/ Home & Energy, Technology

Update: another win! ASA rules against BT broadband speed claims


The Advertising Standards Authority has issued rulings against three ads by BT for their broadband speed advertising, all of which claim to offer ‘the fastest fibre speeds as standard’. So have you tried testing your broadband’s speed?

The ASA said that these ads ‘would make consumers think that BT Infinity had a faster headline speed than any other provider‘. It ruled that the claims were not sufficiently substantiated and that those ads were misleading.

Here at Which?, we think that broadband companies get away with far too much in their adverts – so it’s welcome that the ASA has taken action here. We’d like to see it take advertisers to task more often, particularly on the use of ‘up to’ speeds in adverts for broadband.

Currently, adverts can make a claim with the prefix ‘up to’ to cover all manner of sins. Only 10% of customers actually need to be able to achieve those speeds in order for the claim to be made on the poster.

Broadband speed claims

Earlier this year the ASA finally agreed to look into ‘up to’ speed claims, but since then we’ve not heard anything from them. Hopefully this positive ruling will remind them that there’s still plenty to do clean up ads for broadband packages. We’ll be hearing from them shortly on how they plan to sort out the mess.

In August Vodafone announced an end to line rental fees, and TalkTalk will soon follow suit. This is partly a response to calls from the ASA to be more clear on pricing. Yes, the cost is probably absorbed into the single bill, but at least customers know what they’re paying up front, and the headline price is the price you’re eventually going to pay. This again shows that when the ASA are bold and take a stand, the broadband industry listens.

So come on ASA, go all the way and sort out ‘up to’ claims now. Customers need to know what they’re signing up for, and get the speeds that they think they’re paying for.

​Update: 17 November 2016

Today brings a great win for our broadband campaign as the ASA and Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) have finally agreed that ‘up to’ speed claims can mislead some consumers.

It’s been two years since we launched our campaign calling for a change to these advertising rules, so we’ve been pushing for this for quite some time. The ASA finally agreed to review these ‘up to’ speed claims and carried out its own research over the summer.

ASA, Chief Executive Guy Parker, said:

‘New research indicates that speed claims in ads contribute to consumers’ expectations of the broadband speeds they’ll receive, but their expectations are not being met. That needs to change.’

Commenting on today’s news, Which? Managing Director of Home & Legal services, Alex Neill, said:

‘This research proves what Which? has been saying for years. Advertised broadband speeds can be misleading and many people are unaware that they may never get the attractive high speeds on offer.’

But we’re not done yet on this campaign. The ASA will now run a short consultation on the alternatives to advertising speed claims and announce the new rules in spring 2017.

Do you know if you’re getting the broadband speed you’re paying for? Please use our Broadband Checker tool and report back in the comments if the speed is what you expected.

Jules says:
21 November 2016

I don’t need to do ANY test to know how awful my broadband is…the old dial up was marginally quicker…3 days to download anything and wanting to watch anything on line? Just forget it. It drops out several times a day and more…and I pay for this “service”. If I could get away with no internet..I really would say myself the cash but that is just impossible in these times.

We sign up for fiber broadband but it only goes to the nearest green box. How much longer do we have to wait before BT get rid of the copper wires from the green box to the pole to the house. We lose so much speed with copper wires. Wire fibre to the house now!!

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I’m lucky in that our green box is just across the road, so I get very good speed at some times of the day. But when the kids come home from school or when everyone is watching online tv it gets really slow.
So: a) I really do get my “up to ” 34Mbit at some times of every day.
And therefore b:) Its presumably not the link from house to green box that is causing the problem in the evenings, but the sharing of signals between the green box and the remote routers or the distant hosts themselves that cause the problems . They might not all be the responsibility of my ISP. Could it be another ISP or hosts such as BBC Iplayer or Netflix that cause the problem? In which case who should Which? be lobbying on our behalf?

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Why mark down an informative reply?

Perhaps they clicked on the wrong thumb and didn’t realise you can cancel a negative by hitting the positive thumb.

