/ Technology

No one’s getting the broadband speed they pay for

Snail on keyboard

It seems ‘superfast’ broadband speeds are often nothing more than a myth propagated by ISPs to grab customers. It’s time they stopped misleading us with ads claiming false figures.

If you ordered an iPhone, you’d be irate if a £20 PAYG mobile handset pitched up. And your consumer rights, enshrined in law, would entitle you to send it straight back.

But when it comes to broadband, ISPs are still getting away with advertising ever-increasing speeds that bear little resemblance to what we get.

Advertised broadband speeds are a myth

Ofcom’s latest broadband speed test results reveal that not a single ‘up to’ 20Mbps or 24Mbps DSL broadband service (over BT’s copper wire network) delivered the advertised speed. In fact, none achieved average download speeds greater than 18Mbps.

And across broadband services of all speeds, the gap between myth and reality is widening. Fewer customers are actually getting anywhere near their advertised maximum speeds in 2010 than they did in 2009 – on average, actual speeds over a DSL line are just 45% of advertised speeds.

On fibre networks, Virgin Media’s cable broadband customers are better off than those of us on a DSL service. Virgin Media cable typically received around 75-80% of advertised speeds. Not perfect, but a darn site closer to what you’d hope for.

BT’s investing in its own fibre network, but rollout of a new network takes time and some rural areas may not get fibre for many years (if ever).

Speaking of rural areas, Ofcom’s findings are particularly bad news if you don’t live in a town or city. Average speeds in rural areas were just half those in urban areas and have actually decreased overall since this time last year.

Stop misleading us with false advertising

Of course, the question remains do we really need superfast speeds anyways? After all, if all you want to do is surf and email, a reliable 2Mbps will be plenty.

But I reckon it doesn’t really matter what we ‘need’ – the point remains that we’re simply not getting what broadband advertising leads us to expect. And that’s plain wrong.

Ofcom’s doing what it can to force providers to make likely broadband speeds clear to customers when they first sign up to a broadband service. And it’s tightening the rules within the next 12 months so that if you get nowhere near the speed you’re told to expect, you can end your contract without penalty.

In the meantime, the Advertising Standards Authority needs to get off its proverbial and tackle the ads that lure us into joining a provider. Those two little words ‘up to’ in front of headline speeds just aren’t ‘up to’ the job of making things clear.


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I increased my effective download speed from <1mb to ~5mb by moving my ADSL router so that it was connected close to my incoming phone line. One microfilter was all that was then needed to separate my broadband from all the voice phone extensions in the house. You can get an integrated microfilter that replaces the faceplate of your BT mastersocket and gives separate ADSL and voice outputs.

James McCard says:
16 February 2013

I have just been on the phone to bt and asked them why Im only getting a download speed of 1.5mbs the answer I got is well thats just because your too far away from the exchange.lm 2 miles away and should be getting up to 8 mbs and they cant do anything about it.All I can say is get a grip bt thats no use to anyone.

Why not make it simple an insist providers have to advertise minimum as well as POTENTIAL maximum speeds and the average download speed for a particular area or postcode. Surely this is simple enough and as there data intelligence grows these figure are updated.

I have Virgin Superfast and should get 40-50 mbs download average and over the last two weeks I have ran regular test and in fact get way less than the bottom rate. On calling to explain was offered new router and given £7.50 rebate. All I want is the speed I was offered and in fact pay for. It does not really matter if it is fast enough or not I should get what I pay for and if they cant deliver it they should not be allowed to advertise and charge for it.

I do think we overthink and capitulate to these companies and the regulators as as weak as a drink of water. Think about it….If they can claim things when advertising where did they get their research from and there should be no excuse why they can’t deliver on it. All this rubbish about copper wire and how far you are from a box in the street, do you live rural or urban, why do these providers not go over all of that when selling products

Also all this rubbish about when a customer want to leave. WHY not go as easily as when signing up if not happy. Again they make up their own rules and the regulators let them get away with it. I like consistency and want to stay with a same provider and I am OK paying for the services, if not I should not sign up. However if not happy or receiving the service I was promised WHY should I not be able to leave ASAP without penalty.

I am so glad these streaming companies are now taking over, I no longer pay over inflated prices and can watch all latest movies and TV series as well as sport. I understand they are trying to block this but it is going to be very difficult. Perhaps as more and more people use the likes of KODI and stream it will force the providers to reduce prices, be more honest and customer focused.

MAKE IT SIMPLE. don promise what you cant deliver and perhaps we will all come back some day

I live in a metropolitan area and have used cable broadband from Virgin from the very beginning when it was NTL and I can honestly say I have never had a significant problem. Even on wireless devices I always get the advertised speed or something very close to it at all times. If there is an issue they fix it very promptly. I am technically savvy so can sort things out myself much of the time and I think this is what stymies a lot of people – simple things that they could fix themselves! In fact Virgin is so reliable and consistent I have recently downgraded from 200 to 100 MB, saving myself almost £20/month with no discernible loss of functionality (with up to 8 devices connected).