Home » Help » What does Ofcom’s Broadband Speeds Code of Practice mean for consumers?

What does Ofcom’s Broadband Speeds Code of Practice mean for consumers?

What does Ofcom’s Broadband Speeds Code of Practice mean for consumers?

Tuesday, 12 March, 2019

Regulating the internet is a thankless task, considering its significance to consumers and also the complexity of distributing data.

Unless you’re signed up to fibre broadband, your internet connection is piped down a telephone line – a cable which was never designed to carry high-speed data transfers.

It’s perhaps remarkable that our internet service providers (or ISPs) are so successful in delivering data to us, given today’s spiralling data requirements.

Even so, there are regular complaints about broadband service, and in particular line speed – or the lack of it.

That’s why industry regulator Ofcom has published several guides explaining what the public is entitled to, in its clumsily-titled Broadband Speeds Code of Practice.

The 2019 revision of this report was published a couple of weeks ago, acknowledging recent changes in broadband advertising and recommending best practice for ISPs.

Which ISPs have signed up?

Companies signed up to the Broadband Speeds Code of Practice include the UK’s ‘big six’ providers – BT, EE, Plusnet, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin.

Local providers including KCOM and Lothian Broadband are signatories, while companies piggybacking on existing provider infrastructure will also be covered.

(For instance, John Lewis Broadband customers are really using Plusnet’s infrastructure).

That means 95 per cent of the UK’s broadband customers are covered by Ofcom’s code of practice.

If a prospective broadband company hasn’t signed up, it’s worth asking why.

What does the scheme require ISPs to do?

From the first of March this year, signatories to the Broadband Speeds Code of Practice are committed to implementing the following policies within the next twelve months:

  • A guaranteed minimum speed
  • More accurate and realistic peak-time line speed estimates when people sign up
  • Recognition that peak speeds (8pm to 10pm) may drop under heavy traffic loads
  • Representative upload speeds provided in point of sale literature
  • The right for consumers to leave their agreement if this guarantee is broken
  • Extending similar provisions to bundled products, including triple-play or quad-play
  • No more than 30 days for ISPs to improve line speeds before customers can leave
  • Clear instructions for exiting a contract in customer literature and/or online
  • Extending the Code of Practice to cover all connection types.

What does all this mean?

Ofcom’s ultimate objective is to give people accurate information about achievable broadband line speeds, so they can make informed decisions.

Consumers will also be able to walk away from a contract more easily if their line speeds don’t live up to expectations.

There’ll be no penalty for leaving a service which hasn’t delivered advertised line speeds.

That 30-day cap ought to prevent people being trapped in an endless loop of testing and complaining, without achieving a satisfactory resolution (or level of service).

And crucially, these provisions now apply to full fibre and cable services, rather than simply Openreach customers on sluggish copper connections.

Neil Cumins author picture


Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!

News What's the story?

Keep up with the latest developments in UK broadband.

The new homes with 1GB broadband connections

The new homes with 1GB broadband connectionsThe new homes with 1GB broadband connections Read more

What are ISPs and internet services doing to help during the Coronavirus crisis?

Total lockdown expected - can ISP’s and internet services offer any help?

Read more

BT confirm Gigabit broadband!

BT confirm the launch of their Gigabit home broadband package for Spring 2020!

Read more

Tips for home working during Coronavirus outbreaks

Read more

Help Learn with us

Make the most of the internet with our broadband library.

Why Connected Home over IP will change our lives

Why Connected Home over IP will change our livesWhy Connected Home over IP will change our lives Read more

Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant?

Read more

Protecting your content from plagiarism and reuse

Read more