The fastest BT FTTC services used to be advertised as "up to 80M" (I think), and now it is advertised as "up to 76M". Why?
The answer is new rules that say that ISPs have to show that the speeds they quote can be achieved by at least 10% of customers.
Why is this? and has this new rule helped?
I have trouble understanding why this was an issue. I, personally, never had any issue with use of "up to". It is clear to me that it means a maximum. It means, in essence, that I would not get faster than that speed but could get anything that is slower, possibly much slower. After all, when we had 56k modems, did anyone ever see one sync at 56k? I never did, but did ASA get involved, no!
It seems that people would buy services "up to 24M" or some such, and then complain when they got 23M, or got 2M or whatever. The fact that some, indeed many, got the 24M, did not matter, as they "did not get what was advertised". I have actually heard people say that about their broadband (not with us), and get very puzzled when I try to explain what "up to" means, and that as long as what they got "was not faster" then they are getting the speed that was advertised. But then I never understand why I have to explain thermostats to people, either!
Surely the solution to this is education. To explain what "up to" means so that people don't misunderstand. There have been a load of sensible moves to ensure ISPs provide availability checks that give realistic ideas of speeds likely to be achieved. They even went as far as insisting a range of speeds is quoted. That is all sensible, and managing expectations. It does not help with BT charging ISPs for this data, but it is good for educating customers.
So, this move has meant, for example, the BT adverts I see on my blog saying "up to 76M" instead of saying "up to 80M". Clearly, assuming they picked this based on these new rules, that means 90% of people will get less than the advertised speed. So instead of being a nice round number and a reflection of the technology and the service behind it, it is now a less easy number that is slightly lower. Does that help? Also, all ISPs are affected, so it does not really make a comparison between ISPs any better. It is also true that the "feel" of an internet access technology will depend on a lot more than the raw speed of the "tail" link. It will depend on a lot of factors including stuff "in the Internet" and not down to the ISP at all. There are differences between technologies, such as the way DSL works, the way satellite links work, and the way cable services work, which have a major impact on the way the service feels, but are nothing to do with headline speed. These are what you really need when comparing ISPs using different technologies. These new rules do not help a jot with that.
So all this does, in theory, is reduce complaints to ASA by 10%. Does that actually help consumers? I think not. I think it makes matters worse.
What do A&A do? We don't say what speed the line can go up to. For a long time we used "not faster than", but we don't even say that now. In a technical description we do explain that FTTC technology (VDSL) can, in theory, do over 100Mb/s, but that *no* customers can get that as the service is available capped to either 80M or 40M. These caps are not variable or a grey area - e.g. everyone (who can get FTTC) can get a service with a 80M cap. Their service might be 30M or 20M (see the checker!), but the cap we are applying is 80M, not "up to 80M". We're not saying "up to" at all, we're saying "look at the checker for your number". So this means we have an 80/20M capped FTTC service which looks better than BTs "up to 76M" service, even though the last mile technology is exactly the same and a specific customer may only get 30M on either service. Madness. I am not going to say "up to 76M" on a service where any customer could get more than 76M as it would be a lie, and I don't lie in adverts.
Given how irrational the original complaint of "not getting the speed advertised" was, I wonder if we can start a campaign of new complaints. When someone buying an "up to 76M" service gets 80M, or anything over 76M, they should complain to ASA. The basis of the complaint? Well, that the advert is clearly wrong and clearly a lie as they get more than the "up to" rate stated. So if the advert is a lie, what speed are others getting. Is a customer that is getting 80M losing out because others are getting 90M or 100M. After all, the "up to" was a lie, so what else is a lie in the advert? It is totally irrational, but no more so than the original complaints, IMHO.
Anyway, just my opinion.