Major change to way ISPs can advertise broadband speed

Major change to way ISPs can advertise broadband speed

Thursday, 23 November, 2017

A bombshell new ruling will force broadband providers to give customers better and clearer information about the home broadband speeds they should expect.

From May 2018 ISPs must give an ‘average’ broadband speed that half of new customers will be able to get at peak times, between 8pm and 10pm.

The misleading words “up to” will also be dropped from speed descriptions.

The ruling by the Committee for Advertising Practice came after years of negotiations between ISPs, Ofcom, industry bodies and consumer groups.

At the moment broadband providers like Sky, BT and TalkTalk are allowed to advertise download speeds that only 10% of customers will ever receive.

Comment: Why this ruling does not go far enough

“Up to” speeds are up and gone

Any audience familiar with cleaning products that “kill up to 99.9% of germs”, or a website promising you can “save up to £300 a year” is wary of the term, knowing “up to” can be anything from easily exaggerated to totally misrepresentative.

The casual reader may know that standard ADSL broadband – the oldest technology still on general sale – is listed as “up to 17Mbps”, while fibre broadband is usually sold as either “up to 38Mbps” or “up to 76Mbps”.

But as real-life estimates these speeds are vague and unhelpful.

Research by the Advertising Standards Authority for this ruling found that 75% of UK households are paying for broadband speeds they have never received.

Tom Rodgers, broadband expert at said: “We welcome the ruling as common sense but this clearly does not go far enough.

“There is no mention of minimum guaranteed speed, or guaranteed upload speeds which are important for everything from gaming to streaming to remote working.

“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.

“But there is only financial and political will standing between us and a much more transparent, open and honest system of advertising for broadband, an essential utility on a par with gas and electricity.”

Tom Rodgers author picture


Tom is a tech journalist and former Editor at