The numbers all attempting to use the same conduit (the contention ratio) for a given Broadband point is the big issue, now. And the big band-width hoggers are the likes of Netflix and other streaming services.

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Yes, people are blaming inadequate installed capacity for the low speed but really it is a case of excess demand. Streaming was not a major problem until a couple of years ago and it has caught on big time. Who is to pay for the capacity upgrade that will be required to ensure that other users who are not consuming much capacity can still get a reliable and adequate service? Or will it be necessary to restrict access to high capacity-using services by other means? At the moment it’s ‘first come – first served’, so if the kids next door are watching films or playing games but we want to do a Sainsbury’s order how is the conflict resolved?

I am not in favour of spending £billions of taxpayers’ money, while we have austerity, on upgrading broadband just so that people can watch films and play games, and the distribution companies can make fortunes, at the expense of business users and those who use the net for more essential matters. I agree John, there should be some way of restricting high-usage entertainment that reduces capacity.

Perhaps a charge on heavy users for how much is downloaded to help fund the upgrade?

There’s a further dimension that isn’t to do with broadband speeds but the consequences of having new entertainment channels. This is leading directly to a decline in the range and quality of content available to users of mainstream broadcast services through the exclusive ‘buying out’ of series, events, and programmes. This is why people are buying large smart TV’s so that they can watch or do what they want, exactly when they want to, accessed via their computer; they have made the investment and now they want the benefits, and there is nothing wrong with that but it has consequences for the rest of us.

I believe that the demands of those using broadband for entertainment purposes is essential to make progress. I am in favour of charges relating to usage so that heavy users contribute most towards development of the service, a point made by Malcolm.

I agree with that but there then needs to be some connexion between the income from heavier use of the system at the local level and investment in the local fibre network to ensure the demands of all users are properly met at the point of demand.

I had in mind that the income would be “ringfenced”, and put into the fund to pay for upgrading the system. Those who benefit from better broadband would contribute to the costs according to their usage above a threshold, perhaps.

In one way it makes sense to make use of income generated locally to support local improvements but that approach tends to disadvantage those who live in rural areas. I would prefer to see more general improvements than extending gigabit broadband in the centre of London, even if there is greatest use there.

I am with talk talk and my broadband speed is very slow 5.7 when I am watching football and films it is constantly buffering and dropping out,when my conract was up I compared several other companies who promised speeds of 34for fibre optic and up to 17 on phone line .but when I told them where I lived ,they all said I would get same speed as talktalk and I could not have fibre optic in my area so I have to wait for f/optic to come to my area

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I pay about £32 a month for Virgin fibre optic broadband ONLY. I would have to pay even more if I wanted to include TV or phone. It’s supposed to be “up to 70mbs”. When I check with various broadband checkers, I seem to be getting, on average, no more than 22mbs. It’s time that broadband suppliers either reduced their prices substantially or gave us the advertised speeds.

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My Broadband speed is about half the 45 Mbps advertised and at peak times is less. My charge has been reduced to £10 for a year after my complaint to the provider.

About time, broad band speeds, fibre optic cable that only goes to the nearest telecom distribution box not into your home, overseas call centre where most operators have poor English and read from prompt menu cards when you call with a fault, pathetic router hubs which keep dropping out or break completely and the blackmail, you must take the land line which nobody uses or needs, I changed to Virgin,internet only to avoid this but finding the speed and router the worst so far,compared with BT. Infinity.
How they get away with adds telling you fibre optic into your home is a blatant lie.

Gulam says:
21 November 2016

My Virginmedia broadband is awfully slow.

