UK ISPs under fire for false advertising

Written by Tim Smalley

August 2, 2007 // 3:03 p.m.

Tags: #advertising #broadband #internet #internets #isps #provider #service #speed #tubes #uk #which

A survey conducted by consumer group Which? has revealed that, surprise surprise, the UK’s Internet service providers are not delivering the broadband speeds they’re promising to punters.

Many broadband Internet service providers are promising speeds of 8Mbps, but following numerous complaints from the public who were unhappy with the speeds of their Internets, Which? went about testing 272 consumer’s connections over a two week period.

The results weren’t pretty and showed a huge discrepancy between advertised speed and actual speed, with the average download speed being only 2.7Mbps.

Of course, if you read the small print on most agreements you’ll realise that it’s not a guaranteed 8Mbps – it’s advertised as “up to 8Mbps”. You’d think that at the guy sitting right outside the exchange would get a maximum of 8Mbps, wouldn’t you? Unfortunately not, as the highest speed reached on all of the lines tested during the two week period was only 6.7Mbps.

Even worse was the fact that some consumers who had paid for an “up to 8Mbps” service were experiencing speeds that dropped as low as 0.09Mbps, or 90Kbps, which isn’t even twice as fast as dial-up.

It's not all that bad though, as those signing up to services with lower promised speeds, like 1Mbps or 2Mbps, got a much better deal. Average speeds of 0.8Mbps and 1.3Mbps were recorded for 1Mbps and 2Mbps connections respectively, while the maximum speed recorded on both connection speeds was the promised transfer rate. This means that only punters signing up for higher speeds are getting a raw deal.

“When terms such as ‘up to’ are used, it can be difficult to prove that advertisements are false or misleading. None the less, we’re concerned that Which?’s findings seem to show that claimed speeds are not possible or are very unlikely to be achieved,” said Richard Webb, a trading standards spokesman in response to Which?’s findings.

A BT spokesman told BBC News that “Virtually no-one will get [8Mbps broadband]. The laws of physics start applying as soon as it leaves the exchange and you would have to live on top of the exchange to get the full 8 megabits.” Interestingly, only one in ten of the Which? members surveyed thought that a broadband service advertised as “up to 8Mbps” actually thought they’d get that speed.

An analyst from Point Topic believes that the reason for this is that people are resigned to the fact that they’re not going to get high-speed broadband soon.

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