Press Missing the Point over Ofcom's Broadband Findings

I awoke this morning to find my bed-side radio, which is usual tuned to be Radio 4, informing me that UK broadband users are being swindled. The nasty terrible Internet Service Providers are over selling their products and the whole industry was guilty of mis-advertising.

I then went downstairs, and BBC breakfast news continued to tell myself and the British public they were being ripped off. Not that I watch BBC Breakfast News for it quality output or noteworthy delivery of journalist content, you understand. But I do like to start the day with a good old rant and shout at the screen, and I find that the moronic BBC presenters on this show generates the correct amount of hostility. (This is opposed to ITV’s breakfast telly, which usually results in me destroying the TV set).

Ofcom comes up with its report into advertised broadband speeds and actual user experience, and the pessimistic press suddenly appear to tell us all we have a significant consumer affairs issue. They only focusing on the bad aspects of the report, and make out that it’s the telecommunications industry’s fault that Mister Joe Public can’t download his porn in double quick time.

I totally disagree with the way that this issue is being reported. There are various things that are set out in the Ofcom report, which I have read in detail, that seem to be missing from the popular press' coverage. In the interest of fair-play, I would like to offer some kind of balance, by pointing out some of the findings overlooked by more sensationalist outlets:

Residential super-fast broadband and high speed Internet is on the increase. By quite a lot. To quote directly from the report:

"...test data suggests that average download speeds in the UK increased by 5% between May and November/December 2010, this following an increase of 27% between April 2009 and May 2010."

[Point 1.5 -]

Shouldn’t we be applauding this? I bet telling people that they are better off than they used to be, doesn’t sell newspapers or keep viewers/listeners engaged.

My second gripe is with why an “Up to” advertised speed is such an issue. I’m an intelligent man. I know that if someone quotes a figure and it is prefixed with the words “Up to”, I know that they are talking about a range from zero to that number. In a similar way, if someone is advertising a product at “prices from”, I understand that this is going to be the minimum price and I am unlikely to buy the product at the price. It is a guide. I agree with Ofcom’s recommendation that a Typical Speed Range (TSR) should also be included in advertisements and sales literature, to give an indication of what an average user experience will be. But again, the end consumer needs to realise that this is still just a guide. That’s why telecommunication links are always sold “subject to survey”.

It is going to be a long time before we get to accurately quote actual line speeds for all users, as ranges of line quality and distances from exchange vary from property to property, region to region and technology to technology.

The press coverage also focuses on the bandwidth speed only. There is no mention of service availability/stability, price, latency/delay or customer service. All of these things are important factors when deciding on a broadband provider.

So….to summarise….things aren’t all bad….users should wise up….the press should be more positive and stop scaremongering….and life may end up being a little better for everyone.

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Dave’s Downtime @davesdowntime