vodaphone /Google/MIcrosoft and the rest and then insidiously saying but it depends on your connection speed . Of coarse it does !! we are not fools !! then why dont you pressurize those big media conglomerates to pay for infrastructure installation of FTTP /H ? That wont happen as the US doesn’t like criticism , have you looked at who own VOD shares ( Vodaphone ) – US -US-US I have all the billion $$$$ US companies who own them all big names Media- hedge funds etc . To me this issue is a bit of a distraction from reality — WHO PAYS for FTTH/P and for the 5 % WHO PAYS for that , not even the Home of Capitalism is willing to pay for its own citizens to get ” 100 % fast fibre and the US has the petro dollar which rules the (Western ) world. Short of money-print some more , and yes I can even supply the US Treasury/Senators/Congressmen who say that and guess who subsidize that ? , thats right the rest of the world and its admitted by economists .

Profile photo of John Ward
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That is the whole problem. Outside the city centres the fibre infrastructure is like a country lane that people now want to drive large goods vehicles along, in both directions, all day every day and at increasing speed. Ofcom can specify minimum speeds to be provided under the Universal Service Obligation but they don’t seem to have an answer to the eating-up of that capacity [and thus worsening the internet experience for other users] by the providers of high-speed and large-capacity content.

By the way, now that the General Election is out of the way [for now, at least] is it not time we had a response from Ofcom to all the questions and points raised about the fast broadband roll-out in their CEO’s Conversation and other Conversations along the same lines? It’s been many weeks now and we are still waiting . . . .

Member
Digga B says:
14 June 2017

I don’t think broadband users really care about the naming of the product or how it reaches them, they only care about the speed they can achieve. Why can consumers not just be charged for the speed that they use and if they are lucky enough to live in a high speed area, this can then be capped at a maximum speed they are happy to pay for.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Probably Digga because they are providing a service that has to be maintained (and paid for ) in bad weather , due to council roadworks digging up cables , due to crooks cutting cables , repairing exchange equipment , etc .Even if that service only supplies 0.5Mbps and they are usually the dearest to maintain as they are long runs of underground cable or overhead wiring whereas city dwellers with underground feeds straight into their homes are easier to maintain . Add to that the government has a policy of a “light -hand” on business removing many regulations that were in the public interest so that businesses had freedom to “flourish ” but this “flourish” turns out to be British money flying off to all parts of the world ( if you know what I mean ) instead of being invested in Britain . As pointed out it is not in the interest of major global businesses to restrict internet speed only to encourage it more and more so that they can make more money from selling . This means capping on high speed lines isn’t going to happen as it directly goes against capitalist philosophy and this world runs on capitalism , even Russia is a capitalist country . They would need to deny themselves for you to achieve what you would like. Or the country to become Marxist ( which will never happen ) .

Member
Jyotish says:
15 June 2017

All service providers are / should be brought to court for not keeping their contractual promise, speed, high industry standard quality delivery , facilities and excellent pro-active customer services.
End of . The “watch dog” committees etc must be poison fanged !

Member
Mr. S. Catalani says:
15 June 2017

I am with TalkTalk and have been so for about 10 years, Last year i was cold called and conned into their “Fibre” broadband service. The salesperson was very pushy and aggressive and insisted that the service that I was signing up to was Fibre optic line and not copper line, guess what? same copper line, same connection and no noticeable improvement in service- for double the monthly cost.
The use of the word “Fibre” IS deceptive, as it implies that fibre optic line is used NOT copper.
There is nothing I can do about my situation as to get out of this contract will cost a lot of money and grief most phone providers seem to be incompetent at doing what they charge for, ie. providing a phone line that works.
TalkTalk was a good company to deal with, now just another scam.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Mr.S.Catalani you arent legally stuck with this new contract if nothing has changed,as you imply . I presume as they mean “fibre ” they say they have provided -FTTC ? because that is the normal advertising JINGO that implies that network condition. Fibre-to-the-Cabinet . This must come with an increase of speed, even if its small , depending on your distance from the cabinet , if your CONSTANT speed has not changed you have the legal right to be returned to the cheaper bundle you had previously without loss .

