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Ofcom: Broadband's broken promises

Rory Cellan-Jones | 00:00 UK time, Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Here are some headlines from Ofcom's broadband briefing:

• the advertising of broadband speeds in Britain is scandalously misleading
• BT's copper is incapable of delivering decent speeds
• Virgin Media is showing that fibre is the future
• the digital divide between town and country is bound to get wider

Ofcom headquatersOfcom's boss Ed Richards did not put it in those terms. In fact, he resisted pressure from journalists to be a little more black and white, but that was certainly the regulator's message as he took us through the latest study of the broadband speeds consumers are actually getting.

The survey shows there has been a small increase in average speeds but nearly all of that is due to a doubling of what cable customers are getting.

Customers still getting their broadband down a copper wire from BT or one of the firms using its Openreach network have seen their average speeds nudge up just a tad from 3.7Mbps to 4.0Mbps.

But even those customers who have moved on to faster copper connections using the ADSL2+ technology do not seem to be getting what they've paid for.

The most striking slide in Mr Richards' presentation showed the average download speeds for people on "up to" 20Mbps copper deals. 65% were getting less than 8Mbps, 32% between 8 and 14Mbps, with just 2% getting 14-20Mbps.

Virgin Media, whose cable network was shown to deliver real speeds much closer to those advertised, will no doubt be buying advertising space to trumpet the results of Ofcom's research, while BT will be hoping that nobody notices it.

Ofcom was keen to promote a new voluntary code which should come into force over the next year, allowing consumers to get out of their contracts if they are not getting what they were promised.

To be fair, most broadband firms do try to give prospective customers an idea of a realistic speed for their location, though some DSL suppliers seem to promise more than others, even when they are using the same infrastructure.

The burning issue seems to be the way broadband is advertised, and Ofcom was keen to stress that was the responsibility of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

But Mr Richards offered the opinion that if ISPs advertised speeds of up to 20Mbps, then at least some of their customers - maybe 10% - ought to be able to get those speeds.

The ASA told the advertising watchdog was currently reviewing this topic, and hoped to have something to say over the next few months - though a spokesman said they hadn't been bombarded with complaints about broadband speeds.

But the other message emanating from Ofcom was that while fibre is the future for broadband, that means the digital divide between town and country is bound to grow.

ts figures show that townies are already getting twice the average speed delivered to country dwellers, and as they start taking advantage of the fibre networks spreading through towns, the gap will widen.

With the government's deadline for delivering a minimum 2Mbps service to all homes extended from 2012 to 2015, a few places in rural Britain may feel that they're being left far behind in the fast broadband revolution.

Ed Richards was not going to get involved in the debate about how we pay for a next-generation network; all he would say was that it was beginning to make a difference:

"There's an investment process taking place and this research illustrates why this needs to happen."
Broadband in Britain is getting faster, slowly. But consumers may feel that the gap between the industry's promises and what it actually delivers is getting wider.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    I don't believe the word "scandalously" appears in the OFCOM's briefing ?

    Setting that aside, I see the descent towards Idiocracy continues. Virgin Media use coaxial cable , not fibre, to deliver its broadband service. Their service is a fixed speed link to the local street cabinet, it is not an "up to" variable speed product.

    The rate adaptive services on telephone lines, using ADSL or VDSL technology, are rightly called "up to" because the speed of the link is affected by line length and other factors. Customers are advised of *likely* link speeds via web site checkers or other means at the point of sale.

    If the hard of thinking can't handle a rate adaptive product that goes as fast as it can being called "up to", then what would they like ? Perhaps we should name the services after animals, like Orange mobile phone contracts. Panther and Cheetah broadband anyone ?

    The final point is that nobody "pays for 8M" or any other speed, this is a misunderstanding the BBC has done nothing to correct. The typical network capacity behind each person's broadband link is less than 100 kbits/s, and often less than half this figure. So, dear reader, you are paying for a modest amount of network capacity and for a variable speed link to your home. If you all use your links to the full then it'll slow down massively - because the capacity isn't there. That isn't an issue of the "up to" link speed to the telephone exchange, it's the nature of a contended or shared service designed to make connections cheap.

    If Virgin Media coax cable broadband slows down it isn't a cable length or other "up to" issue, it is an excess of demand over supply for the available network capacity beyond the local street cabinet.

    If you wanted to "pay for 8M" of assured capacity it would cost you £400 per month or so.

  • Comment number 2.

    This is a primae facie case of companies charging for something they do not deliver.

    In this case the UK Government should invoke a "Wind Fall tax" to penalise all the companies for their falsehoods to their customers.

    In the future any advertised speed of "upto" must be currently capable of being provided to more than 50% of all customers.

  • Comment number 3.

    Disappointing the report makes no mention of monthly download limits and throttling. Even a premium package advertised as 'unlimited' has a monthly download limit although the companies won't tell you what that limit is or give customers any facility to monitor their total downloads.

    If ISPs gave customers the advertised speeds their monthly download limit would rapidly be used up. For example, BT offers their unlimited broadband service at 8Mbs (currently advertised as up to 20Mbs!). That has a monthly download limit of about 40Gb. Some simple arithmetic shows that downloading at 8Mbs for about 1 1/2hours would reach the monthly download limit. When that limit is reached the ISP will either charge for the extra usage or reduce the customer's bandwidth (throttling).

    With the increasing use of streaming media, iPlayer and on-line TV a lot of customers will find that a 40Gb monthly limit isn't enough.

  • Comment number 4.

    Oh dear. I am a Brit currently living in Singapore. We will soon be enjoying 100Mbps fixed line speeds, and 20 Mbps wireless. I already notice the slower wireless speeds when I visit the UK. The internet is to the 21st century what the railways were to the 19th and roads to the 20th. There is surely no capital investment more important for the economic progress of Britain.

  • Comment number 5.

    In my area the adsl carrier limit of 8Mb/s is nearly always reached. The actual payload transfer rate seldom exceeds 3Mb/s. This is not just line termination limit but inter-exchange distribution limit. This is all on BT infrastructure. Would anyone comment on that?

  • Comment number 6.

    There is a simple solution----

    Pay for what we get.

    For example the claim is 20 meg and I get 6.9 meg so I should only pay 6.9/20 of the bill..... (34.5% of the bill)

    This should focus the minds of the suppliers.

  • Comment number 7.

    What's really disgraceful is the likes of TalkTalk and Be advertising 24meg services when it is actually impossible for anyone whatsoever to get 24meg as a download speed. At least on 20meg services there is someone, somewhere who is getting that speed. But it is physically impossible for anybody on an ADSL2+ service to get 24 meg.

    24meg services are nothing of the kind and people should shun ISPs who advertise them.

  • Comment number 8.

    #4 (steve woods)

    Firstly, BT's unlimited service does not have a usage limit of 40GB -they offer 3 broadband options: option 1 comes with 10GB usage, option 2 40GB, and option 3 is 'unlimited'. There is a fair usage policy, but the cap certainly isn't 40GB - I believe it's 100GB.

    Secondly, your 'simple arithmetic' indicates you don't know the difference between a bit and a byte. So it's out by a factor of 8.

    Where I do agree with you is that it's absurd and misleading to call option 3 unlimited as opposed to simply playing it straight and saying option 1 = 10GB, option 2 = 40GB, option 3 = 100GB.

    Apparently Sky are the only company offering a genuinely unlimited package. Although I wonder how long they will do this for, as being in this position will draw the hardcore users to them which will compromise speeds for everyone else unless they are prepared to take a loss on these users to support the infrastructure investment!

  • Comment number 9.

    We have more than enough line speed, we just need to use it better.

    5.2 Mbps is 1.67 Terabytes per month of capacity. Even the poor souls with only 2 Mbps can only get 640 GB download per month.

    To put that in context, 640 GB is enough data for 227 hours of TV, or more than 2 times the average UK household TV viewing (at 720p on a proper telly).

