Comment: Changes to broadband speed advertising not enough

Comment: Changes to broadband speed advertising not enough

Thursday, 23 November, 2017

By Tom Rodgers, broadband expert at

The CAP ruling is welcome news for an industry wracked by a lack of transparency over broadband speed.

The main beneficiaries will be the millions of customers every year who buy broadband, of whom 90% will never see it reach the speed they were sold.

This is not exaggeration. This is simple fact. Current advertising rules on broadband speed state that advertised “up to” speeds need only to be available to 10% of customers.

This failure to properly regulate has lead to widespread confusion over broadband speeds and a huge lack of trust between the customer and the ISP.

This, in turn, has created a customer base that knows neither what they’re buying nor what to expect.

We know broadband is one of life’s essential utilities, just like gas, water or electricity, and yet there is such disparity between what companies are allowed to advertise, and what most people will actually get.

In changing the rules so that at least 50% of customers at peak times must get the download speeds being advertised, and ISPs must describe them as ‘average’ speeds, not ‘up to’, the CAP has struck a blow for common sense.

We think this change will force providers to compete properly on speed, which will result in more meaningful comparisons and a better deal for the consumer.

We hope it will mean that average broadband speeds for products across the range are updated much more frequently.

However, we believe that the ruling still does not go far enough.

There is no mention of guaranteed upload speeds. In a world where the average household not only plays games and watches TV online, but many millions are working from home, videoconferencing on Skype, or livestreaming, reasonable upload speeds are vital for accessing everything the internet has to offer.

In July 2017 the German telecoms regulator Bundesnetzagentur (Federal Network Agency) tightened the rules so ISPs could only advertise the minimum, normal and maximum speeds that customers can expect.

German ISPs must ensure

  • The customer’s broadband speed never falls below the stated minimum
  • The ‘normal’ speed is available at least 90% of the time
  • Every customer gets 90% of the maximum broadband speed at least once

There is no reason, other than the political and financial will to do so, that UK ISPs could not perform to this level of transparency.

Only when ISPs are ready to really open up about broadband speed will customers get the deals they truly need and deserve.

Tom Rodgers author picture


Tom is a tech journalist and former Editor at