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.