Broadband speed clarified

Regulators at Ofcom have drawn up a new Code of Practice to ensure that internet service providers offer greater clarity over customers’ broadband line speeds.

A new Code of Practice to ensure that internet service providers (ISPs) offer greater clarity over customers’ broadband line speeds has been published by UK regulator Ofcom.

Some 37 ISPs, covering over 90 per cent of broadband customers, have already agreed to honour both the letter and the spirit of the Code to give consumers a clearer understanding of the speeds they can get and to ensure that they are on an appropriate broadband package.

Ofcom is concerned that consumers could be misled or misinformed when choosing their broadband services by ISPs advertising headline speeds that are higher than users can receive in practice. Ofcom’s own research has shown that consumer satisfaction of ISPs has fallen over the last year.

To gain a clearer picture of the issue, Ofcom is also undertaking the UK’s most authoritative and comprehensive broadband speed survey to identify actual broadband performance across the country and its relationship to advertised headline speeds.

Steps that fixed-line ISPs are required to take under the voluntary Code include providing customers an accurate estimate of the maximum speed that their line can support, whether it is in the shop, over the internet or on the phone. What’s more, they are tasked with the role of offering customers the choice to move onto a lower speed package when estimates given are inaccurate. They must also provide consumers with information on usage limits and alerting customers when they have breached them.

Ofcom strongly is urging all fixed-line ISPs to sign up to the Code and to implement it in full within six months of signing.

Ofcom will monitor compliance, including through mystery shopping exercises, to determine if ISPs are meeting both the letter and spirit of the Code. If Ofcom finds that this voluntary approach is not effective in addressing the issues covered by the Code, it will consider introducing formal regulations.

Separately, Ofcom will consider whether to extend the Code or develop another Code to cover mobile broadband services.

The Code can be found at: http://www.ofcom.org.uk/telecoms/ioi/copbb/copbb/