Member
schnauzer says:
15 June 2017

There is also FTTK fibre to the kerb, where it is too costly or obstrucions, ie you have a long drive, like on many farmhouses etc.
I think the pakages should be advertised as
Full Fibre, when entire run is in full fibre.
coaxial fibre, when it is mixed like virgin
copper fibre when type of fibre with copper is used just like FTTC and FTTK

Simplicity itself.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

Schnauzer , of course there is FTTK and I have mentioned it on Which not long ago –BUT it applies really to- Broadband for the Rural North- B4RN- DIY . As I said to the poster I cant praise this small company enough and you know ? , who have I praised in the telecom business apart from BT . This small company is NOT competition to BT as it applies to ALL those business people who complain loudly– I work/live miles from a cabinet on a farm/ cottage and only get – 0.5-5Mbps – Hallelujah !!! this company is the answer to your prayers .All you need is to provide and install your OWN fibre to the home from the roadside , for the second time I post the URL : https://b4rn.org.uk/ a genuine /kosher/honest/ above board company and I tell you this if I had the money I would invest heavily in this company , its a winner ! Yes I know Virgin supplies a connection post at your roadside but this is different , forget VM who will never supply that remote cottage/farm go B4RN a genuine company. Do you want a FULL Gigabit of of speed – £30/month . A BRITISH small business which I support 100 % go Britain !!!. By the way do you know American Telecom business websites know about it and praise it also –its that good .

Profile photo of Tom Corcoran
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Thanks @schnauzer!

Profile photo of Tom Corcoran
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I’ve spoke with B4RN and it is such interesting model, especially when you consider they are rolling out full fibre networks!

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Just got a malware email – you are 100 % BRIT- click on this, dont tell me they dont watch Which.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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I have definitely upset somebody , same type of malware email as above only this time–Miracle molecule shown to cure Alzhelmer,s —in 21 days .I take it it is a comment on my postings ??

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We have been complaining to Talktalk for over 3 years and are appalled at their lack of response, attitude and inactivity. We are currently waiting for a reply to two letters, written in March and May. They do not reply to phone calls. We cannot make contact with their Board members or the actual CEO but have been palmed off with unconcerned helpers. Our Broadband problem is that we live too far from the exchange, we have an unstable line and no-one seems able to sort it out or show any interest.

Profile photo of Tom Corcoran
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Hi @davidbutler, sorry for the extreme delay in getting back to you. Are you on ADSL?

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john de Rivaz says:
17 June 2017

The thing that worries me with fibre to the premises or to the cabinet is stories about long down times with BTOR’s queuing system if it goes wrong.

Profile photo of Tom Corcoran
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Thanks @johnderivaz. This interesting, have you had experience of the queuing system? There are lots of other providers out there providing and even maintaining their own Fibre networks, but sadly this depends on where you live.

Member
Robin says:
17 June 2017

Zen predict a minimum fibre speed of 40 based on my phone number. Is this going to take into account the 300m distance from the cabinet using the copper wire? No wonder there is confusion.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Robin at 300m from the cabinet the speed you SHOULD get is 45Mbps to predict a minimum speed of 40Mbps is taking poetic licence /pie in the sky etc , notice the word “predict ” like “up to 100Mbps ” . Get back onto Zen tell them you want a written statement/email guaranteeing you get a minimum of 40Mbps and see what they say.

Member
Gareth says:
17 June 2017

Ok, things are always done differently in Hull ! our local telecoms provider (No BT/sky/Virgin here) Kcom (karoo) are fitting FTTP as standard with FTTC as exception (8%) of installs (predominately urbain, some rural) – pricing depending on spee/download allowance…. So not cheap cheap but you get what you pay for… (Me £45 for 700gb /mth, 75mbps, bundled phone calls etc)

Strange thing is you almost never read about this in articles like this and comparison sites such as uswitch even claim fibre isn’t available!

The question is if it can be done here – why not elsewhere? Is it Kcomlocal monopoly or future proofing at play?

Profile photo of wavechange
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I have friends living in Hull. Apparently Ofcom have decided that it’s not a monopoly because other companies can pay to use the lines but since the charges are high, no-one does. In practical terms it seems like a monopoly to me.

I don’t understand the rationale of spending money on rolling out FTTC broadband when it is going to be replaced by FTTP not too far in the future, as the demand for fast broadband grows. Much of the funding should be provided by the companies that profit by providing entertainment and other services that require fast broadband.