    Maybe someone can explain to me why there is an outcry about how our national competitiveness is being damaged because we need more than 600 GB per month each? Perhaps they can also explain why we only use about 1% of what is installed today?

    We don't need more. We need to make better use of what is already available.

  • Comment number 10.

    Whilst I understand that some places (Singapore, Korea etc.) have much faster broadband speeds due to the much denser population (easier to run fibre to a single tower block than a rural village) I don't see why our urban areas cannot also manage this. All our major cities should be covered by a fibre network. I agree with post #6. This is something I too have suggested in a previous blog, and would really encourage companies to improve their infrastructure. Think about it, no other product forces you to pay a fixed rate for a variable quantity. You don't sign up to a mobile phone contract with the promise of 'up to' 500 minutes a month do you? Your cable TV doesn't switch off a few of the channels when lots of people are watching? I know that these situations are totally different from a technical point of view, but from a contractual point of view they are broadly similar. Perhaps the Government should give Ofcom sharper teeth, as a voluntary code of practice doesn't sound particularly powerful.

  • Comment number 11.

    PhilT - Bravo, the most sensible (and factual) answer ever concerning this subject.

    and this is the scandalous bit

    "But Mr Richards offered the opinion that if ISPs advertised speeds of up to 20Mbps, then at least some of their customers - maybe 10% - ought to be able to get those speeds."

    10% ?! 1 in 10 customers! What other business in the world could survive without being laughed into oblivion on those figures?

    I'm fortunate to live in a cabled area and I get 95% of my 20 Mb connection nearly all the time - averaging 2.3 MB/sec on downloads

    What surprises me is the amount of other people in this area NOT on cable by choice. That's good for me though, or I probably wouldn't get the high speeds I am getting.

    Use this link to see what others in your area are on
    http://www.broadbandspeedchecker.co.uk/

    The speed checker is nothing special, it's after you've finished the test that it lets you compare with others in your immediate area

    Interesting viewing


  • Comment number 12.

    Sorry for the double post but comment #9 was posted whilst I was busy reading and posting my comment.

    Yes 5.2Mbps is 1.67 Terabytes a month (unless that month is February!) but that requires you to leave a computer running 24/7. Can you imagine what that would do to our power consumption? I know you can buy network storage solutions that have built in downloaders (or just build your own) that are much more efficient but that is an unnecessary cost. Finally, my computer is in my bedroom, and trying to get to sleep with it running (what with the fans and the lights) is a nightmare.

    Secondly, it is all very well being able to download that amount of content, but that means having to leave a webpage open for ages whilst a video (particularly one in HD) buffers.

    Thirdly, try playing an online game over a slow connection. Lag is a horrible thing and you NEED to be able to download the data instantly (or close enough!) not over the course of an afternoon.

  • Comment number 13.

    Britain has decades to go (literally) before she gets up to speed with the likes of South Korea, Japan and America. Who says corruption cannot be found in the west?

  • Comment number 14.

    From post 10 - The_Hess - "Think about it, no other product forces you to pay a fixed rate for a variable quantity."

    Well, I guess you could consider broadband a bit like petrol. Luckily they never advertised it as "0-60 in down to 4.0 seconds" as although that statement is true; everybody would want their Skoda to be able to accelerate that fast !

    When you buy petrol you pay a fixed price per gallon, some cars will go 50 miles on a gallon others will only go 15. Should we make petrol companies sell petrol as a variable amount passed on how many miles per gallon your vehicle will do?

    But that aside, the end users PC's is also a major factor in the perceived 'speed' of their broadband connection, this is often forgotten or ignored in these discussions. Also if they use an old USB connected modem the actual throughput is vastly lower than the sync speed (connection speed to the exchange), the quality of the connecting equipment in the customers premises needs to be taken into account as well.

  • Comment number 15.

    PhilT. Spot on.
    I would add some sympathy for BT. A friend of mine would describe it as being a one-legged man at an ar$% kicking party. BT have no choice who to supply. They must supply everyone who asks for a phone line. Virgin on the otherhand can pick and choose. I live within 35M of a main fibre run and Virgin will not connect me. I asked when I built my house but BT had to do it for £100 quid. Tell me where the equality (in business terms) is?
    While BT are burdened by the Universal Service Agreement, and Virgin have no recipricol requirements, BT will always be fighting a losing battle. Virgin should have a USA place upon them so that where they have existing infrastructure they must supply a service for a fixed cost if it is requested.
    People always cite Singapore for fast Broadband but how much does it cost? Equally what about cost/speed comparisons elsewhere in the world?

  • Comment number 16.

    I've had DSL some years here in Germany. I'm no surfer for movie or facebook and junk like that. I use 16Mbps these past 3 years over local copper on our 1960's housing-estate. Most of the time I get 1/3 of that speed (download) because of the source-server being the limiter. If I download SW from some particluar sources I get 100%. Germany invested over the years in it's telephone infrastructre where UK only invest in more wind and waffle... it's the 'UK Way' in everything! Happy surfing!

  • Comment number 17.

    3 simple steps you can take:

    1. Use an online speed checker - search for 'BBC iplayer diagnostics' for the BBC's - and test your speed.

    2. If you are getting less than what you think you were promised by your ISP then ring them and complain.

    3. If they don't do something or offer you a discount then go to cable (which will be faster) or switch to a cheaper DSL service (the cheapest are around £6 a month - why anyone pays more than this I don't know)

  • Comment number 18.

    It doesn't help that the companies themselves are so disorganized. For example, a few years ago the verges in my street were dug up and cable laid for one of the local cable companies. That company was taken over, the one taking it over was taken over, and so on. Now, nobody knows about (or will admit to) the existence of the cable.
    Mind you, I'm one of the lucky ones. I pay Orange for 8Mb/s and consistently get over 7.5Mb/s in speed tests.

  • Comment number 19.

    I think the communications companies could be more flexible in their charging. Advertising up to 20Mb for up to £25/mo but charging £5 per 4Mb rate you actually get, for example, would be fairer and would alleviate this problem. In their defence we do have quite an old physical infrastructure and some of the wires from the cabinet to your house are not even full copper connections, connections made in the seventies were steel or aluminium, due to the price of copper at that point. At least that variable charge rate would be considered more fair by people.

    And all those people that think America is so great go check out Ars Technica and their coverage of the current federal plan to get 2Mb out to all the US (sound familiar). It seems that the US and UK are at a similar point...

  • Comment number 20.

    I've used three ISPs over the years. BT, BeThere and Virgin Media. BT is awful with their exessive throttling and flat out lies about connection speeds. Virgin media has been average to good for me though the connection is a bit slow at times. BeThere has been incredibly good but since it is only broadband and no TV or phone, it is significantly more expensive than anything else.

    Worst experiences have definitly been with BT where my 8mb connection was usually at 6 and went down to 1 or 0.5 during peak hours. We used BT unlimited but their fair usuage policy made it barely suitable for simple we browsing.

  • Comment number 21.

    In reply to: 12. At 09:53am on 27 Jul 2010, The_Hess

    Correct, that is leaving a connection open 24 x 7 and btw the calc is an average per month over the year (x 365 / 12)

    If that was terminated by a 200W PC, then I would agree but it doesn't need to be. All you need is a low power unit that downloads to local storage so the stuff you need is there before you need it. I'm not allowed to advertise on this blog, so I will say no more.

    The gaming issue is high latency (time to the server and back) and high jitter (a large variance in latency), not bandwidth. What you need for a good gaming experience is a few hundred kbps with the lowest possible round trip time. You don't need 100Mbps local loops just to get sub 20ms RTT.

  • Comment number 22.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 23.

    @14 I see where you are coming from, but I view it more as going to a petrol station and paying £20 for up-to 18 litres of petrol, but only a few people get that amount of petrol.

