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UK Broadband Speeds Slower Than Advertised

Ross Kelly


internet quality

Research conducted by Which? suggests that UK broadband users are being misled by service providers, but changes are afoot as new guidelines introduced this month will prevent dubious advertising techniques. 

Research conducted by Which? suggests many UK households only get half the broadband speed they pay for. Conducted ahead of new Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) guidelines that come into effect next week, the research reveals stark differences between the speeds advertised and those actually delivered.

Recently, similar reports have highlighted concerns that broadband customers are being misled by their providers. Are Britain’s internet users getting a fair deal?

Paying For Less

Customers paying for services up to 38Mbps received average speeds of 19Mbps, according to the research findings taken from 235,000 uses of its broadband speed checker tools. Super-fast broadband packages also performed poorly. Customers paying for speeds advertised up to 200Mbps received only 52Mbps on average – that’s just 26% of the advertised speed.

According to the findings, the closest actual average speed to that reportedly advertised was that for those on “up to 50Mbps” broadband deals. On these deals, customers received an average of 35Mbps, 70% of the advertised speed.

Changing the Rules

Research conducted by the Committees of Advertising Practice found that current practices in the broadband industry are misleading customers, with many believing they are paying for products they do not receive. New rules set to be introduced by the ASA this month, however, will mean customers have a clearer picture of the speeds they will actually receive.

From May 23rd the ASA will require that broadband providers include a median average speed for the services available. Providers will no longer be able to continue the current practice of advertising “up to” speeds.

More stringent regulation of these practices will help customers in the long run and ensure better advertising standards among providers. Which? has campaigned since 2013 to introduce these critical new guidelines through its Broadband Speed Guaranteed campaign – aiming to provide better products for consumers and force industry providers into maintaining better standards.

Alex Neill, Which? Managing Director of Home Services, believes these changes are good news for customers who are consistently let down by trusted providers. She said: “This change in the rules is good news for customers, who have been continuously been let down by unrealistic adverts and broadband speeds that won’t ever live up to expectations.

“We know that speed and reliability of service really matter to customers, and we will be keeping a close eye on providers to make sure they follow these new rules and finally deliver the service that people pay for.”

Minister for Digital and Creative Industries, Margot James, agreed with this statement, saying: “The new advertising rules are great for consumers – headline ‘up to’ speeds that only need to be available to 10% of customers are incredibly misleading.”

However, Greg Mesch, the CEO of CityFibre, the company behind the roll out of a competing full-fibre network to cities across the UK, believes the new rules do not go nearly far enough and remain ambiguous about what kind of line the customer is actually signing up for.

“While it’s good to see a higher bar set for speed claims in broadband advertising, its regulation by the ASA still fundamentally fails consumers,” says Mesch.

“By continuing to allow use of the term ‘fibre’ to advertise copper-based services, the ASA is not only depriving consumers of the information they need to make an informed choice, it is also failing to support the roll-out and take-up of full fibre infrastructure critical for a digitally thriving UK, now and in the future.

“Fibre and copper are worlds apart in the capacity and reliability they offer, so to say the differences are not material enough to require differentiation is completely wrong. These rules must be changed.”

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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