I just about get 20Mbps when BT advertise Infinity 1 at up to 52Mbps. This is because we are miles from the box and BT clearly have no intention of doing anything about it soon as they just keep telling we have already been “upgraded” to Infinity. Actually, I’d say I don’t really mind what they advertise it at as teh relevant point is that they should be forced to charge us at the same proportion of the cost as we get of 52Mbps perhaps banded in 25% bands for aiding administration i.e. they charge £27.99/mth (incl line rental at £18.99) for 52Mbps so, as 20Mbps is 38% of 52Mbps I should be charged 38% or perhaps 50% as I am in the band from 25-50% of the advertised speed to aid administration. As they insist in bundling line rental so I can’t get that from anyone else, I’d force them to include that in the percentage too so they are encouraged to upgrade lines.

I have BT broadband and because I live in the Country with two other dwellings at the same postcode I can only get BT copper from the cabinet. My current download speed is 0.27MB and upload is 0.80. BT engineers have told me that because there are only 3 households it is not worth improving the service.
The total bill paid to BT yearly by the three households is in the region of Two Thousand Pounds for speeds less than One MB. BT will take our money but because of their monopoly will not spend any of it to improve the service. I believe this state of affairs to be disgraceful .

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I live 200 metres from my local exchange in West London. Apparently it does not make economic sense for any supplier to provide a fibre link to the estate that I live on. Working from home means that I frequently grind to a halt on the ADSL2 line that is all that I can access.

Andrew says:
22 November 2016

we have allimimun cables much worse than copper BT won’t replace them as they say yhe phone works

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Jenny says:
22 November 2016

We receive, at best, broadband speeds of c. 5.5 mbs. We have superfast broadband in the nearest village, 2 miles away, but this does not reach us on the hill above the village. In fact, our broadband experience has worsened since super fast broadband arrived nearby as bandwidth has reduced because of the increasing use of this facility by those nearer to the cabinet.

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Just paid for a TV license and Amazon Prime to have programmes over the festive season and dont have terrestrial TV anymore just now. Now to discover that our bandwidth is insufficient to facilitate this for more than 3 minutes at a time before the circle of doom appears. Now to try to get my money back for both.

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Martin says:
23 November 2016

see my bb speed meant to be 17 – unclear whether upload or download .!

actual – upload 7 ish ::: dowmload – 2-3 ish

so disappointing !

Peter says:
23 November 2016

I was originally promised 17 Mbs by BT but now receive 1.1 Mbs Download
and 0.78 Mbs Upload, one mile from the centre of a large town.
BT claim that I have 3 Mbs and can improve it by pushing a pin into the hub!

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Hog wash largely!

It really does depend on an awful lot of factors, possibly largely within your home. Unless your router is plugged directly into the master socket and you have no extensions, the cause of your issue might well be within your home.

A factory reset (that’s what the pin does) is not likely to fix anything and you need to be sure that YOU know how to conjure it to work with your ISP.

You need to look at and understand the line stats to know what is going on. If there are issues on your line (which sound likely) then the BT equipment will slow the service down in an attempt to maintain stability. This is not the forum for sorting this – you ISP might have a forum where you can get real help. PlusNet certainly does – see http://community.plus.net

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I read that as the typical instruction which ISP’s … rather than looking at the issues. I assure you I have many of engineering and the first principle is top define the problem … not mask it by resetting everything. Invariably routers do not need resetting, more often than not they make matters worse.

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I strongly support Duncan. I’ve seen many a problem fixed by turning routers and modems off and on again. I have mine on a time switch, so that it goes off overnight and restarts in the morning.

My router is left on all the time but certainly over the last 12 months I have had to reset it – switch the power off and on – more frequently to restore a connection. I had put this down to an old router approaching retirement.

Mine is a fairly new router but it occasionally has to be reset by switching off and on again. I think it is just a normal facet of life in the digital age.

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I run my desktop computer through an uninterruptible power supply which gives gives some protection against mains spikes etc as well as keeping it running if the mains supply fails for a short period. I used to have the router connected to the UPS but moved it so that it was linked to the master phone socket. Laptop computers also have some protection providing that the battery is in good condition.

What Duncan says is spot on and is the reason that all sorts of household goods can malfunction and circuit boards occasionally fail. Some people have problems with premature failure of LED lamps and it is likely that mains spikes are the problem.

