Broadband speed victory for Which?New broadband speed rules come into force

04 December 2008

Broadband internet service providers (ISPs) must give customers a true picture of likely broadband speeds at the point of sale, following a new broadband speed code of practice that comes into force tomorrow. 

The voluntary broadband speed code of practice was put into place by telecoms regulator Ofcom, following Which? research into internet speeds in 2007 that revealed huge gaps between advertised and actual broadband speeds. 

For example, Which? found that customers in its broadband speed trial who were promised broadband speeds of up to 8 megabits per second (Mbps) actually achieved 2.7Mbps on average.

Broadband speed code details

The voluntary broadband speed code is designed to provide greater clarity for consumers and and reduce the potential for broadband consumers to be misled over the speeds they will be able to achieve from their broadband service.

Under Ofcom's broadband speed code, broadband ISPs must:

  • give broadband consumers an accurate estimate of the maximum internet speed that their phone line can support at the point of sale.
  • explain clearly and simply how technical factors may slow down broadband speeds and give help and advice to consumers about what they can do to improve their broadband speed.
  • offer an alternative broadband package (if there is one) without any penalties, if the actual broadband speed a customer is able to achieve in practice is a lot lower than the original broadband speed estimate.

The code also covers broadband fair usage limits, which may restrict usage on broadband packages that are advertised as having unlimited download and upload usage. Broadband ISPs must explain fair usage policies clearly and alert consumers when they have been breached.

Is your ISP covered?

Broadband internet service providers covering more than 95% of broadband customers have signed up. These include major broadband providers BT, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and AOL, as well as Which? Best Buy broadband ISPs Zen Internet and Be.

A full list of ISPs that have signed up to the code can be found at

Ofcom Chief Executive Ed Richards said: 'Ofcom welcomes the fact that so many ISPs have signed and now implemented the Code of Practice. Over 95 per cent of broadband customers are covered by the Code which means that the vast majority of people should be confident about the advice they receive on broadband speeds.'

Which? broadband expert Ceri Stanaway says: 'Given the alarming discrepancies between promised and actual broadband speeds that we found in our research, it's great news that Ofcom has taken our concerns on board and put in place this broadband speed code so that people at least know what to expect from their broadband service. 

'In a more recent broadband survey, when we asked people what frustrated them most about their broadband service, slow or inconsistent broadband speed was their biggest bugbear.

'It's worth bearing in mind that this code is voluntary and we're pleased to note that Ofcom will be monitoring compliance with the broadband speed code over the next six months to ensure ISPs that have signed up honour the code, and hope it acts swiftly to put regulation in place should it prove necessary.'

Which? broadband advice

For more on broadband speeds, take a look at the Which? guide to broadband speeds. And if your ISP's not up to scratch - for speed, customer service, or any other reason, the Which? broadband review can help you choose between the minefield of broadband providers out there.

If you're unhappy with your broadband speed, take a look at our guide to making a complaint.

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