Britons receive less than half of the connection speed offered by UK Internet providers

The United Kingdom's regulatory authority for telecommunication industries has reported that broadband customers have been sold fast connections that internet providers cannot supply

Ofcom, the UK's government-approved telecommunications regulatory authority, has conducted performance tests in over 1,000 homes throughout the UK and found that broadband packages do not produce the super-fast connections that internet providers advertise. 

According to the report Ofcom released today, Britons receive an average broadband speed of 6.2 megabits per second (Mbps). The average advertised speed by internet providers is 13.8Mb, meaning that customers are receiving less than half of the advertised speed.  

"The research shows that ISPs need to do more to ensure they are giving customers clear and accurate information about the services they provide and the factors that may affect the actual speeds customers will receive," said Ed Richards, Ofcom's chief executive. "It is important that the rules around broadband advertising change, so that consumers are able to make more informed decisions based on the adverts they see, and that advertisers are able to communicate more clearly how their products compare to others in the market."

Ofcom is working to correct this false advertising of "up to" broadband speeds by Internet providers such as Sky, BT and O2 by giving its data to the Advertising Standards Authority's committee of advertising practice (CAP) and broadcast committee of advertising practice (BCAP) so a report can be made. 

Ofcom gathered its information by conducting performance tests in 1,700 homes in the UK. These tests were based on 11 broadband packages from the UK's seven largest providers, and took place over the course of November and December last year. Among the seven providers were TalkTalk and Virgin Media 

The performance tests revealed that those with fiber-optic cable packages received broadband speeds much closer to what was advertised, but only 22 percent of Britons have fiber-optic packages. Seventy-seven percent of Britons use copper-based DSL phone lines that receive much slower broadband speeds than advertised. The average broadband speed advertisement by internet providers is "up to" 13.8Mb, and the average speed received by customers is 6.2Mbps.  

Some providers even offer "up to" 20Mbps connections, where only 3 percent of customers receive a speed even close to that number. Sixty-nine percent of the population receives an average speed of less than 8Mbps.  

Ofcom's recommendations to CAP and BCAP are to advertise broadband speeds on a "typical speeds range" instead of "up to" speeds range. The regulator suggested that maximum speeds only be listed if they are achievable. This means that those ISPs advertising speeds "up to" 8Mbps must reveal that customers will only receive between 2Mbps and 5Mbps. 

Some internet providers have responded negatively toward Ofcom's recommendations. 

"Moving to typical speed ranges will potentially be highly misleading as the average performance will vary depending on where people live," said John Petter, managing director of BT Retail's consumer business. "Enforcing typical speed ranges is also dangerous as it could encourage more ISPs to cherry pick customers who will increase their average, leaving customers in rural and suburban areas under-served. That would encourage digital exclusion rather than tackle it."

Executives at Virgin Media said Ofcom's report is "yet another damning indictment that consumers continue to be treated like mugs and misled by ISPs that simply cannot deliver on their advertised speed claims."

CAP and BCAP currently has a consultation underway and expects to have a finished report within the next three months. 

"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen

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