Profile photo of gareth-hull
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Agree seems complete waste of cash doing a bodge job (FTTC) – agree those private companies benefitting should contribute but politically don’t see this happening – good grief they might be made to pay tax!

Re Kcom yes not a ‘monopoly’ but one for all intents and purposes acts as one

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Wavechange you said — Ofcom have decided its not a monopoly ( in Hull ) as other companies can use Hull,s OWN lines .Think about that –if that is a legal statement then why is BT classed as a monopoly when they do the exact same thing ?? . Hull bought all the telephone network from NTC for nearly £200,000 . Hull is a city it is therefore easier to upgrade its lines to FTTP/H for private companies to do , it is therefore a bit unfair to suggest that BT who has most (if not all ) of the 5 % lines in rural areas to “do the same as Hull ” especially as all the other companies dont want to know.

Profile photo of wavechange
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I’m only relating what I have been told, Duncan, and as I have said, it looks like a monopoly to me. I cannot find an explanation of Ofcom’s reasoning.

You make a very good point about it being easier and more cost effective to provide an FTTP service in an urban area. What I’m opposed to is spending money on obsolescent technology (i.e. FTTC) when entertainment companies should be making a substantial contribution to the cost of the roll-out of modern fibre broadband. The problem of aluminium cables has been mentioned, so we switch from aluminium to copper and then copper to fibre – and waste money in doing so. I am certainly not blaming BT for anything, though I would like to hear them pushing the government to raise funding from the companies that make use of fast broadband.

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Openreach is a national monopoly because of its massive domination of the telecom infrastructure – no other company or collection of companies comes close to the number of lines it controls. Kingston-upon-Hull has had a local monopoly of telecom services for well over a hundred years. It used to be municipal but is now a private company. Neither Openreach nor any other provider has any significant infrastructure in the City or in certain surrounding areas. Local residents have virtually no access to other providers’ broadband services and KC has little incentive to improve the service it provides.

By contrast, as part of Ofcom’s attempts to open the BT/Openreach monopoly in the rest of the country,other providers are able to use their exchanges, ducts and cables to carry their traffic, although Virgin Media,and increasingly TalkTalk, have either taken over previous cable companies’ plant or installed their own cabinets, ducts, and cables thus becoming independent of Openreach at the local level.

Although, over time, FTTC will be replaced by FTTP, the cabinets will still be there as part of the network connecting the trunk fibre optic cables from the exchange to the local distribution frame that will serve individual properties so the only new infrastructure requirement in urban areas and other places with high subscriber density is the final fibre link to the property. Main cables carrying bundles of fibre optic cables will feed from the cabinets to chambers or boxes in the streets or at blocks of flats which will split the signals for individual houses, flats or other premises. It is the digitisation of the signals that enables a single fibre optic cable to carry a very wide band of traffic at very high speeds. Some of the cabinets I have seen on the streets for providers other than Openreach are now effectively exchanges themselves and have high power intakes and sophisticated ventilation.

To achieve the 95% decent broadband roll-out it must surely be necessary to install many more cabinets in low density areas in order to reduce the distance from the cabinet to the premises. I am sure the final link will remain copper in many remote situations, but, if fibre reaches closer, its superior speed, capacity and reliability over longer distances should compensate for the deficiencies of copper for that final section, and new booster technology should improve the signal quality – plus, by definition, remote locations do not have the contention problem that is becoming an issue in heavily built-up areas where early fibre installations have been shown to be inadequate for modern user requirements.

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I’m obviously no expert but I have read that FTTP offers maximum advantage in remote situations because it can cover long distances without boosters.

Duncan has explained some of the reasons why FTTP is an expensive option. I think there might be some ways of reducing costs. For example, are the charges made by landowners for access to private land justified, especially since they will benefit from a faster and more reliable service.

I fully understand why we have used existing cables for standard broadband but FTTC seems unwise. As demand for faster services grows, what may be an adequate speed at present will decline due to increased demand.

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It will depend on what capacity fibre cable is provided to the cabinet and on how many onward FTTP extensions are made. It is apparent that the capacity of many cabinets is already inadequate because the incoming cables from the exchange are too small. If there is sufficient spare duct capacity these can be upgraded [at a cost] but if new ducts have to be provided the cost will soar and the work will take a long time.

