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Ofcom on ‘up to’ broadband: ‘Customers should do a speed test before signing up’

We’ve just heard back from Ofcom regarding the regulation and advertising of ‘up to’ broadband speeds in the UK, vis-a-vis the Wispa campaign launched last week.

An Ofcom spokesperson said: “It is important that customers understand the speed of the broadband service they will receive before signing up. We have introduced a Code of Practice for broadband speeds, which all of the UK’s largest internet service providers (ISPs) have signed up to. It requires that all signatory ISPs provide a speed estimate ahead of purchase.”

Ofcom on ‘up to’ broadband: ‘Customers should do a speed test before signing up’

Since the latest rulings came into effect, we’ve noticed changes to the wording of ISPs fair use policies on unlimited plans and the advertising of broadband speeds. Some ISPs, such as Sky and Virgin Media, are not advertising ‘up to’ speeds for their ADSL broadband at all, instead asking customers to perform a speed test first. 

Recombu Digital has its own broadband speed test tool, which we used to create the above image.

Ofcom reiterated the importance of customers doing a speed test before signing up for broadband – something we’re sure happens, because most ISPs require you to do so – while placing the ball in the court of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

“The Advertising Standards Authority has responsibility for ensuring that advertising of broadband is not misleading. Under new guidelines, from 1 April 2012 ISPs are now able to advertise an ‘up to’ speed only if at least 10 per cent of their customers actually receive those speeds.”

Ofcom: ‘Up to’ speeds OK if at least 10 per cent of a subscriber base can get them

When asked about the possibility of forcing ISPs to introduce a sliding pay scale, ‘up to’ prices for ‘up to’ speeds (the crux of Wispa’s campaign) Ofcom declined to comment directly.

However, the spokesperson we chatted to said that, “Customers then have the right to end a contract if speeds are significantly slower than the estimate.”

In some cases if you end your before or after a certain time, you’ll be obliged to pay a termination fee.

Update: Wispa’s Richard Brown has responded to Ofcom’s latest statement:

“It comes as absolutely no surprise to wispa that Ofcom have chosen to respond to one journalist rather than 600+ consumers who have all emailed asking the ‘regulator’ to support them.

Ofcom is a broken organisation, that points to others (ASA in this case) to regulate their space, and then puts the onus on the consumer to ‘make their checks’. A strong or effective regulator would be looking at the huge amount of pressure that has been placed on the regulator to act, and consider that possibly there is something to respond to.

Instead, wispa and over 600 individuals have been ignored.

If there is a good reason to ignore all these people then simply say so. Do not ignore them. This industry needs effective regulation, and most Boards of ISPs would strongly agree that Ofcom have summarily failed to deliver this.

If I were the Cabinet Minister responsible for this organisation I would be broadly happy with the way that they act in the TV and Radio areas, and thoroughly embarrassed about their abject failure in the communications space.

If Ofcom has any chance of delivering in this space, then it needs people in the organisation that actually have an idea of what would be positive action. They do not, they need removing and replacing with something that can give the communications market space a chance of delivering on our participation in the data revolution.”