UK broadband adoption and satisfaction improving, says Ofcom

Broadband take-up has increased significantly among older people, and more people intend to get on the internet in the next 12 months

Broadband take-up has increased significantly among older people, and more people intend to get on the internet in the next 12 months, according to the latest Consumer Experience Report from telecoms regulator Ofcom.

In the five years that Ofcom has published this report, the competitive landscape in the UK has changed, with the number of unbundled broadband lines rising from 123,000 in September 2005 to 7.23 million in October 2010.

This means greater choice of providers for consumers, with 73% of people with broadband connections at home, compared with just 45% in 2006.

Take-up of broadband continues to grow, the report said, driven by take-up among older people. Broadband take-up in the UK grew by three percentage points from 2009, but among 65-to-74 year-olds, it grew by nine percentage points and among over-75s by eight percentage points.

The proportion of consumers stating they do not intend to get the internet in the next 12 months has fallen from 20% in 2009 to 15% in 2010.

Ofcom's consumer research shows that broadly, consumers remain satisfied with their broadband providers, with 80% satisfaction.

But, there has been a increase in consumer dissatisfaction with broadband speeds, the report said, from 14% in 2009 in to 19% in 2010.

Ofcom published the UK's first comprehensive broadband speeds research in 2009 and published a follow up report in July 2010, which showed that the UK's average actual fixed-line residential broadband speed has increased by over 25% in the past year from 4.1Mbps to 5.2Mbps.

But the move to faster headline speeds has led to a growing gap between the actual speeds delivered and the speeds that some ISPs use to advertise their services, the report said.

Ofcom recently published a revised voluntary code of practice which aims to ensure that consumers are given an estimated speed range that they can achieve on their broadband line. The new code also allows consumers to leave their contracts should they achieve speeds significantly below what they were advised at point of sale, if steps taken by providers to improve speeds are unsuccessful.

Ofcom has also provided examples to the advertising regulatory bodies of how broadband speeds might be advertised, to ensure that consumers have a much better expectation of the speed they are likely to achieve.

This week, the government announced plans to put a "digital hub" into every community by the end of this parliament as part of its £830m strategy to give the UK has the "best broadband network in Europe by 2015".

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