I believe it is the case that FTTP is provided for all new build housing, but that is a tiny fraction of the housing stock. The cost of providing a fibre cable link to each separate property to replace the overhead copper line would have to be recharged to each occupier I suppose. I do not know whether fibre optic cabling is comfortable when strung between poles so undergrounding it is probably the preference. Virgin Media were lucky; they were able to buy up the dying cable TV infrastructure that was soon overtaken by satellite broadcasting so had ready-made access to every property in their network area from a small box in the footway from which the coaxial cable was often run on the surface [clipped to a fence or brick wall before reaching an exterior junction box].

I expect Ofcom has laid down standard charges per kilometre for wayleaves and easements over private land so owners cannot hold Openreach or other providers to ransom. It’s just a logistical mountain to climb as well as a topographical one in many cases. There is also room for routeing arguments that can hold things up. Most residential and business locations in the UK, however remote, already have an overhead copper telephone line so there will probably be an existing wayleave than can be updated.

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Alan says:
17 June 2017

Which? should be putting some pressure on the regulator, BT is running rings round it. It is totally unacceptable for BT to spend billions on sport. This money could be used to ensure FTTP for most (appreciate remote areas need an alternative solution). So instead of pushing to separate Openreach, it should tell BT to deliver what we all want.

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Alan why not ask SKY/Vodaphone/ Talk-Talk and all the rest to provide FTTP ? Because you know the answer would be NO -no profit . Do you criticise all the US financed $ Billion companies operating here who provide paid entertainment because the dont /wont pay 10, of £Billions to provide FTTP –uh ! no .

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John says:
17 June 2017

In my village the fibre goes to the cabinet and from there the lines are either copper, or even aluminium.
I have had a line fault, requiring the services of four Openreach engineers, when a copper to aluminium connection failed.
My ISP, TalkTalk still advertises Fast Fibre Broadband, even offering, for extra, Super Fast Fibre with an ‘up to’ speed.

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Aluminium John a money saving exercise that failed completely ( at least in the area I worked in ) . Very bad news !! I have sympathy for you , and nobody will want to know about upgrading it.

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Presumably, as a quick fix while waiting for a full fibre service all the way to the premises, much of the copper cabling made redundant by FTTC will be recycled to replace obsolete aluminium cables on the final link.

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Using recycled copper cabling may seem a cost saving solution but if it means increased maintenance work and complaints it could prove poor value for money, as the aluminium cables have proved to be. I would ask the engineers for their input.

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thanks for your comment John! What sort of speeds are you getting on your line normally?

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Mike Inglis says:
17 June 2017

We have FTTC and with a speed at best of only 9Mbps it is only marginally faster than standard broadband. All this hype for what is a third rate service, it is a scandal.

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Its certainly a scandal MIke for —HMG who went overboard making itself look good to the public by over-egging the advantages of FTTC for long copper lines. They wont pay for FTTP for the 5 % as its too much money- 10,s of £Billions .

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Sorry for the extreme delay in response Mike! I’ve been away on leave and just crazy busy since I got back. When you bought the product, did you understand you were just getting it to the cabinet?

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I see one of the problems as most consumers do not understand why they might need over priced fibre. If they are only using broadband for internet browsing and email then 0.5Mbps may be acceptable but if they want to download/stream SD TV then 3Mbps would be considered minimum. HD TV then 10Mbps. A household comprising 2 adults and 2 teenagers might want to stream 3 HD TV channels , now they need FTTC with 30Mbps, so the cabinet needs to be within 500m. How long before this family want to stream 4k TV? 240Mbps?

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Another good ,practical,down to earth post on this subject Greytech , with you all the way.

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That is indeed the very point, Greytech. The question is – who should be paying for that capacity? All of us as taxpayers, or each subscriber to the high-demand content through the companies that supply it? Nobody in government or Ofcom seems to have an answer to this.

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Normally the provision of a “luxury” service would be decided commercially on the number of customers prepared to pay premium prices to make the provision profitable. I see no reason why the taxpayer should subsidise high speed broadband, above that needed for normal everyday tasks. If people want it for their entertainment or business they should pay for it. There are far more worthwhile uses for my taxes – including health and social care.

If those who provide material that demands high speed broadband charge premium subscriptions, part of the revenue should support the necessary infrastructure but I don’t see how that can be achieved. Is there a simple answer?

