Thursday, 4 May 2017

Even more confusion when picking a broadband provider

It looks like the rules for the way broadband (internet access) is advertised will be changing, again!

It is confusing enough, and I'll try and explain a bit here, but I wondered what the root of the problem really is, and whether the proposed changes will do anything to fix it, or, as I suspect, just cause more confusion...

What is changing?

The rules are being consulted on via ASA and CAP (here). The main proposal is something along the lines of showing the median (a sort of average) speed that people can get for a package. There are a lot of complications about what this means exactly and that is part of the consultancy. There are some alternative ideas like ranges of speeds. This is mainly for one-to-many adverts rather than individual forecasts for a specific customer address.

The upshot will be that instead of seeing "up to 80Mb/s" or "up to 77Mb/s" you'll see more like "average 60Mb/s" or "average 50Mb/s" even though we are talking about exactly the same service as now. The numbers you see are likely to be much more "all over the place" and vary per ISP.

You have to wonder why though... What is the issue?

The main issue I see is that people feel that they should be able to make some sort of informed decision about the service they buy. They understand price, but most people understand very little of the nitty gritty detail of what makes one ISP better, or worse, or just different from another ISP. People want a metric of goodness by which they can pick an ISP, and speed is seen as that metric.

Is speed a good metric for deciding an ISP?

Well, maybe. The problem is speed is a very complex metric. I go in to more detail at the end. Even in its simplest terms where faster is better that only applies up to the speed you might need. If the most intensive thing you do is live stream at HD TV, you do not need more than 10Mb/s. If you watch UHD, you may need a bit more. If several people in a house all watch UHD at once, a lot more. But for most people, once you are getting to speeds like 20Mb/s, really, for most things, faster is not a lot of help. There are exceptions, of course. Some things need downloads of large files (updated to devices, games, etc) rather than just "live streaming" like TV and the speed relates to how long that takes. As I try to explain later, the ISPs "speed" may not actually help with that though.

But yes, speed matters when it is low - if we are talking say 5Mb/s, or 1Mb/s, then you are going to find you are limited in things you can do. At low speeds there is no "live streaming video" for you and downloads can really take a long time. The problem is that these are never the "headline" speeds. Even basic ADSL2+ available almost everywhere can achieve over 20Mb/s of data throughput on a short line. The issue is not all lines are short, and so you may get lower speed. But that is something you find out with an individual forecast for your address/line, and not based on a one-to-many advert.

This means, for most people, the headline speed is not actually that much help as all headline speeds are generally more than most people need, and they may as well decide on price in most cases.

Even so, people will want "the best" - I would buy 80Mb/s not 40Mb/s, even though I have very little use for it. In fact, in my case, upload speed may matter more - uploading photos and videos. Upload speed is often not mentioned even.

Are there better metrics?

Yes, not that people are likely to understand, and that is the problem... In practice, one of the key factors in deciding which ISP, is deciding which technology is deployed by that ISPs. For a lot of people the choice will be between the many ISPs that can provide internet access over their phone line. Then, there is the choice of that being via a link to the cabinet (closer, faster) or to the exchange (slower). Sometimes there is a choice of cable (coax) or radio, or even satellite technology. That choice of technology matters. One of the biggest factors in the speed of your connection is that link on the phone line, or "last mile", and that will normally be exactly the same regardless of ISP if using the same technology. So in that way, the old "up to 8Mb/s" for ADSL1, "up to 24Mb/s" for ADSL2+, and "up to 80Mb/s" for FTTC were perfect. Everyone said the same speeds so the decision was slow, medium, or fast technology - people were picking technology without realising it.

There are many other differences, and mostly these come down to an idea of "quality". How congested is the network the ISP buys in, or runs, for back-haul? How congested is the ISP? How good are the ISPs connections to other ISPs and transit providers? What transit providers do they use? Sadly these are not something that lend themselves to a simple comparable number that an end user can see as "this ISP is better quality than that ISP". Hence speed being the thing, the only thing, the customers typically look at (apart from price).

Why is speed a bad idea?