I use an UIPS for the same reasons. Essential, in fact, when dealing with large chunks of video.

I just cannot believe how dumb people are or for that matter how even more dumb Which? is believing that this is going to make any meaningful difference. People really do need to understand the real issues, so that the real issues can be resolved.

There is no issue with the “up to” speed advertising, for they also all say “depending upon YOUR line conditions” – that’s YOUR line provide by BT Openreach irrespective of to whom you pay your bill. And therein lies the issue.

Consider if you will buying a brand new motor car; no doubt you’ll be interested in its specification, particularly its top speed. We don’t seem overly concerned that we cannot drive it at its top speed, either because the roads are not suitable or the law does not allow us to, but we do not expect a price reduction because of that. Everyone would suggest that’s just plan daft – well I suggest the same applies here.

ISP sell their packages against a specification – given a good road and no other restrictions – the package is capable of operating ‘up to’ the specified speed. If the ASA said that cars could only advertise the top speed at which (say 20%) of the population could drive it at, we would rightly call them stupid, in the same way we’d call anyone wanting a discount on the price of the car because they could not drive it at its top speed.

Again in respect of the car, you can drive it far faster on a straight 4 lane motor way than you can on a narrow cobbled country lane. Well the internet is no different. Where BT Openreach have in vested in exchange to home FTTP infrastructure then users will see internet speeds at the top of the speed bands. Where FTTC has been deployed and one is quite close to the green box, the upper band of FTTC speed will be experienced. Those further away will see only the lower band speeds.

Where there is no fibre users will be suck on slower ADSL services, small exchanges still served by only ADSL1 (up to 8Mbps) which deteriorate the further away one is from the exchange.

The right tack here is to get BT Openreach to sort out their distribution network – the roads – rather than belly aching that the cars cannot be driven at its specified top speed and therefore should be discounted.

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No body said it was easy or without cost. The point of this line of discussion is that the issue will not get fixed by Which?’s approach to beating up retails ISPs for the failure in BT Openreach’s infrastructure.

You are indeed right fixing it will cost a lot of money, however Which? is not looking for real solutions they are looking for someone to beat up … if that is the approach they want to take, the least they could do is beat up the right body.

They might more usefully suggest that we all paid the real costs of providing these services and only sought the speeds we really need. There is far too much of “I want everything for nothing” around the place.


I beg to differ.

If I bought a car that was advertised as being capable of “up to 60mpg” I would be very disappointed if I could never get more than 10mpg from it.

I have some friends who are on a Virgin “up to 152Mbs” package – but even doing speed tests (e.g. using W? or other speed test websites and with a PC wired to the its modem) we’ve never seem more that about 30Mbs.

That still makes it a relatively fast connection – but it is woefully lacking against its promised performance. Arguable, they might get the same performance by only paying Virgin the “up to 50Mps” price.

Also, I believe Virgin operate their own network, so blaming BT for any lack of speed is not applicable in this case.

The Advertising Standards Authority has finally decided to look into the use of ‘up to’ and the report that it commissioned is available on the ASA website.

I think it is a pretty poor report. Limited in its research and limited in looking at what is the best way of advertising broadband. It touches on a key issue that has been discussed here on several occasion s- how can I find out from a potential provider just what I might expect on my own premises. It is possible to get estimates, and these should be far more useful than an average speed for all subscribers, or what 80% might get, or what 50% might get. It is disappointing they appear not to have investigated the options properly.

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The Chancellor of the Exchequer today said in his Autumn Statement : “The government will invest over £1 billion by 2020-21, including £740 million through the NPIF*, targeted at supporting the market to roll out full-fibre connections and future 5G communications. This will bring faster and more reliable broadband for homes and businesses across the UK, boost the next generation of mobile connectivity and keep the UK in the forefront of the development of the Internet of Things“.

* NPIF is the new National Productivity Investment Fund .

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That was my first thought when I heard it, and there are a lot open-ended unknowns in the statement.