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I have no problem with customers paying more for high speed broadband and I suggest that it would be better to charge according to usage and get rid of ‘unlimited’ tariffs, on the basis that they can slow down the service for other users who don’t have the benefit of an FTTP service.

Users of services that require high speed broadband are going to increasingly slow down the service for other users, so we need the providers of entertainment services to make a substantial contribution to the roll out of fibre broadband. I don’t know the answer either but it might be worth looking at how other countries have tackled the problem.

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It is interesting that BT itself is now one of the drivers of high demand content. We received a promotional pack from BT yesterday offering all manner of amusement services to be delivered by broadband for staggering monthly amounts – after the introductory period, of course. Are they restricting these promotions to areas where they know that their sister company Openreach has sufficient capacity available in the local network over the next few years to reliably supply these services without contention problems? Should the wealthy dominate access to broadband services and deprive the less wealthy of essential access? Is the telecom service provider side of BT Group making an adequate contribution to the Openreach side for infrastructure upgrades?

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Orris Orrison says:
17 June 2017

I know that there are some exceptions, like Hull and B4RN and satellite (not Sky), but the hidden point in all of this is that we are only really talking about 2 major providers, who have an effective monopoly over all of our telecommunications – BT and Virgin. The deals they strike with other so-called suppliers, like Talk Talk, are to provide the same communications from their own source. In other words, Talk Talk is provided by BT so you are, despite the clever newspeak of Ofcom and the rest, having your facilities provided from BT and not an independent provider. I made the mistake a few years ago of changing to Talk Talk and what a bunch of incompetent cowboys they turned out to be, and it was down to the deal they had at that time, with BT as it was BT engineers who dealt with my many complaints and faults. I only stayed a year with them and went back to BT, but even they have their faults. I recently had a fault sorted out, up to a point, when it was noted by the arriving engineer that the box on the pole supply the cable to my house, was open. He discovered, what should have been sorted out several years ago, was that the cover had obviously been off a considerable time as the connections, including mine, were all degraded. In addition, he also found that the cable from the pole to the cabinet is aluminium not copper and he raised an appropriate fault. My fault was, as I say up to a point, sorted, but I still experience my connection dropping out and fading away as well. I live about 50 yards from my nearest cabinet and would willingly pay to have the last connection from there to my home made into fibre, but since this cabinet is not yet connected via fibre, despite very many others in the immediate locality proudly show that they have been converted to fibre, I will just have to wait, along with also waiting for BT to come and change the aluminium cable to copper!
I don’t believe that given all the profits being made by the like of BT, that there should be any 5% left out of any coverage for a respectable speed of broadband connection. I would also suggest that larger businesses, the like of Experian, all the banks and others operating call centres should be the ones being penalised or charged even higher prices than they pay now to meet the needs of the country as a whole. These people cannot whinge that it is they that earn the wealth for this country if all they want to do is to continually screw us over financially.

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Orris aluminium will never be right in long telecommunication lines its just bad news , my area got rid of it after an expensive trial , it was done as a -save money exercise –that failed dismally , tried to wire up a whole street cabinet near a busy road after spending £10,000,s on men/time long alumium cable etc the road vibration from heavy lorries caused multiple disconnections so—it was all put back to copper at a cost of —£10,000,s . Your right about -who mpays ?? but the government and other telecom companies are trying to bounce that one back to BT to cripple it after all its (HMG ) “brave ” advertising of FTTC . At your short distance you would get near the top speed for FTTC of ( approx ) 75Mbps . This is all down to advertoising and Big Businesses want vto sell apps/games /etc but dont want to chip in for the upgrade of infrastructure in Britain , yet many have bigger budgets than small countries .

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Why were aluminium cables ever considered suitable at the low voltages used in phone networks? I presume that the decisions were made by administrators rather than engineers with practical experience.

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Economic /financial Wavechange , at that time the price of copper had risen sharply and it was big news in the business world , so, as you say, those at the top made a corporate decision and brow-beated the technical side into accepting it.

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Taking into account the cost of attending to faults and the eventual cost of replacement, the cost saving might not have proved long term value for money. If only those with authority started off with a good grounding in science and practical matters.

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Agreed, Wavechange – or they could have just read their history books if practical science was anathema to them.

