Broadband not doing what it says on the tin

14 July 2008 / by Rachael Stiles
People in Britain are not getting the broadband speeds which are promised to them by advertising campaigns, sometimes providing just half the internet speed that customers are expecting to get.

New research from uSwitch has revealed that more than a quarter of broadband customers – 4.2million people – are unsatisfied with their broadband speed. This comes as little surprise when the speed commonly banded around in the media is 8Mb, but the actual average speed that consumers receive is just 4Mb.

However, this could soon change, as broadband providers now have to comply with a new Code of Practice as determined by communications industry regulator Ofcom, which is intended to ensure customers are given greater clarity about the broadband speeds available to them.

Apparently size does matter when it comes to broadband speeds, with more than half consumers saying that this is the most important factor when choosing an ISP (internet service provider.) After speed, customers look for value for money, customer service, and technical support.

Despite claims of 8Mb speeds, seven million broadband customers in the UK can only receive speeds of up to 6Mb, and fewer than one in 10 believe that they are receiving the full 8Mb as promised.

Brits are now spending £2.7billion a year on broadband subscriptions that are 24 times slower than their Japanese counterparts' which enjoy speeds of 64Mb, and four times worse than in France which has an average speed of 18Mb.

This need for speed is especially important for the one in three subscribers who use the internet to watch television programmes and other streaming video.

It is the infrastructure of the UK's broadband network that is to blame, uSwich says, and cable broadband to replace the old copper wiring would eradicate the problem because currently it means that the further away the customer is from a telephone exchange the slower their connection will be.

"British consumers have had enough of paying for services they do not receive." says Steve Weller, communications expert at "It's time for the Government to take hold of the reins, invest in upgrading the UK's broadband infrastructure and steer the UK back into the broadband race. We now have a clear cut case of 'less chat, more action.'

"The new Ofcom Code of Practice could not have come soon enough for the 4 million broadband customers not satisfied with their broadband speed. We hope it will encourage more companies to follow the example of O2 to ensure that customers only pay for a speed that their line can support. However, as the Code is not mandatory, in the end it will only be as good as Ofcom's enforcement of it and the broadband companies' willingness to abide by it."

Until this comes about, uSwitch recommends that consumers take steps to ensure they are receiving the speed they pay for, such as speaking to the provider first to ask for a line check to ensure they can receive the speed advertised.

"If customers are not satisfied, they should contact their broadband company to discuss their concerns and, where possible, downgrade." Mr Weller added.

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