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Is broadband advertising about to be reset?

Slow broadband

Many people are confused by broadband adverts and the speeds they promote. An even bigger problem is that only 10% of people may actually get those speeds. Do you think this is fair?

Like a lot of folk, when looking to set up my broadband I find it difficult to cut through the jargon to decipher what I actually need. I know I like watching Netflix when I get in from work but I don’t know how that translates to the speed I require.

While this is a barrier to feeling empowered as a consumer, an even bigger obstacle can loom large and it’s one we broadband customers have little control over. Until now, internet providers have been free to tell us the speeds they are offering to provide with no guarantee we will actually be able to get them.

Current guidance from the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) states that providers can advertise a broadband speed with ‘up to’ if only 10% of customers in the area can achieve it. We believe this isn’t fair and as such have been working to challenge this through our Broadband Speed Guaranteed campaign.

We want the majority of customers to get the speeds promised in ads, not just 10%.

A Which? win

Back in November 2016, the ASA and Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) agreed with us that advertised speeds can mislead customers. This was welcome news. Furthermore, we worked hard to influence the Digital Economy Act which introduces a Universal Speed Obligation (USO), guaranteeing every single customer a minimum speed.

Today we’ve secured a milestone as the ASA and CAP have opened a consultation on speed claims in broadband advertising. We hope this will lead to a change in guidance that will require providers to give consumers a more transparent deal.

There are four options being considered for introduction across a range of different areas including a median download speed (available to at least 50% of consumers) as well as advertising a range of download speeds measured at peak time or over 24 hours.

Do you receive the broadband speeds advertised by your provider?

No (41%, 2,118 Votes)

Almost (25%, 1,281 Votes)

Some way off (24%, 1,220 Votes)

Yes (11%, 546 Votes)

Total Voters: 5,165

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Keeping the pressure on

We think it’s vital the ASA does not roll back after agreeing with us on misleading speeds. The outcome of this consultation therefore must propose significant change to help customers get the speeds they’re promised. After all, recent research by Which? found that 12.5 million households in the UK are frustrated with bad broadband services.

What do you think about advertising requirements for broadband providers? Did an advertised speed inform a purchase that left you disappointed? Have you felt misled by provider advertisements? Let us know what you think.

If you’re not sure what speed you’re getting, you can use our free broadband speed checker, which allows you to test performance, get advice, and complain about slow speeds.

BJ says:
8 May 2017

We’re about 5kms from an exchange and about 8 miles from Milton Keynes, England. We aren’t able to get fibre in our postcode but are promised speeds of up to 17 Mbps. The maximum any user in our postcode gets is 1 Mbps but that’s very rare.
Mostly it’s around 200 Kbps, sometime dropping too low to measure.
Downloading any video would be hopelessly impractical and live streaming leaves one with so much buffering that it’s too frustrating to watch; hence no You Tube, iPlayer or Catch Up TV.
Naturally the ASA has been reluctant to bow to pressure from consumer organisations, like all regulators, they’re simply tools of government, who in turn are ‘lobbied’ by corporations to do nothing.

It seems if you don’t want to pay for fibre, a common advertised speed is 17Mbps. But then you find out when they read you the compulsory blurb really fast , that they say It’s from 1 Mbps ‘up to’ 17 Mbps. When you ask what speed they think it will be they say about 4 Mbps ‘in your area’. Well my village got high speed Broadband which was opened by David Cameron about 4 years ago, and I am about 100 yards from the box. So why does my speed have to be so slow, and why do the companies always banner headline much higher speeds than they have any intention of providing even if they could? How can they get away with this. Or am I misunderstanding the power of our village’s high speed internet ?

Sara you make a fair point that interests me , I take it you have checked the cabinet number and confirmed you are coming off that same cabinet ? I also take it you are coming off a FTTC and that you have a BT router compatible with fibre ? and that you are a BT customer ? I have to ask those questions as you dont post any detail , could you confirm this first for me before I comment on your position . If you are still all copper can you let me know ?

Ana Manoel says:
10 May 2017

I could not even open this page to type a review, my speed is so slow everyday. This should never be allowed to happen. I am with Virgin media, supposed to have 100 MB download and I don’t get more than 4 MB everyday. They even said to me on the phone that wireless connection is just a bonus, that they don’t have to provide that, all they have to provide is wired connection. How crazy is this. I don’t understand much about the technical part of this, but I know I pay for a service that I don’t get, wireless or wired. The process to complain on the phone is just horrible, they promise to fix it every time and every time is the same. I don’t understand how they can get away with it. It’s criminal.

Ana , your paying for 100Mbps and you get 4Mbps ?? , your situation must be one of two things -#1- you are very far away from their version of a cabinet , which means you get fibre to a “node ” and the rest is co-ax cable which is a posh version of copper with increased defence against interference and allows higher speeds at a high frequency , its still copper though. -#2- something is far wrong with your internal set up , your router is not configured correctly or your computer has problems or you have a long internal wiring run to your router or something electrical is interfering with your router . If I was you I would tell VM you are not getting the service you are paying for under contract as a drop from 100Mbps to 4Mbps is way beyond any “up to ” advertising where the lower limit on the fastest speed would have a lower level of say 30Mbps or more , thats how BT operates its bundles , if you constantly go below the lower level they downgrade your bundle to a cheaper price .Has an engineer checked your speed at the master socket ?

Jaime says:
10 May 2017

I’m with utility warehouse and used to pay for the (up to)76 Mbps speed but when I checked I was getting around 25-30 Mbps. The worst bit is the company is happy for you to keep paying the higher price when really they are providing the lesser product. I immediately switched to the cheaper (up to) 38Mbps product which provides the same speed. Doesn’t seem very honest to me….