    As for people's computers being the issue, most computers bought within the last couple of years and connected via a wired connection direct to the onboard network card (either as a seperat PCI card or integrated onto the motherboard) will not be affected in this way. Yes on a USB port perhaps, but a USB 2.0 port can still transfer several megabytes a second. Wireless networks are a different matter.

    @21, yes I understand that latency is the key issue wrt gaming (love the 5ms response time playing games on a local network) but in most cases the two go hand in hand when it comes to internet speeds.

    I also know of the various NAS solutions that operate on a much lower power rating compared to a standard desktop, but these cost a fair bit of cash (you can build a cheap PC for not much more) and these still don't solve the problems with streaming.

    I would like to see upload speeds improve as well. My mobile phone actually got a faster upload speed over 3G than my home connection the other day using a speed checker.

  • Comment number 24.

    Following up my posts 12 & 21 and in response to 23. 11:39am on 27 Jul 2010, The_Hess

    The point I am arguing is that we have more than enough capacity (in most places) with everyone having >2Mbps (640 GB per month). The problem is that we don't use it when it is available and then complain when we suddenly decide to download something and it doesn't arrive instantly.

    If you (or a machine acting for you) thought ahead and got what you might need ready before you needed it, the existing network would be more than sufficient for any use-case I have ever seen or heard of. You could still be impulsive, but even impulses are predictable with enough information used correctly.

    What I am trying to say is that rather than spending billions on yet more capacity, we should be thinking about how we can use what we have already. Local loop upgrades cost between £500 and £1,000 per home passed which to me seems like a massive waste of money when we use 1% of what is being upgraded.

    I think the problem is with software design, not with network capacity (or speeds). It is too easy to say we have 5, Korea has 100 therefore Korea is better and we are doomed.

  • Comment number 25.

    How can the burning issue be, to quote "... the way broadband is advertised.."?

    I am struggling to understand exactly which planet you are from. The burning issue is very clearly that we largely have an absolutely abysmal communications infrastructure which is completely useless at being able to deliver the digital requirements of the 21st century.

    Its not advertising thats the issue, it is long overdue infrastructure investment. But thats not going to happen just now, is it?

  • Comment number 26.

    The obvious solution is to enforce a universal service obligation on BT, seeing as they have a state inherited monopoly, part of that deal should be forcing them to provide a minimum level of service to any household, just as Royal Mail has an obligation to deliver post.

    Realistically solving the problem is as simple as saying BT has until 2015 to get fibre to every home. They estimated this would cost £25bn but that cost was based on digging up the roads, it's long been shown there are much more innovative methods of getting fibre to the home which would allow it to be done for a fraction of this cost- an amount BT can easily swallow for the amount of profits they get out of their state inherited monopoly.

  • Comment number 27.

    To be honest, I'm not sure what all the fuss is about with the way broadband speeds are advertised.

    The important word there is "advertised". Surely anyone who understands the first thing about the way British society works in the 21st century knows that adverts lie through their teeth whenever they can? Why would anyone believe them?

    Are there really people out there who are so naive that they look at the speed claimed in the advert and genuinely believe that that is they speed they will get?

  • Comment number 28.

    Hi,

    I am taking action currently with talktalk about their mis sale of a voice and broadband package sold to me in May this year. They have agreed to provide 3 months free service i.e. I only pay call charges. They have also agreed to release me from the contract with them without charge when I decide to move to another provider. I am also seeking compensation from them as I will incurr costs when I move, which I wouldnt have done if the product wasnt mis sold to me.
    I was advised by the sales team that I would get 9MB (more than my previous provider) so I signed up. I got a letter from them confirming my order which detailed a speed of 7MB (less than 9MB but still more than my previous provider). I then got my service. I got around 5MB which is less than my previous provider.
    I am currently seeking compensation because I cant go back to my old provider without loosing internet service for 10-15 days. In addition to this when I go back to my old providers I will be tied into a 12 month contract. I wasnt tied into a contract with them previously so I want compensation for that also.

    My feedback to ofcom. What good is a volentary agreement that comes onto operation in 12 months?. This problem is occuring today, your solution is too little too late. The suppliers who mis sell should also be liable for the costs that are incurred. It beggars belief that offcom dont insist on this now.

  • Comment number 29.

    I don't understand why there's such fuss over the broadband gap between town and country. Historically people have migrated from country to city to gain advantages such as better jobs and social life. Why does the same not count for connectivity?

    I thought the purpose of moving to the country was to get away from it all?

  • Comment number 30.

    these still don't solve the problems with streaming

    It's an artificial problem. If people (both users and service providers like the BBC insist on abusing the infrastructure then it's no surprise that it doesn't cope well. Requiring people to stream pre-recorded HD video rather than download it is perverse.

  • Comment number 31.

    I should probably say my company works with a number of ISPs and regulators to monitor broadband performance before I make my point...

    The one thing not explicitly mentioned in this piece is the effect of line length (i.e. how far a customer is physically away from the local telephone exchange) on ADSL speeds. The further away you are, the less of the advertised speed you are going to get. This is a part of the technology and is not the ISPs deliberately limiting performance as many seem to feel is the case. This applies to any ADSL ISP as all services tend to use the local telephone exchange as the delivery point regardless of who the ISP is.

    The ISPs cannot advertise a specific speed that they can guarantee every customer will get as each customer is in a unique situation. That is, they are at differing distances from their exchanges. The only way to be able to tell a customer what speeds they are likely to receive is to run a test down their telephone line prior to the service being implemented.

    All ISPs allow customers to perform some type of speed test in this manner so that they can see what speeds they are likely to receive and it is always a percentage of the theoretical (and advertised) speed e.g. If you are 3km from your exchange you may only get 4Mb of a service which is theoretically capable of 8Mb if you were adjacent to the exchange.

    Other factors also have an effect on speeds, things such as the quality of the copper wire, the type of hardware used in a particular location and so on. But distance is has the most impact for ADSL services.

    How can the ISPs get around this in their advertising when they have to get the message across in as few words and as short a time as possible? That’s the challenge.

  • Comment number 32.

    The term 'scandalous' may not have been used in the original report by Ofcom, but if you have witnessed the state of the broadband market, you couldn't help but conclude such an opinion - broadband companies do not want to rock the boat and it has become something of a culture for them all to advertise the highest theoretical speeds when the reality is very much different.

    There should be a way to check on a national level what each postcode and area can support in terms of a maximum line speed. If every household knew their max capacity, they wouldn't need to bother themselves so much with the line speeds being advertised.

  • Comment number 33.

    In follow up to my previous comments, a notable broadband site that appears to be independent is SamKnows ( http://www.samknows.com/broadband/index.php ) and feature some interesting reports on the state of the broadband market in the UK.

  • Comment number 34.

    Two comments on this.

    1) I wish people who consider themselves technical genii would consider the man in the street before posting some of the trite opinionated stuff I've seen here.

    "If the hard of thinking can't handle a rate adaptive product that goes as fast as it can being called "up to", then what would they like?"

    And that's just the first post! Consider that many people buy a PC or laptop (or set top box, or games console etc.) and just want to browse the web and read email. They have no real grasp of what KB, Kb, Mb or MB mean, and nor should they. How many people understand exactly what FM and MW mean to radio, or what wavelengths analogue TV used? Its just a number to most and that's all it needs to be. For them to grasp context all they need to understand is the comparative value, just like MPG on a car.

    Likewise comments like "just get cable" get up my nose. Even those like me who live in a built up area can't always get cable for plenty of reasons beyond our control. Please don't assume everyone is in the same boat.

    2) I'm quite happy with my speed at 3-4.5Mb right now. Why? Well its simple - its free. In my case, I got BB free with my phone contract and have had no reason to change since. I've had BT, Sky and Orange try to sell me an 'upgrade' but as soon as I explain what I'm getting, they give up because they can't better it. Why do I make this point? Well I agree with the idea of a pricing structure based on a) what we get and b) what we use of it. It would at least mean pricing was fair and proportional (the more you use, the more you pay) and enable people to decide on a product on value as opposed to 'advertising spiel'.

