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Up to ‘pay what you get’ broadband campaign: The industry responds to Wispa

Last week we wrote of Wispa’s campaign to replace the ‘up to’ advertising of broadband speeds or the introduction of a sliding pay scale, which would see punters paying for what they got – ‘up to’ money for ‘up to’ speeds, if you will.

Since introduction of new rules by the Committee of Advertising Practice we’ve seen some changes to the wording of ISPs unlimited usage policies and changes in how top ‘up to’ speeds are advertised.

As the Wispa ‘up to’ campaign gains momentum on Twitter and gets picked up by other news outlets, we asked the main ISPs for thoughts and feedback on the petition:

As for a sliding scale price model, none of the ISPs we’ve spoken to thus far (perhaps unsurprisingly) have been exactly in favour of a tiered pay system based on speeds obtained. We did get some interesting comments on the recent CAP ruling and Ofcom’s most recent report on the UK’s broadband speeds:

Wispa up to broadband campaign pay up to speed up to price OfcomBT

BT told us that: “we do not agree with the CAP approach on broadband advertising, because we believe it is more confusing for the consumer.”

So, BT’s not really up for dropping ‘up to’ speeds then.

“We have provided personalised speed quotes for some years now so our customers know exactly what they’re getting before any commitment is made – and we provide more than 16Mbps to hundreds of thousands of customers yet we can now only describe BT Total Broadband as ‘up to 16Mbps’.”

By personalised speed quotes, BT is referring to the line test that you’re required to do before signing up for any of its packages.

Alongside this, we’ve noticed that BT has also chosen to advertise its new BT Infinity 2 fibre optic cable service as providing ‘up to’ 76Mbps, lower than the theoretical maximum (80Mbps) afforded by BT’s FTTC lines.

Virgin Media

Virgin Media in all fairness has been after this kind of thing for years. Back in 2010 it launched the Stop The Broadband Con calling for greater transparency with broadband speed advertising.

Recent figures from the Ofcom Overview of UK Broadband Speeds, published back in February saw Virgin Media’s services ranked “over and above what we advertise according to Ofcom,” in the words of Jon James, executive director of broadband for Virgin Media.

Wispa up to broadband campaign pay up to speed up to price Ofcom

The report pinned Virgin Media’s cable speeds on its ‘up to’ 50Mbps service at an average of 47.8Mbps.

Regarding the recent CAP ruling and the Wispa campaign, James told us:

“It’s good to see Britain’s broadband speeds moving in the right direction and the new advertising rules will, for the first time, force our competitors to be more honest about their “up to 24Mb” claims. We hope they’ll try to keep up.”

Where Jones is talking about ‘up to 24Mb’ here, it’s safe to assume that he’s referring to ADSL2+ connections; speaking of which we’ve noticed that certain providers of ADSL broadband – including Virgin Media on its National Broadband packages – have axed ‘up to’ speeds altogether.

When we asked about the possibility of adopting a sliding scale based on location, a Virgin Media spokesperson told us that; “Our aim is to keep things as simple as possible for the consumer,” while pointing to speeds achieved on its cable network being pretty close to the hilt.

Wispa up to broadband campaign pay up to speed up to price Ofcom


Sky Broadband has also scrapped ‘up to’ speeds from its ADSL broadband packages: “Unlike other ISPs who focus almost entirely on headline speeds, our marketing focuses on the factors that we think consumers most care about, such as truly unlimited downloads, great value and leading customer service.”

As part of the recent CAP ruling, Sky also made its policy on unlimited downloads clear; Sky is one of the few ISPs to not shape traffic in any way while offering fully unlimited downloads.

Sky’s spokesperson wouldn’t comment on the possibility of adopting a sliding pay scale when asked. Again, we were told that:

“Whilst we don’t lead on speed in our advertising, we do have a conversation with customers about speed when they sign up to Sky Broadband. During this conversation, customers will be advised what their line speed is likely to be, based on their individual circumstances, so they can make an informed decision.”

Wispa up to broadband campaign pay up to speed up to price Ofcom


TalkTalk has also struck top up to speeds from its ADSL packages, instead saying that: “We’ll give you the fastest broadband we can provide; and that will depend on how close you live to the exchange, what your wiring is like and how good your line is.”

Speeds for its super-fast fibre optic broadband however are pinned at up to 40Mbps and up to 80Mbps.

For its ADSL services, a TalkTalk spokesperson told us:

“We promise to provide fast and reliable broadband, the fastest the customer’s line can handle. Anyone can log onto and get a personalised speed estimate, based on the capabilities of their phone connection.

The speed of each connection varies depending on factors such as the distance between the customer’s home and their local exchange, what their wiring is like and how good their line is. The personalised speed estimate available on our website is a useful tool for getting the best information about what each line can achieve.”

No word on the possibility of adopting a sliding pay scale; the up front attitude and referencing of the customer speed test suggests that this isn’t going to be adopted any time soon.


We’re waiting to hear back from other ISPs. We’ll be updating this feature as and when we hear more.