Of course, copper is how a tiny country like Belgium became great and imperial through its exploitation of the copper deposits in the Congo region. It now has a major say in our future. Not making any geo-political point here – just reflecting on how things turn out.

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Orris Orrison says:
17 June 2017

I would have liked to have voted in the poll, but since there is no option to cover my wired only connection, I can’t! People like me should also be allowed to register this fact.

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Mike says:
17 June 2017

“Up to” means nothing. It’s similar to a sale when you see “up to 70% off”.

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Yes Mike , when they price the product at £1000 and take off “up to 70% ” when the product actually costs £150 , this scam originates in the States years ago but US citizens are “street wise ” to US business sales techniques , so much so they are cynical about it and make jokes/cartoons that are quite searingly funny.

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I had a funny feeling there was going to be an American dimension to this. I think dodgy marketing is a universal condition and UK commerce has been at it for generations.

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Britain never had the same intensity as the US John , it isnt generations its only in the past decades that it has become so intense and penetrating . When we started off around 1955 with adverts they were mild while in the US they on their screens night+day continuously telling you if you dont buy their product your neighbours would think less of you – remember the saying- keeping up with the Jones,s I hope you dont think that started in the UK , Started in AMERICA- Arthur Momand- comic strip -1913 and in the USA its generic for neighbours , that transposed into the advertising business as they saw it as a means of pressurizing people into “getting something better” than their neighbour . This “American ” type of advertising is now in this country building up to adverts with programmes in between . John I can give cyou the whole 40,s/50,s onwards history of US advertising , the American cant be beaten at it, its so good that more and more UK adverts dont even bother with English dialect but use Americans . Lots of countries use American announcers , even China but Russia looking for a sort of gravitas use ENGLISH announcers , with the occasional US commentators . Nobody can beat American at it thats why they are so good at propaganda , Russia is like a child in comparison. I know advertising from the psychologists that are employed right through the whole set up . By the way the organisation you are a member of Which you should post praising Which Advertising Team is doing a marvelous job expanding worldwide , if it had shares it would be one to be “Bullish “about , not be long till its up there with the big names .

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Thanks for that interesting history of the origin of certain advertising practices, Duncan. I wasn’t thinking about TV commercials in my comment because I rarely see any, but it is true that the whole world idolised Madison Avenue and their slick and clever techniques. The very first adverts on British commercial television were for American brands, largely because few UK companies had any experience of direct broadcast advertising into people’s homes and their early efforts were like something off the printed page with a dulcet voice-over. Even cinema adverts in the UK were fairly pathetic and so repetitive they became a standing joke and people mimicked them as they played.

Status consciousness certainly caught on in a big way in this country during the sixties as people became more affluent and consumer desirables were rolling off the production lines. This was certainly the case with motor cars and domestic hygiene products [remember the Persil adverts featuring two lines of washing, one white, the other grey?]. And everything from cigarettes to hairspray had connotations of neighbour superiority.

Apart from TV ads for films, I cannot recall any UK TV adverts at the moment that feature an American accent, but then I miss most of them. Perhaps it doesn’t cut much ice over here these days. It is certainly the case, however, that British actors and actresses are in high demand to do the voice-overs for American commercials because the British English accent is considered to be more authoritative than the American English version.

I exclude from this here the very enjoyable, and very well-made, adverts for Halifax Bank mortgages featuring the Top Cat characters. To my ears the voices are totally indistinguishable from the originals of fifty or more years ago, so some clever casting there. I just love Officer Dibble’s Manhattan drawl. TC needs a loan to move up-market to a better trash-can in a cleaner alley and he lays on the schmaltz to get one. Smart marketing. British advertising agency.

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Brian Andrews says:
17 June 2017

The comment that “a fibre to the home connection should mean the speed you pay for and the speed you actually get are closer than if you have a ‘to the Cabinet’ connection”, is not necessarily true. You have mader no allowance for contention which can also pull down speed very significantly. Your assertion is only valid in the same location and with the same supplier, it is not a generic rule. An FTTP connection in one area could still be slower than an FTTC solution in another. Also in the same location, two suppliers may (and usually will) have different contention rates, so provide different performance against the same quoted “up to” speed.