    Its still beyond me how the ASA hasn't already acted on the ISP's for misleading, if not downright false advertising. I actually complained once and got the weakest of responses from them. IMHO Ofcom and the ASA just don't have the teeth to do what the are set up for - look after the consumer.

  • Comment number 35.

    "Britons are not getting the broadband services they are being sold. Rory Collen-Jones looks at the issues."

    I am as happy as anyone at the end of a long copper wire can be, (which is more than Rory Cellan-Jones must be at the BBC's spelling of his name) and don't expect the situation to improve much in my lifetime, as it's simply not financially viable to replace the network in rural areas.

    The only real improvement would be in the ISPs' advertising, by quoting only the maximum possible speed per line - not difficult for them to do, but they won't do it voluntarily. Come on, Ofcom, sort them out.

  • Comment number 36.

    Yep.

  • Comment number 37.

    There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.

  • Comment number 38.

    For Sale:
    Ford Focus 1600, red, top speed up to 150mph

    If the broadband company’s arguments are to be accepted, that would be a perfectly legal advert. 150mph could be attained on a steep slope with a 110mph tail wind.

  • Comment number 39.

    My provider supplied ADSL 4mbps which is what I paid (top dollar) for. The connection had not dropped once in 2 years (true)They upgraded (free) to up to 20mbps. The best I was told after the event I could achieve was 4.5 mbps. The connection dropped out all over the place. I went back to the old service. Its still unstable. If it works and meets your need, I learnt where computers are concerne, leave it alone. If we all needed to know as much about what goes on under the bonnet of the car to drive the thing as we do just to use a tool called a computer the roads would be empty. Every 12 months, this or that is upgraded, this is not compatible with that. Pay another £200 - 300. Its just a tool not a hobby with me !

  • Comment number 40.

    I live in "remote Wales".
    My exchange is upgraded to 24Mb.
    It's not a very busy telephone exchange, there's only one LLU installed in it, but at least it is a good ISP's LLU, and I only live 500 metres from it.

    I receive on average near 20Mbps.

    I don't see what the problem is.


    If people want a good internet connection, don't choose crappy ISPs. Research them carefully, and don't go with one who advertise on TV. Keep in mind that "the more customers an ISP has, the worse the service provided by that ISP is going to be", it is a very handy rule of thumb.

    There ARE ISPs that have "no bandwidth caps", and "no peak times", "no port blocking". My ISP is practically unheard of. It is a growing ISP, even though it never advertises. Why? It has a very good reputation from it's customers.

  • Comment number 41.

    This has gone on for years: the hubris (not to mention downright lies) regarding fantastic line speeds from the ISPs, followed by their feeble excuses and "well, what did you expect?" when anyone had the temerity to complain. Why has it taken Ofcom so very long to do anything at all about this? Surely they're not popping their heads above the barricades now that the government is killing off a few of the nation's quangos and they just want to appear to be of some use?

    My ISP promised me up to 8 Mbps if my copper telephone line would permit it. A quick test showed that I'd be lucky to get 4 and now, in everyday usage, I'm on anything between 3 and 4 Mbps. This is perfectly acceptable although I would like more, of course. The phone lines outside my house are in a hell of a state, including one piece that is actually tied into a knot, but BT refused to look at it when I called them a couple of years back, because, I was told, it was working to their satisfaction. They clearly are very easily pleased, even if their customers aren't.

    As for those people here who believe that the BBC and others "abuse" broadband by streaming anything from movies to TV and radio shows, perhaps they do things differently back on their home planet. Here, my wife and I thoroughly appreciate and make good use of the availability of shows and movies on line, for which I pay my licence fee and my monthly bill to the ISP. Is that "abuse"? Don't think so.

    This is the 21st Century and we could surely expect better by now, don't you think? What must we do to persuade BT or whatever they call the division that supposedly maintains and upgrades all our trillions of miles of outdated copper twine, to get their fingers out and do the job for which they are so handsomely paid?

    As for Ofcom, they had an opportunity to make a stink about all this several years ago but failed to have any effect whatsoever.

  • Comment number 42.

    I am happy with my broadband, I am with Virgin and they have always delivered full speeds when I was on their 2mb, 10mb and now 20mb connection.

    They throttle your speeds only when you go over their clearly stated limits during afternoon and evening hours only.

    I would certainly leave any broadband provider if I wasn't satisfied with the speeds or the service.

  • Comment number 43.

    I am a Virgin Media customer and all I can say is that my cable broadband connection is consistently fast, has very little downtime and is worth every penny! I actually use my laptop via a wireless router at home and this is very stable and fast too. The few times I actually use my desktop PC that has the cable broadband connection it is only because I am downloading very large files.
    Oddly enough, I thought all broadband services were like mine, but from reading here and listening to friends moaning about slowdowns in the evenings and at weekends, I am very pleased I chose to go with Telewest as it was then, now VirginMedia. Maybe more people should look into buying cable broadband instead of relying on an overstretched BT infrastructure.

  • Comment number 44.

    surely in this day and age no-one is buying a service or commodity without first checking it out in detail?

    it's not rocket science - it's simple enough to check on the internet which broadband provider(s) is the fastest/cheapest for your particular post code

    we have a guy from an X-factor (name withheld) broadband provider who regularly comes to our door telling us that his broadband service is free!! I am 70 years old and a supposedly easy target for salesmen, but when I ask him what the monthly tariff is he backs off fast, and on checking on the internet the speed he is offering is below average for our area

    so folks, as usual, don't be sold anything on a 'say so' - do your homework first - you wouldn't buy a used car on the recommendation of what the salesman says, or would you?

  • Comment number 45.

    25. At 12:23pm on 27 Jul 2010, Axeldstinger wrote:
    How can the burning issue be, to quote "... the way broadband is advertised.."?

    I am struggling to understand exactly which planet you are from. The burning issue is very clearly that we largely have an absolutely abysmal communications infrastructure which is completely useless at being able to deliver the digital requirements of the 21st century.

    Its not advertising thats the issue, it is long overdue infrastructure investment. But thats not going to happen just now, is it?
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Don't look now but......we also have an abysmal transport infrastructure for the requirements of the 21st C. Beat up old buses, no rural services, unreliable expensive trains that only run between big cities & urban centres, trunk roads that are usually linear carparks. Other roads that are like tank assault courses to slow the speeds. No joined up intergration of various transport modes. The answer, charge the consumers more for the neglect of 30 years! Just like the internet it is going to really come up and bite us as we struggle to come out of recession or is that descend into third world poverty? At least there is some concern regarding the internet. Lets face it, you don't want your video or gaming to run slow do you? Never mind the impact on the Economy.

  • Comment number 46.

    I live in Milton Keynes, a so-called "New Town", and signed up to BT Business Broadband, promising speeds of "up to 20MB" download.
    I noticed it was very slow, so measured the speed, and found it to be on average 0.4MB. On contacting BT, I was told our line could only sustain a maximum download of 0.5MB, 19.5MB less than we were promised.
    Further investigation lead me to find we are actually lucky - many areas in Milton Keynes can't get broadband at all.
    So my questions are:
    1) Why is the infrastructure in one of the most recent and quickly growing towns in the country so poor?
    2) How can BT with a clear conscience sell me a package promising up to 20MB when they know full well I can only get 0.5MB!
    You people getting 3MB average download speeds are lucky - I'd settle for 1MB at the moment!

  • Comment number 47.

    "14. At 10:08am on 27 Jul 2010, alandb wrote:

    From post 10 - The_Hess - "Think about it, no other product forces you to pay a fixed rate for a variable quantity."

    Well, I guess you could consider broadband a bit like petrol. Luckily they never advertised it as "0-60 in down to 4.0 seconds" as although that statement is true; everybody would want their Skoda to be able to accelerate that fast !"