The interesting question will be who decides who will get what and where. I presume there will be some sort of order of priority. And will this replace or overtake the commitment to get 95% of the UK up to 20 Mbps?

According to these Conversations there are still an enormous number of properties, not only in rural areas, that are not even on double figures Mbps. And there is the other difficult problem we discussed a few days ago of areas where the fibre capacity is being consumed by streaming etc faster than the network can be upgraded to meet demand. Perhaps there will have to be a requirement that households that require high capacity, even if only for a few hours a day, will have to pay for FTTP in order to protect other subscribers who are paying for a reasonable speed but not getting it. This will pay for additional trunk lines back to the exchange. I appreciate that an optical fibre cable can carry a very large number of digitised signals but even so there comes a point where constant compression reduces the capacity and speed.

I noticed recently a property where Openreach were installing FTTP from a street chamber. It involved quite a bit of new excavation and ductwork, digging up the driveway, and presumably a dedicated optical fibre cable either back to the exchange or to a district distribution hub or possibly the nearest cabinet if it was not already full. I can see how it would cost £5,000 for a single property. I suppose if neighbours got together and had it done at the same time there could be some savings but I don’t think people who are heavy users of broadband give much thought to how it reaches them.

Whenever I have seen inside a BT cabinet it always looks pretty full and I guess the capacity of each cabinet was decided having regard to the number of premises it would serve plus a bit in hand for expansion. In most cases that was in the days when it just carried telephone circuits but now they are being expected to service more lines and with much higher demands. I sometimes think it’s a miracle that the whole system doesn’t collapse altogether.

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More remote dwellings – and some less remote – do not have a mains gas supply nor mains drainage. I think these would be extremely expensive to install, hence the lack. In just the same way (but I would argue maybe of slightly less importance) is high speed broadband. I don’t see why some argue for the right to the latter, but accept the former. Nor why the taxpayer should fund it. Living in certain places brings with it known advantages and disadvantages (the above plus no local shops, banks, post office, regular bus service etc) and is for many a conscious choice.

I go along with what you are saying, Malcolm, in principle and certainly in respect of high-speed broadband, but there are three important points to consider:

First, we have become used to a situation where virtually every property, residential or commercial, has had the benefit of a telecom service for decades and there is an expectation that broadband will be available as a supplementary service using the same infrastructure; we know that is unrealistic but that is how people think and it is what motivates politicians.

Second, government and business are virtually compelling people to use the internet for all kinds of transactions either directly through incentives or indirectly through a reduction in alternative channels. I had an e-mail at 9 pm last night from my district council urging me to sign up to receiving our Council Tax bill by e-mail, for which they are offering participation in a prize draw; I have paperless billing for nearly all the other utilities but wish to keep the Council Tax bill as a paper document not only because I occasionally need an original document as proof or residence, but also because it is usually accompanied by a host of other documents which are not properly designed for reading on screen and which are expensive to print off. I am not happy at being circulated in this way because I did not give the council my e-mail address for such purposes [if I get time they might be hearing from me!].

Finally, although a lot of people might have chosen to live in remote locations, many others have no choice owing to work or family needs and the absence of mains gas has been a feature of such places for generations but there are alternative fuels [including abundant logs in some areas]; there is virtually no economical alternative to an internet connection for business, for family and social life, for homework, and for shopping to give but a few examples. People in towns and cities could probably survive without broadband more viably than rural dwellers now, and every rural area now has quite a lot of businesses run from farms and homes that could not function without a website and reliable communication.

My preference would be to roll out broadband to all areas up to a sensible capacity and speed [? 20 Mbps] but find a way of getting the heavy users to make a better contribution to the network cost and the problems caused to other local users by high demand on the system.

John, I live in a rural area with copper broadband around 3 mbps. I do all I need on that and mrs r successfully watches iplayer via an Apple tv gadget. I recognise the increasing shift of some stuff online; my objection (too strong perhaps) is should high speed should be available to all when it seems unnecessary (assuming the cost of providing it is higher than “ordinary” broadband). If I can manage on my speed, why cannot others? I don’t see streaming entertainment as an important criterion. However, as I said earlier, if people who will benefit from higher speed broadband contribute to its cost, and don’t expect to be subsidised by my taxes, then OK.

