UK broadband fails to hit advertised speeds

A survey shows there is a 42% gap between what is advertised by ISPs and what connections customers actually receive

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the UK are not delivering the broadband speeds they are advertising, according to findings from a new study.

The average speed customers are paying for is 12Mbps, but the average connection they are receiving is just 7Mbps, according to a survey of over 3,000 readers from The Guardian website. This leaves a gap of 42% between the advertised speed and delivered connections.

Sky came out as the worst offender, with a 60% gap between advertised and provided speeds. The company promised customers an average of 12Mbps, whilst the survey respondents reported average connections of just 4.8Mbps.

BT was the best performer, despite its drop of 25%, which provided 6Mbps connections compared to its advertised 8Mbps. Its main rival, Virgin Media, demonstrated a 41% drop from a promised 30Mbps to a reality of 17.7Mbps.

The survey results have highlighted concerns about advertising of broadband speeds and whether it is misleading consumers.

Rules brought in by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) – administered by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) – in April 2012 state ISPs can only advertise “up to” speeds if at least 10% of their customers can achieve the connections.

Matt Powell, the editor of consumer advice site Broadband Genie, said the new rules didn’t solve the issue and just contributed to more confusion when it came to broadband speeds and user rights.

"In many cases the download speeds quoted are still far in excess of the rates a user is likely to see in practice," he said. "While at the same time it hasn't made things any clearer for someone who simply wants the best service for their money."

"The attempt by Ofcom and the ASA [Advertising Standards Agency] to fix the issue has only made things worse. ISPs can hardly be blamed for stretching the rules to the limit to get an edge over their competitors, the fault lies with the regulators and it should not have been implemented without greater consideration of the impact upon consumers and the industry."

We contacted both the ASA and Ofcom to ask if they were investigating this further, but neither had returned our request for comment at the time of publication.

This is not the first study to show such disparity between the advertised and received speeds of broadband.

Broadband comparison site conducted its own research in March this year which showed connections received by consumers were less than half of the advertised speeds touted by ISPs.

The on-going battle between Virgin Media and BT also reared its ugly head again this month, with the ASA stuck firmly in the middle.

Following Virgin Media’s complaints about BT advertising itself as “unbeatable” when it came to broadband, Richard Branson’s ISP then got its own telling off when BT complained about its ad campaign stating it was the “UK’s fastest broadband” provider. Both complaints were upheld by the ASA and both adverts banned.

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