UK Broadband - who is responsible for it?

Oh dear. Why is it so hard to make sure people get the broadband speeds they pay for?

Dozens of Computer Weekly readers have written to say how their connection speeds never reach the holy grail of the advertised “up to 8 mbps” figure and yet operators are allowed to continue charging and advertising against illusory headline rates.

The use of the words “up to” in advertising broadband is at best misleading to customers and at worst a downright lie. There are customers paying the price of an 8 mbps connection who will never receive anything near that figure. ISPs take out targeted adverts across the UK but make use of generic speeds.

Surely, the Advertising Standards Association can do something? No, because that would be too simple.

The Advertising Standards Association says it allows the use of the phrase “up to” in adverts only if an operator can prove that a number of customers can achieve that speed. I’m sorry, but that response treats broadband as a second rate commodity, and users in rural areas – where broadband is like moonrock – like second rate citizens.

The same situation would be intolerable in other sectors, like energy. Just imagine if central heating was sold and delivered like broadband:

“We promise temperatures of up to 40 degrees. You pay for up to 40 degrees. But you’ll only ever get 5 degrees because of your distance from the power plant. Brilliant. See you next Christmas, Gran!”

Ofcom hasn’t taken any substantial action to ensure that customers get the speeds that are advertised and the ISPs have no incentive to change their advertising tactics – if one them is allowed to tell lies in its advertising, it doesn’t pay its competitor to start telling the truth unless it is forced.

I’ll be writing an article about Ofcom very soon. If you’ve had problems with broadband or have ideas on how regulation can improve things, post a comment and be heard.