None of this is the ISPs adopting dodgy marketing practices, it’s just the logistics of delivery. The problem is that an “up to” speed, is an inappropriate way to categorise the product (due to each location being slightly different), but unfortunately one that we have become accustomed to and which can easily be productised as “up to” X, Y or Z. As such it would be difficult for any ISP to effect a change in isolation. It needs OfCom to take a hand and establish a better way – perhaps “a guaranteed minimum of” X, Y,or Z, or even a metered supply as with some other utilities.

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Brian I can accept some of what you say but question all ISP,s are “blameless ” have you really taken a look at their website advertising where they comment on x+y as being “inferior to themselves pointing out flaws etc there are even posters on today about Talk-Talk and others saying how they dont tell the truth. Tell me in engineering terms how you guarantee a minimum speed ? to achieve that you would need unlimited broadband usage and a very high speed as you know given x speed the whole family will push it to the limit and beyond and then come on websites like Which and say- my HD + films and my sons interactive games and daughters high social interaction and my wife,s activities use up our speed causing problems , while are you guaranteeing every household has perfect wi-fi – internal cable run , no RF radiation from nearby DECT/Cell-phone units / baby alarms / mains noise / etc etc . I know what people do and its not all legal I spent 19 years in peoples/houses / businesses fixing faults caused by them even adding an extension onto the house and not paying Openreach to divert it but cementing it into the walls where the acid from the cement burnt through the plastic wiring . I have a list as long as your arm on the many devious things done including extensions in sheds where internal wiring was used externally causing faults , I could go on indefinitely on this subject.

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Thank you, Brian for making that very clear. I think we’re still waiting for the Advertising Standards Authority to reach a conclusion on the use of “up to”. Personally I hope it will be outlawed.

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I agree with you, Duncan – there are far to many imponderables and aspects that are outside the control of the telecom service provider. Any guarantee would have to be very heavily qualified as being limited to the speed at the master socket only, with one router only and one device only served by a hard ethernet connexion to the router, and for average browsing activity only [not film, TV, games or other high-demand interactive content]. There would have to be exclusions for network overloads, power failures anywhere in the system, and a high contention ratio caused by traffic from other properties in the locality. It would then need to be understood that each deviation from that specification – extra devices, wireless connexions, high-speed content, etc – would have an adverse impact on the speed profile. In fact such a guarantee would be worthless and no one is going to waste their time devising one that would tick all the boxes.

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I hope that most people would like to see ‘up to’ outlawed, but I don’t know where Which? stands on this nowadays. This Conversation is supposed to be about the description of broadband services (FTTP etc) and my efforts to elicit discussion of the ‘up to’ misrepresentation failed.

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Wavechange-“Up to ” -Cambridge Dictionary ( British English ) – used to say something is less than or more than a stated value , number, or level. Which leaves the question WHAT stated level ? it is therefore misused by the advertising community and its a wrong interpretation of the English language . Its “Americana ” Madison Avenue advertising when used in this sales presentation of it. Madison Avenue “Techniques ” -“gimmicky-slick use of the communications media to play on the emotions(William Safire )

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And there was I thinking it was just gutter-level bamboozlement. I should have known better.

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Thanks folks. We have had a lot of discussion about ‘up to’ in the earlier Conversations but, as I have said, I have no idea if Which? is pursuing this issue. Despite all the press releases and good press coverage, I’m not sure if Which? is prepared to criticise companies in the way that it used to.

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You ,mean a bit more radicalism Wavechange ? “Heaven forbid ” ! (tongue in cheek ). As I have been saying Which is steering a media line that is very successful worldwide and its corporate image gains in prestige daily , it is appealing to a large audience and its working , I doubt if it ran it like I am it would be so popular I know exactly the western “world mood ” and Which is slipping into that mood excellently. You cant fault Which,s media division it knows what it is doing.

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It certainly gets a lot of headlines in the UK. I am not in a position to comment on its public profile abroad; I wasn’t aware of any necessity to have one except within the consumer testing and advice community where its reputation faces stiff competition.

Personally, I feel that Which? falls short on its mission statement and I agree with Wavechange. With a million or more members, subscribers and supporters it should be strong and fearless.

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Yes Duncan, I would like to see some much more positive action. I respect that the role of Which? seems to be to identify problems and report them to the appropriate organisations and authorities to pursue, but so often we see little progress and are back at square one.