    I see your point but the fact is most people view broadband speeds as being like a car, not petrol. If I buy a McLaren F1 which can do 'up to' 220mph, yet the one I bought and drove on that de-restricted road can only do 30mph, have I not been conned?

  • Comment number 48.

    29. At 2:38pm on 27 Jul 2010, Rikki wrote:

    I don't understand why there's such fuss over the broadband gap between town and country. Historically people have migrated from country to city to gain advantages such as better jobs and social life. Why does the same not count for connectivity?

    I thought the purpose of moving to the country was to get away from it all?



    Some of the slowest broadband speeds have been reported in London!

  • Comment number 49.

    8. At 09:10am on 27 Jul 2010, shortshrift9 wrote:
    Firstly, BT's unlimited service does not have a usage limit of 40GB -they offer 3 broadband options: option 1 comes with 10GB usage, option 2 40GB, and option 3 is 'unlimited'. There is a fair usage policy, but the cap certainly isn't 40GB - I believe it's 100GB.

    -------------------------------------

    How can you call a 100Gb cap, "unlimited"?
    How can you tolerate it and not change supplier?

    It's a false economy, and your ISP hasn't bought enough bandwidth for it's customers, cutting corners and costs. Forces everyone to use a restricted amount and starts barking at it's customers if they start making use of the services.


    There ARE better ISPs out there, with TRUE unlimited bandwidth policies. They appreciate their customers, and try to make them happy. This does not include berating customers for using their network.

  • Comment number 50.

    It's pretty straight forward - the advertised speed is the maximum physical speed. It's a bit like advertising a car based on its top speed, and then people complaining about the traffic jams at the end of the road mean that they can't go that fast.

    The actual speed you'll get isn't nearly as easy to calculate as the maximum speed, as it's based on a huge number of local factors, particularly the length of cable to the exchange. So without better quality lines being deployed all across the country, this isn't one that's going to be fixed.

    The best we can hope for is that they'll introduce an "average speed" in the advertisements. Then, only 50% of people will get slower than advertised speeds.

  • Comment number 51.

    you pay for what you get - if want cheap broadband then expect a cheap service.

    If you pay a premium then you expect it. I am with BE and they have so far been flawless.

  • Comment number 52.

    I`m with "BT Total Broadband Option 3".
    And I regularly have connection speeds of between 5Mb up to 7½Mb including evenings and weekends. I have been with BT for a number of years and each time I`ve renewed my 12 month contract BT have reduced my monthly payment.
    I have found their Tech Desk very helpful when I`ve had reason to contact them.
    Problems (when Ive had any) have been solved within 24 hours, including a follow-up call from BT to check that everything is running OK.
    All ISP`s have their good points and bad points, so stop moaning.
    If you do not like your ISP.......................MOVE!

  • Comment number 53.

    I'm sure that if BT didn't feel threatened about sharing its infrastructure with every jump on the bandwagon provider the local loop would have been updated years ago. Regulation of BT to "open up the market" has keep the level of technology at a base level, with none of the new providers other than perhaps Virgin in the inner cities do anything but token infrastructure implementation and just trying to churn over BT customers using LL unbundling. I won't move from BT on sheer principle and get 5Mb with a fautless service whilst living over 2 miles from the exchange. The only thing I get from Talk Talk is annoying door to door salespeople ringing the bell a 8pm lying about the exchange being upgraded. Some of us have worked in telecoms before.

  • Comment number 54.

    My ISP is AAISP. It's a smaller ISP but it's one of the best I've ever been with. It definitely does have a personal touch and you get the impression they are sincere about what they can provide. The service is a little more expensive than services with similar sized quotas, but you get what they say. What's more is that they don't cache or filter the service, so you are getting a real connection to the net.

    I'm in an area that can receive up to 20Mb down and my router syncs at around 15Mb. I'm fairly happy with that as I'm sort of far from the exchange.

    There is always one area which people don't mention as much in these discussions. Your ADSL modem plays a huge part in the speed you can connect at. Basically, higher speed ADSL attempts to connect at the fastest speed you can get. Your modem/router has to be able to distinguish between line noise and the broadband signal, which at faster speeds becomes an increasingly smaller margin. Better quality modems are better at handling this and so may connect at faster speeds. I replaced my modem a year ago and that alone made a difference between 6Mb and 12Mb. (Both routers are ADSL2+)

  • Comment number 55.

    I have a longstanding contract with a "business" ISP. They are helpful and responsive, though I do pay more than the few pounds per month for most "consumer" offerings.

    I also get download speeds of 1.4 Mbps. I don't live out in the country.

    Clearly I talk about this with my ISP once in a while. They say that I live a little over 2 miles from the exchange, and that the available potential for my postcode is less than 2 mbps , and that 1mbps isn't guaranteed either- so I'm getting about what I can possibly get in other words

    So, who do I blame and what can I do? On the face of it I could change ISP once a week and not get a faster service. It appears that BT are at fault ( according to the ISP at least).

    The thing that does get to me is that ISPs seem to have the means to check what is likely to be deliverable within a postcode, but then just promise something completely infeasible until you sign up, then tell you why they can't deliver what they intimated.

  • Comment number 56.

    Since when have the British public ever been treated with respect by Companys?
    We are the cash Cow that must be milked dry.
    From cars to computers we pay in Pounds what the US pays in $s.
    And as for the price of petrol!
    Sadly, all Governments are happy to carry on this very cozy relationship.

  • Comment number 57.

    I pay BT for 8m get about 4m my dl speed is cut down to crawl from 16.00 till 00.00 during the week and from 10.00 till 00.00 at weekends and on the endless school holidays. the broadband in this country is joke we are laughing stock .

  • Comment number 58.

    52. At 6:10pm on 27 Jul 2010, Johnnybgood wrote:
    I`m with "BT Total Broadband Option 3".
    And I regularly have connection speeds of between 5Mb up to 7½Mb including evenings and weekends. I have been with BT for a number of years and each time I`ve renewed my 12 month contract BT have reduced my monthly payment.
    I have found their Tech Desk very helpful when I`ve had reason to contact them.
    Problems (when Ive had any) have been solved within 24 hours, including a follow-up call from BT to check that everything is running OK.
    All ISP`s have their good points and bad points, so stop moaning.
    If you do not like your ISP.......................MOVE!

    ...........................................................

    I'm also with BT on option 3 Ive never seen speeds close to 7mb It all depends where you live.

  • Comment number 59.

    We should only pay for what we get. Having moved house two months ago, I found my BT Option 3 Broadband speed almost non existant. Speed tests revealed a speed of less than 1.5MB and sometimes as bad as 0.3 MB. BT are well aware of the problem because it lies with the need to upgrade the local exchange. It's disgusting that they get away with this knowing that they can fix the problem! I have no choice of changing provider and am much aggrieved at paying £24.99 a month for absolute rubbish. All those moaning about only getting 6MB when they should be getting 20MB stop moaning - try working with less than 1MB. The regulator should do more to hold providers to account!!!

  • Comment number 60.

    What I object to is being offered a service that ISPs know full well they can't provide eg up to a 20mbs service when they know the exchange can't handle it in the first place.

  • Comment number 61.

    The real problem is that DSL relies on copper which is slightly better than a piece of string when it comes to delivery of high-speed data. What we really need is to rip all the copper out and replace it with fibre. But that won't happen until people realise that fibre offers speeds of 100meg for real whereas DSL offers speeds around 3% of that if you're lucky. That means clear information from ISPs including in their advertising. How they get away with being 'economical with the truth' I don't know.

  • Comment number 62.

    I for one would like to know who controls the IP profile on the line. One week it's 1500kbs then the next week it's something else then another week it's something else again. Are BT deliberately throttling the line out of spite because you're not their customer and hoping to gain your custom?

  • Comment number 63.

    as per #61, rip out all the copper wiring and have fibre right to the house

    if Singapore can manage it why on earth are we being left behind?