Its not Jaime , thats why I advised Ana in the post above mine to downgrade , customer service is now second to profit.

All of you guys, you are crying at the wrong address…
Do ask the government why there is not any nationwide state investment into the proper optic fibre cabeling anywhere in the UK…
It will bring work for people and all the UK will be a No. 1 in the Internet speed once for ever…

Marie says:
12 May 2017

We live just outside of Chester and part of our village has aluminium cables in the loop, but the rest is copper. Mine is aluminium cables that are brittle and I was told that it was suitable in the 80’s when it was put in for just the telephone, But not now. Our speed test today was 25.7 but was lower yesterday. We have had intermittent problems with Broadband and the TV and we have lived here 30 years. We cannot watch 4K TV , although 2 years ago when we bought the TV we were told by BT that it was suitable.

It is about time that OpenReach updated to Fibre to the home

Your right about the aluminium cable Marie , it was a “money saving ” exercise that failed dismally . In the city where I worked a whole street cabinet was converted to aluminium at great expense UG (underground ) engineers there for days on end . All seemed quiet then weeks later faults started to appear as the cabinet was right up against a busy road with heavy traffic , the vibration causing “dis,s ” (disconnections ) . After another month or two the same squad of UG engineers took out all the aluminium cables and replaced them with copper , another very expensive cost as they worked shifts /24/7 . length for length aluminium is nearly twice as resistant to electrical pressure as copper is -ie- your broadband speed will be reduced significantly more using aluminium on a long run of cable , it also has other properties that reduce its long term use. I have actually used aluminium as shielding for AF/RF signals , old valves sometimes had aluminium shielding especially in some WW2 communications receivers. .

I am in PO18 . BT has max speed of 3mb/sec after upgrade from 0.5mb/sec. I get good microwave broadband through Kijoma at 20mb/sec down and 9mb/sec up but at higher cost and capped at 120gb/ month. This firm is not recognised in the rural roll out and apparently gets no subsidy, yet openreach still fails to provide. Please campaign for existing small providers to be supported with the same subsidies as the giants.

David while I am sympathetic to your cause the problem is small providers only cover very narrow areas of the country due to lack of resources . What you are asking for is for the whole nation to pay for grants to small local businesses when they get no benefit out of it. The real problem in England is that HMG is not fully supporting small businesses generally , unlike in Scotland where a policy decision was taken to do just that via the tax payer . Having said that now is the chance of an election coming up to speak out in this regard. What do the public think ? You obviously are one of the 5 % living long distances from the cabinet PO18 has only a population of -2,365 .

Which? & other comparison sites are quick enough to tell you the best deal on broadband when it comes to price. They never, ever tell you that the service is rubbish though. This is because most comparison sites get a nice little earner from the broadband companies.

Could you supply proof Clive ? Which tells you about the packages and services of telephone/ISP companies , you make the choice . Which convo tells you the Good-Bad-Ugly of every ISP via (for the most part ) the “Regulars” here . I can name many websites that comment on the facts about every ISP but the choice is still in your hands . As you are saying Which “gets a back-hander ” for commenting (positively ) on ISP,s I hope you can prove that beyond a doubt as that is libelous.

The which broadband checker doesn’t tell me if my speed is good or bad. Neither does it accept my postcode.

Steve Which uses a cetralised server (some ) others use the nearest server to you or your ISP,s server and they all use various methods of calculating your average download speed, some remove the noise factor ( making it look better ) some dont . To put this into perspective my BT server is nowhere near me but BT give me a good speed , whereas I have had local (BT ) servers which were actually slower due to congestion etc so there is a lot more to this than meets the eye. Your ISP plays a massive part in your speed . Good or bad speed for you requires data gathering of users and local conditions , its down to the particular company . You could change your DNS server to a continental one that doesnt track you , gather your info, tell big business/government what you are up to and you can see a list of the “fastest servers ” as well but “fastest ” changes I dont bother as I am fed up trying to dodge the info gatherers., not that they get much as I confine myself to one type of surfing— information gathering , now that can be a battle.

Sid says:
17 May 2017

I’m with BT I have been having problems with my broadband I never get the speed promised it keeps dropping now the have fixed a bit of it not getting the promised

Sid , does it drop at particular times of the day or does it depend on the weather ? , if it is constantly lower than the minimum for your package you can force your ISP to move you to a lower price level-free of charge .

I am currently with BT for my Broadband and phone line. I knew that at over £40 a month there were cheaper offers so I looked up the Which table of providers. I checked out both Utility Warehouse and John Lewis as both of them according to the Which table gave better prices and download speeds and were considered Best Buys. When I started the application process I found the speeds they were offering were less than half of the 17mbs I’m currently getting from BT. Why this discrepancy between the Which Results and the companies actual claims ?

I have Broadband and phone supplied by BT costing over £40 a month. Aware that there were plenty of cheaper deals in the marketplace I checked out two of Which’s Best Buys, Utility Warehouse and John Lewis. Both of these according to the Which table gave better speeds than BT. In fact when I went through their application processes I found they could only offer less than half the download speed of 17 mbs which BT gives me. Is this due to them having a greater contention challenge which is why they are cheaper? The Which table of providers seems to have misled me.

Dennis both UW+JL use BT,s network to provide service but they have their own equipment in BT,s exchanges under the unbundling legislation so any reduction in speed is down to their equipment and policies as regards the bundle you choose from them . Same underground cable / same distance from exchange , its possible that Which doesn’t take in a lot of variables in their evaluation, Which is no different from other websites that arent technical ones

All advertising is some sort of con just to convince you to buy most of the time things you do not NEED