Mains gas is a good way to significantly lower your heating bills, which is why I suggested it. But once again it is uneconomic to provide everywhere. Many (not all) choose where to live for our own reasons and should consider the pros and cons. There are alternatives to wired broadband that remoter communities can consider and fund, I believe.

I think we are both playing all the right notes but not necessarily in the same order, Malcolm.

I don’t know where high-speed starts in terms of Broadband, but I think the government’s original plan was to ensure that everyone had access to 20 Mbps and that makes a lot of sense to me. People needing faster speeds than that should contribute more [and they generally do through their tariff, I believe] but when there are several people in a property doing ordinary things simultaneously we do end up with capacity problems and the ‘contention ratio’ comes into play.

I do, however, take a broader view on the provision of a reliable and effective communications system across the whole country which I think, as a matter of public policy, should be provided without regard to the local or immediate financial contribution. Broadband services are two-way and interactive and there is no knowing who might need to become connected at any time so a basic infrastructure is a public necessity and should be seen as a utility, up to a point. That some households remain stuck in single figures, after all these years and all the promises that have been made, is wrong. Equally wrong is for people to claim that everyone has the right to draw any amount of capacity out of the network at any time. I also believe that, through irresponsible marketing, people have gained the impression that life as they know it will stop if they can’t get 180 Mbps and so are constantly pressing for higher speeds; in my limited experience, any low speed problems have more than likely been caused by inadequate server capacity at the other end of the communication link rather than basic local infrastructure deficiency [in other words, retailers and service providers have not uprated the capacity of their systems to match the traffic they have generated]. People assume that slow loading of pages and occasional buffering are due to their own poor connexion but that is not always the case.

@John, @Malcolm, @Duncan,

Seems that the discussion has now moved to a more appropriate place … if the objective is to address poor internet speeds.

1. It is only BT who can address the issues, so there is no point Which? or the ASA beating up on retailers
2. Does any one really need that much speed – note there is a big difference between WANT and NEED?
3. Who pays?

There is already much hearted debate about the price differential between Market A and B/C broadband prices. It is also interesting to note that were there is no competition to BT (Market A) there is invariably nothing better than ADSL1 (up to 8Mbps) with no prospect of ADSL2 (up to 24Mbps), let alone fibre.

That said, last year I commissioned a fibre service for a small business in a non-rural area and the best they can get on fibre is 16Mbps. FTTC with poor quality local distribution circuits simply does not deliver. Whilst BT might well have been investing in the backhauls, there has been minimal investment in repairing the local copper / aluminium distribution circuits, let alone improving them.

As for “those with hidden interest in causing adverse publicity for BT to try and get the government to react in their favour” BT are more than capable of causing their own bad publicity … they need no help, they have made it an art form. BT have acted as a safe indifferent monopoly for far too long. I’ve had cases on escalation to the very top of BT Openreach and it made no difference to the lies they told.

Very good points, Kevin (fan of LOST, by any chance?). Your point about BT not maintaining the existing cabling is spot on; we live in a very isolated area, but over the years people have acquired these new-fangled telephone things and BT has simply added an extension cabinet which floods when we get heavy rain and in which the switches are significantly past their use-by dates.

In reply to Malcolm’s point regarding whether we all need very high speed BB, I suspect the point is that there are assumptions being made that we all have it, so manufacturers are increasingly building things with that assumption in mind. In purely survival terms it hasn’t achieved parity with fresh water, just yet, but I can see a point where that could change.

We get approx 8mbps, when the wind’s blowing from the right direction, and that’s barely enough for us. We have some twenty or so computer devices, including several Mac Pros, iMacs, Laptops, iPads, iPhones and several internet-dependent TV devices, a media server, and a gradually building pile of Homekit devices, which we operate from the iPads, etc. But all that is mostly convenience. However, we stay in touch with our children, which is important, and I suspect before long remote medical examinations will be taking place in homes using the internet.