  • Comment number 64.

    I have Virgin broad band and find it alright it does not matter what time I access it the time taken for it to appear on my PC monitor is about two minutes, which is great as I do not have a vast ram speed, the only grip I have with Virgin is if I accept their TV and phone service the 10mbs It have would cost less and I do not want these services

  • Comment number 65.


    ISPs need to start telling the truth - I see TalkTalk's CEO has attempted to defend their advertising of 24meg even though not a single one of their customer can ever get a download speed of 24megs (link below).

    http://www.talktalkblog.co.uk/2010/07/27/broadband-speed-%E2%80%93-the-facts

    I think the best thing we can all do is for everyone to complain to the ASA about ISPs advertising impossible speeds - they need to sort this out.


    http://asa.org.uk/Complaints-and-ASA-action/How-to-complain/Online-Form.aspx


  • Comment number 66.

    To anyone who is fed up with there broadband id say switch to o2 you get the speed they say great customer service and NO i dont work for them but I was really fed up with BT's lousy service and wasnt sure who to try next id recomend o2 in spades

  • Comment number 67.

    What I don't get about the UK's broadband speed is that it varies in location, even in densly populated areas. Also the fact that these companies advertise speeds when it's fasted in something like 1 am, they should at least tell us the speeds in peek times where it can last for hours on end with an extremely slow connection.

  • Comment number 68.

    I read this article with a slight amount of outrage as I work in a telecoms company and therefore understand RADSL and other methods of delivering internet service and what they actually cost, and the fact that my company and most others advertise UP TO and take great pains to explain at point of sale what that means and why it is that way .... and well done to: "1. At 08:26am on 27 Jul 2010, PhilT wrote:" as that is exactly the response I would have written if I were half so eloquent!

    More people should also think about the speed you actually need/want, never mind the phenomenal cost of a true guaranteed speed technology, I am on a fantastic ADSL2 connection and I watch videos, online game, download via torrents occasionally and mostly just surf, and my speed is absolutely fine even when I have got an old router plugged in, 2MB is fine for most people anyway, I got about 6 in total when I trialling TV over broadband, and that was also more than fine.

    Anyway, rant over, most people don't care enough to properly investigate all sides of this argument.

    Ariel xxx

  • Comment number 69.

    The ISP sell you a broadband package where you will get up to the advertised speed. I think the cost should also be up to the advertised price, based on your average speed.

    Some packages offer more than just broadband, so calculating the cost would have to be an agreed formula with Ofcom.

    Bust as an example - BT's basic up to 20MB broadband package is £14.49 a month, so I am suggesting they charge £0.72 per MB. If you get an average of 14MB then you would pay £10.14 for your broadband.

    I think this would satisfy the majority of customers as they would be paying a fair price, and it's up to the ISP to fix the issues if they want to receive the full price.

  • Comment number 70.


    Download speeds reflect low levels of investment in exchange networks and maintenance personnel. Only a mile outside Salisbury, a headline rate of 8 Mbps diminishes to 0.5 Mbps at the user end. The much vaunted increase to 20 Mbps will thus deliver a paltry 1.25 Mbps.

    A supermarket isn't allowed to sell 1 litre of milk under a 5 litre label. So why is directly comparable misrepresentation in the communications sector permitted?

    Until price paid by the consumer reflects speed delivered rather than promoted, this anomaly will continue. There is no inventive for BT or any other supplier to upgrade their service infrastructure.

  • Comment number 71.

    I have virgin cable BB and get 100% speed in the morning, and only about 25% in the evening. Massive throttling.

  • Comment number 72.

    Ref Post 69 and others "Having a tariff based on per mb"

    in principle people would see this to be the fairest way to deal with the technical complexity and variability that the providers claim is why they advertise "up to" speeds.
    The providers know the capacity they have capped your individual line to in order to provide a stable service so "too complex to administer" cannot be an excuse.

  • Comment number 73.

    My broadband is ok but it's the SIXTY pounds a month I dont like, hence I am

    leaving Virgin when my first year contract is up later this year. I already

    know who I am moving to ....


  • Comment number 74.

    For a broadband salesman, a sales pitch of "Up to 20 Mbit/s" sounds good and pulls in the punters at £20 per month. Great for him, but bad for the customer whose expectations are raised unduly. If you pay £20 per month and then download continuously at 20 Mbit/s, something is wrong. You should be paying £20 per hour because that it what it costs the network to provide your service, particularly if you download from source a long distance away.
    There are two factors at play.
    First the end link to the customer. This may have a physical limitation on its speed say 1, 2, 10, 20 Mbit/s. It is quite likely that any customer will get this actual bit rate for the reception of a packet of data. But there may be long gaps between such packets so the perceived bit rate over a period of a minute or more may be far lower than over the period of 1 second or less while actually receiving a packet. Note that 1 or 2 Mbit/s would be an amazingly excellent service for most people, if it were there all of the time. Note that it makes no difference how much you use the local link - all the time or not at all, it still costs a small fixed amount to provide.
    Second the capacity of the network. If 800 customers share a 20 Mbit/s backbone link, the traffic limitations that this imposes soon come into play. To assure each customer their fair share, roughly in proportion to their monthly payments, the average bit rate may be limited like this:
    In 1 second average 20 Mbit/s
    In 1 hour average 350 kbit/s
    In 4 hours average 160 kbit/s
    In 1 day average 83 kbit/s
    In 1 week average 31 kbit/s
    In 4 weeks average 19 kbit/s
    Note that it matters little, cost-wise, whether your local bit rate is limited at 1, 2, 10 or 20 Mbit/s; What matters is how much you pay and if this is sufficient to cover the cost of providing your average bit rate for say 1 hour or 4 hours, over the end to end network connection.
    I hope OFCOM will recommend that ISPs state their hourly, 4 hourly, daily, weekly and monthly download and upload limits, expressed in Mbytes or GBytes (e.g. 6 GB download and 1 Gbyte upload per month).

  • Comment number 75.

    #1 Has mentioned a number of facts about the technology aspect of broadband speeds. I'd just like to place emphasis on the fact that ADSL technology (inclusive of ADSL2+) has an inverse relationship between speed and loop length (distance from the exchange). In fact for ADSL2+, the drop in speed as distance increases is far greater than that of ADSL2 or the original ADSL standard. ADSL2+ is specified in ITU standard G.992.5 according to which, an ADSL2+ system shall work at a theoretical 24 Mbps or a higher rate on downstream, thus providing higher rate for short loop subscribers within about 1km. Beyond that distance, the fall in speed is rather sharp such that at 2km the speed is around 15Mbps, while at 3km it is down to about 7Mbps. Of course physical line conditions come into play, as highlighted above. Now, if you take into consideration how many people live within 1km, 2km and 3km and so on of BT exchanges, you will probably find that the figures given by OFCOM are probably in line with this.

    Given that the 24Mbps rated max speed of ADSL2+ technology and taking into considerations non-ideal line conditions, BT adjusted the max speed offering to downwards to 20Mbps, unlike Talk Talk who still advertise "up to 24Mbps". What is interesting is that both BT and Talk Talk use pretty much the same access equipment (to which your modems connect), from the Chinese vendor Huawei Technologies, and both use the same old copper wires from people's homes into the exchange. You make up your mind who is being more honest.

    So the technology is a limiting factor here but there's also an element of being, shall we say, economical with the truth on advertising speeds. There is very little that operators working with ADSL can do, because they're stuck with the copper investment that's already there, unless they bring in new technology at significant cost. BT's 21CN project has entered a new phase with a Fiber To The Home (FTTH) trial starting in the Milton Keynes area at a cost of an additional £1Bn, it's been reported recently.

  • Comment number 76.

