ISPs must tackle consumers' broadband ignorance, says report

A report produced by broadband comparison service Cable.co.uk says commonly used broadband terminology baffles most consumers

Commonly used broadband terminology such as megabit and superfast baffles most British consumers, according to a new survey.

The report, which was produced by broadband comparison site Cable.co.uk, surveyed a total of 2,000 broadband customers around the UK.

It found that only 8% could correctly define a megabit - in the context of broadband usage - as a combined measure of the amount of data transferred over time (Mbps), with most saying it was either one or the other.

The results also revealed a notable gender gap around knowledge of broadband terminology, with just under 79% of men claiming to know what a megabit was, compared with 50% of women. However, when it came to giving the correct answer, women won out, with 15% correctly able to identify a megabit compared to 11% of men.

When it came to another commonly used term, superfast, 48% of those surveyed said they knew what it meant, but only 11% correctly stated that it was a broadband connection offering a speed greater than 24Mbps, which is the government-mandated definition.

In what may be seen partly as a reflection of the sort of broadband speeds many Britons can receive in their homes 6% of people defined superfast as anything above 1Mbps, 10% as anything over 8Mbps, and 17% as anything over 16Mbps.

At the other end of the speed scale, just over 23% of respondents said they thought superfast referred only to speeds of over 100Mbps, currently defined by the government as ultrafast, and not yet widely available.

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Blame rests with broadband providers

Cable.co.uk editor-in-chief Dan Howdle blamed broadband service providers for the high degree of confusion in the market.

Howdle commented that – even though terms such as megabit and superfast were established in popular parlance – it was not surprising so many people were all at sea when it came to defining those terms: “Broadband providers, much like manufacturers and suppliers of technology in other fields, know well that ‘technical buzzword plus big number’ equals sales,” said Howdle.

“The blame lies firmly at the feet of the providers, who are clearly not doing enough to ensure clarity surrounding the broadband deals they are advertising.”

Misleading information?

In a reflection of this lack of clarity, the Advertising Standards Authority has had cause to wade into rows over broadband speeds at least twice in the past 12 months.

In spring 2014 the Advertising Standards Authority ordered BT to remove a misleading speed checker tool from its website after complaints from customers that they could not receive the speeds quoted for their addresses.

More recently it ruled in the incumbent’s favour over its definition of fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) as true fibre broadband, claiming that consumers were more concerned with the speed boost over ADSL and not with the difference between FTTC and fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP).

Meanwhile, in a recent survey of national broadband infrastructure, regulator Ofcom said that growing take-up of cable and FTTC services capable of delivering superfast speeds meant that the average national broadband speed was up by a fifth to 22.8Mbps between May and November 2014. This was according to data sourced from SamKnows.

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