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Had it ‘up to’ here with broadband advertising? You’re not alone

When it comes to broadband speed advertising, the two magic words you’ll see time and again are ‘up to’. New guidelines are in to stop misleading advertising – but do you think they’re strict enough?

For years, these two words have been cannily used by internet service providers to cover the likelihood that you might never be able to properly enjoy the maximum broadband speeds their packages offer.

After all, if your internet service provider (ISP) is advertising broadband speeds of ‘up to 20Mbps’, they’re not strictly in the wrong if your connection never fully reaches the maximum possible speed.

Are new advertising guidelines ‘up to’ scratch?

On 1 April, new guidance around broadband advertising was brought in by the Committee of Advertising Practice and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice. These guidelines state that for an ISP to advertise an ‘up to’ broadband speed, this speed must be achievable for at least 10% of its customers.

If, like me, you’re left feeling sorry for the remaining 90%, you’re not alone.

A survey of 1,074 Brits carried out by thinkbroadband.com found that 72% of respondents didn’t support these new guidelines. Some 34% felt that claimed ‘up to’ speeds should be achievable for at least half of a provider’s customers, not just one in ten of them.

Fed up with sluggish broadband?

And in our own survey of 1,006 Which? members, an overwhelming 89% told us that they had experienced unsatisfactory broadband speeds despite paying for higher ‘up to’ speeds. Commenter Kev summed up the mood on a previous broadband Conversation:

‘Why do we accept this discrepancy? I pay for “up to 24Mbps” and in reality get about 8 Mbps. If I bought a car with an advertised top speed of 100mph and found it wouldn’t go any faster than 30mph I’m sure there’d be grounds for legal proceedings for the goods not being as described.’

So, it seems like the majority of UK broadband users aren’t pointing to the skies like Usain Bolt to celebrate their speedy connections. So is it good enough for ISPs to get away with advertised ‘up to’ speeds that cater only to the lucky 10%?


My Broadband provider has recently advertised they’re doubling my broadband, what they omit is not until Jun -Oct 2013. That’s kinda pointless too.

Any upto speeds should be for a minimum of 51% of customers and if I was to push the boat out ideally for over 75% of them. If not, then they should be banned from upto and state the minimum achievable, that would certainly inspire then to improve it for all.

And if you could sort out store sales with “up to” 50% off at the same time … .

I have been wondering if Which? will be doing anything to protect the interests of those who are quite content with a low broadband speed and enjoy a lower price for it. There is so much pressure for faster and faster broadband that in some places there will be no alternative and charges will surely rise across the board.

How about Which campaigning for all new houses to be built with a satisfactory infrastructure?

I’ve moved into a new house and the speeds are….. wait for it….. 1MB download and 0.07k upload!!

Kev actually has it quite good, we can’t even run iplayer or watch a film on lovefilm the connection speed is so slow. I understand that we are a way from the exchange, however, PlusNet are our provided (recommended by Which) yet their service is so sporadic that we hardly ever get a reliable connection.
I can accept variations in the providers network speed/bandwidth, yet we don’t have an initial high enough speed to cope when something goes wrong their end, which is very very frequent.

The irony is that there is another exchange much nearer to us but that would involve laying a pipe across the river which I am sure was decided to be “too expensive”. We would honestly be better off with a dial up connection, I cannot believe how we pay the same as everyone else yet don’t get anything like the service due to where we live.

A Which? investigation could be “Should we pay for our broadband according to the actual speeds/bandwidth that we can receive?”

Surely that is the point, you get a decent connection, you pay more, I am happy to do that, but then I suppose the ISP’s wouldn’t be able to make any money from the majority of people having a poor connection, how silly of me!

DEREK says:
11 April 2012

my internet speed had virtually ground to a halt,on testing by my provider 0,27mb/s was deemed to be a bit slow.Sally,from Bombay put me through to the U.K. office who told me that I should get 7,0mb/s and that the problem was BT Openreach who would fix it in 48 hrs and call me with my new speed.7 days went by and nothing,same 0,27 unworkable speed.Another call to Bombay was picked up by theirU.K Technical office because a fault was still registered.I was told by a very arrogant ‘SENIOR ENGINEER’ that BT would never be contacted on behalf of a customer,and a 0,5mb/s limit had been put onto my line ,TO KEEP IT OPEN’ no on had told me of this,the limit was taken off and I now get 2,0mb/s.I have told T–K T–K to go away(well nearly)and am signing up with another provider

You have to realise and accept that anyone’s Broadband speed is primarily dependent on the length of their copper phone line to the exchange; it’s just obeying the Laws of Physics.

The ISPs are simply advertising the top speeds of the technologies they are employing, as they cannot predict the mix of the potential speeds of their target market. However, they should be able to give a much more accurate estimate once an individual applies for the product and supplies their phone number.

The comparison with car speeds is unfair as they are not subject to the similar constraints. You don’t have cars going slower as they get further from the filling station. Unless you are thinking of battery powered vehicles 🙂

I use BT for both my phone and Broadband, so that BT cannot argue over suppliers. I am in a rural area and get about 2 – 4 meg and this allows me to use I player. My main complaintis about internet screens taking a longer than normal time due to the fact it waits until all the adverts are loaded, however this is a problem with the site. The only real problem I’ve experienced in the early days my NETWORK was slow. However a phone call to BT got me a UK centre and the very techically aware person who analysed my fault and told me how to fix the problem with my network. For ME BT is a very good supplier with excellent backup and supplies one stop shopping. Yes it may be more expensive but it’s the aftercare that is important to me.

Up to speeds are so wrong. They may as well say up to 100 mbps even if you can only get 3 ! In fact the ISP can test your line and give you a speed which your line can take. If you then sign up with that ISP that speed is what you should get. Many years ago in Hong Kong they were getting a speed of 100 mbps so goodness knows what they are getting now.
Sitting Duck

Ed Ford says:
3 July 2012

As a new customer (17 May 2012) to B T Broadband, I patiently waited until the connection had been optimised (ten days) after which I reported download speed connection at less than 50% of what B T had promised (8 mbps). I had been very careful to ensure that B T could improve over Talk Talk who gave up trying to improve my download speed as they do not have access to the B T exchange in Alnwick. The online facility confirmed that my line was capable of 8 mbps, however I also telephoned B T Sales who also tried to sell me their T V package which they say requires a minimum of 4 mbps to stream, and they would not try to sell that to me if they couldn’t guarantee this as a minimum!.I fell for the sales patter, and have suffered broadband speeds when there is the least contention of less than 3 mbps at virtually any time of the day. I have discovered through pursuing my “Complex Faults” enquiry with B T THD on line that B T Retail (of whom I am a customer) has no more sway with B T Wholesale from whom they buy the bandwidth than any other ISP. I have been struggling to get any improvement in my download speed through B T THD,over several weeks and with ten (yes ten) different advisors and have some very interesting saved transcripts of my help desk sessions, but still do not have a resolution. It seems that B T THD is not accountable to anyone in B T in the U K and will not acknowledge that I have been misled by the web advertising and telephone sales team. Has anyone had a similar experience and/or any success with B T THD?

If you can post your router stats I can tell you fairly accurately what you should be getting on your line rather than estimates from BT.

If you don’t know how to get them see here: http://www.kitz.co.uk/adsl/frogstats.php

BTW: TalkTalk does have their own equipment at Alnwick exchange.