    This is a massively complex area. Of the comments so far "PhilT" described the local loop issues and "satsig" has alluded to the issues between the local loop and the ISPs Internet peering point. The real costs lie in the backhaul from the local exchange to the ISPs Internet peering point.
    I do believe that the answer has to be an appropriately metered service: as more and more data is consumed the capacity to carry it should be paid for by the consumer.
    We don't pay flat rate for electricity or gas so why should we pay a flat rate for data?

  • Comment number 77.

    #9 Suppose everyone ran their connection continuously downloading data they might possibly be interested in using. That would be tens of PB of data being moved across the national network per month, with the vast majority of it never being used. In practice the networks would run at local shared capacity for everyone so speed would be in the region of 0.1Mbs each.

    Some types of online use cannot be pre-emptively downloaded so anyone who wanted to do something quickly would find the experience painful. Voice over IP, social networking and so forth would all become much less rewarding.

    There is not enough bandwidth to go round.

    The current system of resource sharing is the most cost effective way of delivering the service. I don't believe for a moment that BT and the other ISPs are delivering the best possible solution but it is naive to believe that there are cheap and easy solutions that will deliver universal fast broadband. We are not paying enough for the service to pay for the upgrades.

    Virgin is built on the ruinous delivery of cable by Cable and Wireless/NTL/Telewest. Companies are understandably wary of investing enormous sums in fibre deployment when previous attempts have led to corporate bankruptcy.

    Back on topic, perhaps a more radical approach by Ofcom and other regulators to advertising would be more useful. In reality there is little real difference in average speed between the ADSL suppliers. Suppose Ofcom specified the advertising requirement as stating the type of connection ( ADSL, ADSL2+, cable, etc. ) with a statement of maximum possible speed e.g. ADSL2+ ( maximum 24 mb ) and made that figure the same for every ISP. Then attached a condition that the advert must carry an Ofcom measured "Average speed over last three months".

    An advert could say "ADSL2+ ( max 24mb, average 5.3mb)".

    The Ofcom report cites average speeds so it doesn't seem to be a difficult job. Ofcom could even charge the companies for a certified figure, just in case we want to avoid public spending.

  • Comment number 78.

    #75. EMC wrote:

    "So the technology is a limiting factor here..."

    But isn't the key issue misselling?

    We are sold 20Mbit and get a lot less. There is also no incentive for the supplier (i.e. BT) to do what it can to improve the line's speed.

    My idea is that if the supplier sells 20 meg by delivers far less than the price paid should be proportionately less.

    This would incentiveise the supplier to deliver as much as he could, but let customers pay fro what they get - everyone wins and it if above all fair. (True the cost would have to rise.)

    The other issues is the actual contention ratio and backbone and network capacity. These are trickier to measure from a client, but are further constricting factors, as is QOS (Quality of service) - high quality of service on certain types of packets in certain protocols are a really good thing - for example for VOIP or Live TV.

    All in all the sync speed of the final link is only a small part of the story.

  • Comment number 79.

    "if Singapore can manage it why on earth are we being left behind?"

    Singapore: Area = 274 square miles.
    UK: Area = 94,060 square miles.


    Many years ago BT wanted to build a country-wide high speed fibre network. The government of the time refused to let them. In the 70's, the price of copper was too high for BT to pay, so they fitted aluminium instead. Aluminium is fine for voice, fax and dial-up (remember that?) but no good for broadband.

    We are still living with the legacy of poor management and regulation, and will do until someone coughs up the cash to pay for it.

  • Comment number 80.

    The bottom line is the UK does not have the infrastructure to support its digital future. This has two concequences:

    1) House prices in citys will rise as demand grows. As our media intake grows (eg Project canvas) a home with 4+meg will me more highly valued.

    2) There is a backlog of downloads. Downloading TV from iTunes or iPlayer etc will be left to run overnight. I live at the end of a copper wire and need to reqularly leave downloads running overnight. Like the old storage heaters, there is less usage over night so it's quicker to download. I downloaded the 2nd season of True Blood and it took 3 days. This is not good for the envrionment and its not good for my neighbours sharing the copper wire. BT didn't get any value either as I have 'unlimited' broadband.

  • Comment number 81.

    I am so sad for the people ONLY getting 8meg downloads. I live in a small village near Brecon in Powys and I can only get HALF a meg!

  • Comment number 82.

    #78 John_From_Hendon

    My full statement read, "So the technology is a limiting factor here but there's also an element of being, shall we say, economical with the truth on advertising speeds."

    You only quoted part of it, which could be misleading.

  • Comment number 83.

    #76 Don said:

    "The real costs lie in the backhaul from the local exchange to the ISPs Internet peering point."

    I believe that the access network is the most problematic, requires the most effort and is the most costly part of an xDSL network. BT have by and large already laid in sufficient fibre capacity in the backhaul, but are stuck with copper from the exchange into consumers homes. That is the reason why it is cheaper to implement new technology, e.g ADSL2+ in the exchange and in the homes over the same wires, effectively pushing more data through the same copper.

  • Comment number 84.

    This article fails to realize that Cable speeds are not affected by line distance, where copper cables are. I believe there does not need to be further clarification, but for end users to properly research the technology that they're buying into before they commit to something they don't actually understand! There are plenty of village exchanges, and plenty of villagers that live close to exchanges where they receive just as good line speeds, if not better than some in towns and cities.

  • Comment number 85.

    @84 Kieran

    Unfortunately the world doesn't work like that.
    I have no interest in how my car works or how the TV changes channel but I still bought them.

  • Comment number 86.

    I believe that the access network is the most problematic

    Not really. The access network is already capable of delivering massively more bandwidth to the end customer than the backhaul can support. That's why ISPs have capping policies; they already can't afford for people to actually use the full speed of their existing connections for more than a tiny fraction of the time. All this focus on speed is meaningless - the only thing that a faster connection gets you is the ability to hit your cap and get throttled back even quicker than you do now.

  • Comment number 87.

    I was thinking of starting up a fruit shop offering weekly delivery of boxes of fruit for a subscription. You would get a box of up to 8 apples a week, and would only have to pay £2 per week. Any takers?

  • Comment number 88.

    11. At 09:49am on 27 Jul 2010, mikkh wrote:
    PhilT - Bravo, the most sensible (and factual) answer ever concerning this subject.

    and this is the scandalous bit

    "But Mr Richards offered the opinion that if ISPs advertised speeds of up to 20Mbps, then at least some of their customers - maybe 10% - ought to be able to get those speeds."

    10% ?! 1 in 10 customers! What other business in the world could survive without being laughed into oblivion on those figures?

    I'm fortunate to live in a cabled area and I get 95% of my 20 Mb connection nearly all the time - averaging 2.3 MB/sec on downloads

    What surprises me is the amount of other people in this area NOT on cable by choice. That's good for me though, or I probably wouldn't get the high speeds I am getting.
    ----------------


    By choice or by lack of affordability?

    Many people simply cannot afford the £50 or more that the likes of Virgin charge for cabled broadband, so even if they are in a cabled area they may not be able to take advantage of it.

    And in a time when many services that people rely on are being pushed online because it's cheaper and easier, no call centres or offices to staff with people dealing with "customers" for example, it is vital that fast broadband in this country is made affordable for everyone.

    OFCom have no teeth, Labour and the Tories and the ConDem co-alition are all cosied up to BT and the other companies involved in the supply of broadband in this country, so nothing will change, we will continue to have poor speed broadband that is barely able to cope with the traffic for those who cannot afford it, whilst the well off minority continue to enjoy their fast 20+mbs services.

    So whether or not companies offer "up to" or not it's irellevant when many cannot afford to take advantage of the faster more consistent broadband products.

  • Comment number 89.

    in a time when many services that people rely on are being pushed online because it's cheaper and easier, no call centres or offices to staff with people dealing with "customers" for example, it is vital that fast broadband in this country is made affordable for everyone.

    Why 'fast' broadband? The sort of basic webby activities you're talking about don't need a lot of speed to start with, and aren't greatly harmed by taking a little longer anyway.

  • Comment number 90.