We track each member of our family through GPS and internet tracking, so we know where they are (they’re all happy to opt in to that) I supply local weather information to Wunderground from a Met station, and I run some forums, all of which places demands on the speed and bandwidth.

The main point I’m making – albeit circuitously – is that we regard the ‘phone as something we need – not simply want. We regard sanitation as necessary, not as an optional extra. No doubt, when toilets were first suggested, Mr Crapper was told in no uncertain terms that they just weren’t necessary, and the street had sufficed for as long as anyone could remember. But things change, and it seems to me that very high speed BB is rapidly becoming as necessary.

I think your use of broadband is not typical Ian. As I said earlier we exist adequately on around 3 mbps including using iplayer. To load your home up with lots of hungry devices knowing your broadband cannot properly support them does not seem a good reason to expect taxpayers to pay to upgrade your service. As to “essential”, since many services are much more conveniently done on line, I fully support helping the vast majority of people to get access to a speed adequate to deal with the essentials, and to upgrade services to a reasonable level where it is economic. What I am not in favour of is spending vast sums of public money so people can stream entertainment, run their homes from mobile devices and suchlike – far from essentials, unlike fresh water. If people want this additional service they should be prepared to pay for it. I’d prefer my taxes being used to fund the NHS, potholes, benefits for the vulnerable, proper social care for those in need and other genuinely worthy causes. 🙂

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We have six devices connected to the broadband service but we can each only be using one at a time. However, we each have our own telecom line and our own router and our own broadband tariff. I suppose we are daft.

Essentially, then, we agree, Malcolm. But if you want all this done for no cost to your taxes, then that has to be a matter for those who formulate government policy and determine incentives.

What I’m saying is that it’s not easy to determine what might become necessary as opposed to optional and, if the current copper infrastructure is ageing (which it is) poorly maintained (which it also is) and incapable of maintaining high BB speeds consistently and reliably (same again), then the money required to upgrade the system will almost certainly be roughly the same as it would cost to bring the current copper infrastructure up to par, so it makes sense to go the whole way and do it in one go.

I’d also take issue with your logic. When you say to load your home up with lots of hungry devices knowing your broadband cannot properly support them does not seem a good reason to expect taxpayers to pay to upgrade your service I’d make two points. Firstly, I don’t seem to recall saying anything about expecting the taxpayer to fund anything to do with my BB requirements. Please be kind enough to point me to where I’ve said that, or please retract the insinuation. Secondly, however, isn’t that argument akin to saying no one should get ill because the NHS can’t support everyone and it doesn’t seem a good reason to expect taxpayers to pay to upgrade the NHS?

You and I view the provision of services in a society from different perspectives. Comments you’ve made in other topics suggest that you view everything in terms of what it will cost you, as a tax payer. Cost is the single issue to which you return, time and time again. But if you develop that argument to its logical conclusion, we should immediately disband the armed forces, close the hospitals, schools and social services and eliminate all benefits. Because they’re all costing you, as a taxpayer, money and you might never use most of them. What use is an army to you? Or the Royal Navy? Look what they cost – billions. And the NHS. What about the parts of it you don’t use? Perhaps all paediatric and neonatal units should be closed down?

Now, clearly that’s an example of reductio ad absurdum but there’s more than a germ of truth in it. In a society we can’t choose only to support projects that appear to have direct benefits for us. In the examples I’ve quoted you might argue that you support the NHS, even if you don’t use it, but what I’m contending is that SFBB speeds are probably going to become as essential a part of society as the NHS is, and possibly more than the Army or Navy. We can’t know for sure, but what we do know is that whenever a technology has appeared the uses for that technology have always followed closely. The various technologies employed by the NHS are ample evidence of that.

