Broadband providers' 'misleading' ads exposed

Broadband customers of some of the UK's largest providers may only be getting a quarter of the speeds they are paying for, according to "shocking" new research from the communications watchdog.

Ofcom's fourth broadband survey found that speeds across a range of packages were on average 45 per cent lower than the headline speed advertised, even worse than six months ago. Where delivery involved copper wires the discrepancy was even greater.

For companies offering speeds of "up to" 20Mb and 24Mb over copper wires, the average for households was just 6.2Mb. BT, O2, Sky and TalkTalk all came off badly in the survey on these packages, which are taken up by 41 per cent of the country. Fewer than 3 per cent of those customers receive an average speed between 16Mb to 20Mb.

The Ofcom chief executive, Ed Richards, said the level of actual speeds was "a serious issue" and that it "flies in the face of common sense". He added: "The next big step is improving the clarity in the [broadband companies'] advertising."

The Advertising Standards Authority has called on the committees that set advertising standards to review practices surrounding broadband speeds. The consultation finished on Friday and results will be published in the coming weeks.

Ceri Stanaway, a broadband expert at consumer group Which?, said: "It is shocking these companies are still able to advertise speeds that almost none of the customers can get. People do find it misleading. The current situation is not working."

Internet service providers pointed out that their advertised speeds were clearly marked as "up to" with disclaimers that many customers' connections would not hit that level.

They argued that the service over copper wires was affected by how far customers were from the exchange, the data traffic, the time of day and interference in the home. BT said Ofcom's methodology in compiling the speeds for 20Mb was flawed.

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