If Which? did adopt a more aggressive stand then occasionally it might have to issue a public apology, but that might be a small price to pay if we can make real progress with other Which? campaigns.

I agree with John that Which? should be strong and fearless. Does anyone remember how the cover of Which? magazine sometimes carried high impact photos, for example a small 4WD Suzuki at 45 degrees when going round a corner and a steam iron with a melted aluminium soleplate thanks to thermostat failure and the absence of a safety cutout. The recent covers are more artistic but they have not registered in my memory.

rant
With a strong push from Which? and support from subscribers, I think we could have got rid of dodgy broadband advertising by now, maybe up to five years ago.

Which? could have pushed for service providers to install nuisance call protection at the exchange when personal call blockers were introduced.

Which? could have asked us all to tell our banks what we think of them charging punitive interest rates, even if we have never had to pay them.

/rant 🙂

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Wavechanhge , as always I am putting realism first , of course I would like to see more radicalism , but even on the pages of Which I have been criticised for being so . I therefore accept that Which conforms to a certain pattern that has been agreed at board level as -“the way to go ” , this is normal behavior for most western commercially aimed companies its something I know very well about . Look I was booted off the most popular US tech “help ” website in both the USA +abroad WHY ??? because I was disingenuous enough to criticise Microsoft and I have to be fair they were entirely up front with why they did it — they got financial support from Redmond Headquarters , no mucking about came right out with it , no hiding behind corners , and you know what ? I respected the fact they were honest , even BT weren’t happy with me when I recommended a small telecom company that the poster would have benefited from which (to me ) was no competition to BT , they told me up front, competition commercially is not allowed on our forum , so I became persona non grata , I accepted that too . Let that be a lesson to all those people who think that I think BT can do no wrong . For tose thinking give us much more radicalism , well here is another -real life actual event ( condensed ) , I used to belong to one of the most radical websites on the planet, most would construe it with far-far-right world politics , but it would not allow any criticism of its policy brake the rules- ex-communicated .This upset many indifferent parts of the world although the Webmaster was Australian , many posters were German- US-French I got to know very many people from those parts exchanging emails etc , but because it was so narrow in its outlook I cut down my posts even when I has “highlighted ” as an “inspiration ” and even had a fancy ICON with a stirring picture of a warlike people BUT it failed , not through the website having to change server countries many times to stop 3 countries security agencies attacking it , no it sunk a year or two ago because of lack of funds , in other words it could not attract many who were sympathetic with the political points but not the warlike far right rhetoric , in reality it was intellectually defunct because of the very narrow viewpoint allowed and the public, being the public wanted a broader scope of acceptance of their point of view even if it only differed in semantics and asking for a more public acceptable agenda. a wise website will allow leeway in its policies but how many do that in modern commercial Britain ? In that respect , as someone well acquainted with how websites operate I think Which is being generous in allowing me to post , as I cant help straying ( slightly ) into radicalism , for that I am grateful . It shows , at least to me , that this country still has some Freedom of Speech left.

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The problem perhaps is that “up to” accurately describes the situation. Broadband speed is not a fixed parameter – it does vary as many have pointed out – distance from exchange, whether you have copper, FTTC, FTTP, time of day, how much traffic, how many people are using your connection and your own equipment, distance from router to pc, etc. How else can you describe such a variable service?

What we need, though, is two things in my view; a revision of the % of the people who will get the maximum speed from 10% to perhaps 50%, but on its own that is insufficient. Much more importantly a way of getting an estimate to the outside of your own premises of the typical speed you are likely to get- which I understand can be provided. Publicise the “up to” plus the way to get a personal estimate and what more can be done ?

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My ISP used to advertise my service as ‘up to 24Mbps’ for its standard copper broadband and I never achieved more than a third of this speed. Thankfully it dropped the dishonest ‘up to’ statement in favour of an estimated speed range, which proved realistic.

Any estimate would have to assume that a single modern computer was plugged into the master socket.

There is some merit in ISPs erring on the low side with estimated speeds and with my present FTTP service the speed I record is almost invariably higher than what I am paying for.

If your pension was ‘up to X pounds a month’ and you received a third of that you might want a better description.

Duncan – I think it will be a gradual process to help make people aware of how our lives are being manipulated by the commercial world. It’s probably best to focus on UK examples that most people can relate to.