    @88 - I'm with Virgin Media and am paying the same amount as I would do for ADSL, and get more bandwidth. Please check your facts before posting.

  • Comment number 91.

    I am with Virgin Media, pay for 10Mbps and am averaging around 9.8Mbps, so no complaints.

  • Comment number 92.

    @89 A lot of people said similar things when motorways started to be built. We are now living with problems in the road infrastructure that will be faced by the broadband network in future if we don't learn the lessons of the past. just because you don't need fast broadband now doesn't mean it should not be invested in for the future.

  • Comment number 93.

    90. At 2:17pm on 28 Jul 2010, Laurence wrote:
    @88 - I'm with Virgin Media and am paying the same amount as I would do for ADSL, and get more bandwidth. Please check your facts before posting.


    ----

    Are you really.

    Each time I've done my research it's come as near as £50 as you can get.

    Currently on Virgin for their "Up to" 50mb packages you pay £40 per month after the first 3 months. When they released their "superfast broadband" it was £50 per month, it was even advertised at that price here on the BBC, all the high speed new products are always at a price the average joe cannot afford.

    So excuse me but I think that price, for the 50mb package, is slightly out of reach of many people.

    And there are people that cannot even afford cheap ADSL, who will need it if government services continue to be pushed online, pensioners for example. What are they supposed to do?



    92. At 2:23pm on 28 Jul 2010, Laurence wrote:
    @89 A lot of people said similar things when motorways started to be built. We are now living with problems in the road infrastructure that will be faced by the broadband network in future if we don't learn the lessons of the past. just because you don't need fast broadband now doesn't mean it should not be invested in for the future.
    -------

    Yes a point many don't seem to understand. It's a case of "I've got so why should I worry".

  • Comment number 94.

    @40

    I live in "remote Wales".
    My exchange is upgraded to 24Mb.
    It's not a very busy telephone exchange, there's only one LLU installed in it, but at least it is a good ISP's LLU, and I only live 500 metres from it.

    I receive on average near 20Mbps.

    I don't see what the problem is.


    If people want a good internet connection, don't choose crappy ISPs. Research them carefully, and don't go with one who advertise on TV. Keep in mind that "the more customers an ISP has, the worse the service provided by that ISP is going to be", it is a very handy rule of thumb.


    The only two pieces of information relevant to your broadband speed there are the proximity to the exchange and the fact that it is a quite exchange, your ISP has nothing to do with the speed as all the hardware is the same no matter who you pay for the use of it, rather like gas/electric/water supplies.

    If your mate living 3 miles from you had exactly the same hardware and ISP the connection speed would still be much worse due to the distance from the exchange.

  • Comment number 95.

    #86 Ewan said:

    "The access network is already capable of delivering massively more bandwidth to the end customer than the backhaul can support."

    If that were true, how is it that Virgin are able offer close to the advertised speed far more than anybody on else with a different access technology? Are you suggesting that Virgin have massively more backhaul bandwidth than BT? For your information, the main technology difference between BT and Virgin is in the access network.

    You also said:

    "All this focus on speed is meaningless - the only thing that a faster connection gets you is the ability to hit your cap and get throttled back even quicker than you do now."

    I disagree. The point you seem not to understand is that in broadband there is the access network, the core network (or backhaul if you like), and the content provider, each of which can affect the end user experience. BT and Virgin have rather similar core networks, but differ primarily in the access network, as I said above, BT employing ADSL/ADSL2+ while Virgin use a combination of fibre upto the street cabinet and coax into the home. For the most part, the bandwidth in the core network is adequate for both, thanks in part to contention ratios and all, and since BT embarked on its 21CN project. Shared bandwidth is an important concept in keeping consumer broadband cheap, because it's not economical reserving the max bandwidth for everyone at all times. Bandwidth is a scarce and expensive resource, so sharing makes sense because not everyone needs the maximum bandwidth at all times. Those who do, can expect to pay some significant amounts, like some businesses.

    Then there're content providers and smaller ISPs who buy bandwidth from network providers like BT and Virgin. If their link to the network provider is relatively small, then it matters less what speed or technology the consumer attempting to access the content is on. Content providers like the BBC and Google have massive pipes linking them to network providers and have things like edge servers splattered across the globe to ensure content is served to consumers from their closest location, which helps in freeing up that scarce resource bandwidth.

  • Comment number 96.

    @93 You are not comparing like products. You should compare the 'up to' 10Mbps offering from Virgin Media with the 'up to' 8Mbps ADSL offering.

  • Comment number 97.

    96. At 3:49pm on 28 Jul 2010, Laurence wrote:
    @93 You are not comparing like products. You should compare the 'up to' 10Mbps offering from Virgin Media with the 'up to' 8Mbps ADSL offering.


    ------

    I know, I wasn't intending to.

    Whilst you are correct in saying that their "Up to" 10mpbs product is comparable, you yourself stated that "We are now living with problems in the road infrastructure that will be faced by the broadband network in future if we don't learn the lessons of the past.", so people will need to take up the "up to" 50mpbs to stay ahead of those problems will they not?

    And prices of such pacakages aren't coming particularly down quickly are they?

    It's like I said, the newer faster products are always out of the reach of the average person whilst the affordable products barely cope with providing the service the companies advertise.

    Not only that but we come back to the problem of living in a non-cabled area, I myself live in an area without cable (as far as I am aware) so I'm forced to take ADSL and I was told I can get "up to" 3mbps (whichever company I went with) but I'm still paying for a package which is "up to" 8mbps. I should imagine that I'm not the only person who has a similar package.

  • Comment number 98.

    If that were true, how is it that Virgin are able offer close to the advertised speed far more than anybody on else with a different access technology? Are you suggesting that Virgin have massively more backhaul bandwidth than BT?

    No, I'm not. Virgin's core network is just as bad as BT's, if not worse. That's why they too have usage capping. You can run a Virgin connection flat out at it's advertised speed OK because the access network is, as you say, better. However if you actually try doing that for long you'll get artificially rate limited to stop you doing it any more.

    Take Virgin's 20Mb/s 'XL' package at one spot from the top of their range - if you download about three and a half GB (which is about three HD iPlayer programs, less than one DVD image, and about one third of a full HD feature film) they'll throttle you by 75% at which point your 'super fast' cable broadband runs slower than a decent ADSL link. If you're on the cheaper 'L' package (that's more comparable with the up to 8Mbit/s of ADSL) the limit bites at only one and a half gigabytes, so if you want to watch two iPlayer programmes in one evening, you can't do it without getting artificially limited to about 2.5Mbit/s.

    To look at that another way, a 20Mbit/s link shifts roughly 2Megabytes per second, at which speed it takes only 1750 seconds, or about half an hour, to hit that cap.

    So Virgin can deliver the speed, but only if you don't actually use it for anything. The actual amount of data they'll let you have is limited by the core network/backhaul, and you can comfortably shift that much data over a BT ADSL link too. It'll take a little longer to hit the cap, but that's all.

    These figures are all direct from Virgin at:
    http://allyours.virginmedia.com/html/internet/traffic.html

  • Comment number 99.

    @97: Indeed, but that doesn't change the fact that if you do have the choice to go to Virgin Media you can indeed get faster broadband (up to double according to the OFT) for the same price as your ADSL service. So yes, really, I'm getting faster speeds for the same price as ADSL.

    The 'premium' products will always be more expensive - the latest televisions which have the most up to date features typically always command a premium price - why should they not be? The basic offering from Virgin Media seems to do pretty much what it says on the tin (again according to the OFT), it's the ADSL companies which need to up their game plan.

    I'm surprised that Virgin haven't expanded into new areas quite as much as I would have expected them to, but I guess it's only time (and money).

  • Comment number 100.

    @99 Why don't Virgin expand?

    See the comments from the last time Rory raised this issue:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/rorycellanjones/2010/03/broadband_still_not_getting_th.html#P

 

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