It’s never wise to make the assumption that what you can manage on will always be enough for everyone and, in an age increasingly dependent on speeds of communication transmission, it’s more than likely that high speed BB will become an essential – not an optional – aspect of society.

Ian, you did make a point of how much equipment you had with the implication you were not getting the broadband service you needed to support it. If I have misunderstood I’m sorry. As I have said, if those who want much higher speeds than others because of the way they use broadband pay towards its cost, then OK.

Taxpayer’s money comes from those struggling on limited means as well as the wealthy. We have essential services that are not properly funded and that is where I want my taxes spent first, particularly in times of austerity.

I echo Malcolm’s second paragraph. It’s worth bearing in mind that no one gets relief from VAT and certain other levies and duties however much poverty or other hardship they are suffering.

Malcolm: no apology necessary, as the point I was making was that it’s impossible to separate the theoretical costs from the ultimate economic benefits. I’ll explain…

I would certainly agree that the current taxation system is far from equitable. But once again we’re returning to the entire question of national finances, and I for one certainly can’t fathom how it works, since debt at the national or macro-international levels doesn’t appear to mean what it does to us ordinary mortals.

I think it was Thatcher who coined the phrase ‘We cannot afford to pay ourselves more than we earn’ which, in national or international terms is a fairly meaningless platitude. We live in an international society built largely on concepts; and that’s the fatal weakness of the entire system.

An excellent (and possibly the best) example of this is Disneyland Paris. When it was first opened in 1992 it did so with more indebtedness than most medium-sized countries. Twenty-four years later and on paper it’s still losing close to £1bn per year. Now, any other private company losing that much would have shut down a long time ago, but DLP is actually too large to fail.

Thirty-eight banks were involved in the original financing and if DLP were to declare itself insolvent (which it actually is, in real terms) then several of those banks would crash. The knock-on effect of that could be disastrous to the world’s economy, so it soldiers on, raking in massive amounts of money, most of which is then paid out to the banks in interest repayments.

In other words, DLP financing is very similar to a small country’s: as long as it continues trading, the banks continue to advance it credit, despite knowing full well that it can’t ever repay the total debt or even make any serious inroads into it.

The other reason it can’t be allowed to fail goes directly to the nub of this debate. Since opening, what was once fairly low grade farmland in an uninspiring rural region of France has become an international and cultural hub, building expensive housing at a tremendous rate, opening hotels, holiday villages, the Val de Mer shopping district, becoming a focal point and main stop for the TGV, Eurostar and other High speed European railways and providing well-remunerated employment for more than 20,000 people. Simply put, France’s economy in that region now depends heavily on the income from DLP’s visitors.

We can debate about the need for High speed BB but none of us knows how essential it will be in years to come. DLP has created an economy in the middle of farmland and the same phenomenon (I believe) will be true of High speed BB in this country. The eventual contribution to the UK economy of ensuring everyone in the UK can get at least FTTC could be significant, in social and cultural terms alone .

I realise the debate appears to have moved on a bit, but the apparent original topic was about the disparity between ‘Up to X’ broad band speeds and actual experienced speeds.
In all the debate I have heard on radio/TV/news papers, no one has described the essential similarity between road speeds and broad band speeds: A Ferrari is capable of up to 150 mph. On the M25, it is no more capable of this than my classic mini, both of which will be at a stand still for significant lengths of time.
What I would like to hear in quoted speeds is the average experienced data speed in a given area, rather than the maximum possible speed of the equipment.
I would also like to be charged for the actual average data speed I experience (Mini) rather than the maximum unattainable speed (Ferrari).
Is this really that hard to deliver?

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People have been using cars as an analogy for broadband performance advertising relating it to fuel consumption or speed. The better illustration is highway congestion. As the traffic builds up the average speed declines; traffic jams occur on the optical fibre network just as they do on the roads. You can hope for a high speed service but if your use clashes with a peak demand period then it will not be available. I think it is time the advertising explained this point to customers. The broadband service providers should also stop charging people for something they cannot reliably deliver.