A key problem with "headline" speed is that people really do not understand "up to" in this context. If you buy a car that says it can do "up to 100mph", you understand that when in a queue of traffic ahead you cannot do that, but you expect that, in the right conditions, you could do 100mph. Broadband feels like that, some times you download something slowly. You may stream video at a few Mb/s. But you assume that when you want to download something big you will get the top "up to" speed quoted. That is wrong, the "up to" is that some people get that higher sync speed and some people get lower sync speed, and what you get is what you get (baring improvements to wiring and fixing faults). People really do not understand that, and politicians have actually said they thing it is outrageous that 90% of people cannot get the "up to" speed advertised (after rules changed to not actually be the top speed, but 90th percentile). Personally I think it is crazy that a single person could get more than the "up to" speed advertised. The whole meaning of "up to" is "not more than". It is like people horrified that 50% of schools have a below average (median) performance rating. 100% will be at or below the "top speed" you can get and that is not outrageous, it is what "up to" means!

So people feel aggrieved that they do not get "the speed that was advertised", and no amount of "up to" or "not more than" will help with that. The change to 90th percentile meant pissing of only 90% of such people. A change to "median" will mean only pissing off only 50% of such people. It does not address the underlying problems. It still means a lot of pissed off people and politicians.

What is likely to happen now?

If the rules change to median, or something similar (per ISP) we will see more and more variation in the numbers quoted. When it was maximum the technology could manage, the same figure applied to all ISPs. When it depends on the ISP deciding or measuring a percentile it will be different per ISP.

One ISP has already started refusing to install lines that are going to be too slow (maybe they offer a "different package" for such people, or maybe not). The result is their median and 90th percentile speeds are higher as a result, and people think they are better. In truth the actual sync speed someone will get is not better on such ISPs than anyone else using the same technology.

It would be easy for us to have a "high speed internet package" that is only available on FTTC lines where you can get at least 70Mb/s, offering a different "standard internet package" to anyone that cannot get 70Mb/s. I can then advertise this "high speed internet package" as "average 79.82Mb/s"* when everyone else selling FTTC is saying "average 50Mb/s" or something. Buying from us (if you can get at least 70Mb/s) would get the exact same sync speed as anyone else as the modem is in BT even - but my advert would look "better"... We actually try to be more honest, and hence will lose out to such people.

* I checked, average sync speed of all lines we have 70Mb/s is 79.827Mb/s!

What can I suggest?

Ideally we need some clear way for people to be able to make that technology choice when one exists. That would be a good start, and ironically the old up to speeds (max sync speed possible) would do that as everyone would say the same figure for the same technology. That may be all we need, or if something else to then separate ISPs: a quality indicator by some independent metric. We also need ISPs to be honest on policies like traffic shaping, and CGNAT and IPv6 and so on, for the tiny percentage of people that understand those issues.

Obviously the technology indicator would be better if not actually stating a speed. A bit like 2G and 3G and 4G mobile. People have no clue what those terms actually mean, they just know 3 is better than 2, and 4 is better than 3. Ironically if we used such terms (ADSL1, as 1G, ADSL2+ as 2G, VDSL as 3G), etc, it would help, but new technology sometimes slots in the middle and breaks simple ideas like that. If we had industry standard agreed terms for such, that might help.

It would also help if terms like "fibre" were not misused. Actual fibre has speed and reliability implications where even a small amount of coax or phone wire can have issues. It seems the ASA may be turning the corner on that one.

Why is "speed" complicated?

This is where I get in to a bit more detail and try and explain some of the issues with quoting speed. Some of these are touched on in the consultation, but most are totally ignored.

The end user will see a "speed issue" in two main ways. One is if they are doing something like streamed TV and they get "buffering", where it pauses to catch up, or worse it refuses to play "live" but has to download first. Some services like Sky TV are quite good as the default is to download, but even then, if you have a fast link it will let you start watching right away, and if not then you have to wait for some download. The other main way people see issues is when downloading a file of some sort - e.g. some device upgrade, or game upgrade or something you have bought and are downloading, like an app. Some game upgrades are gigabytes in size and can take hours.

The buffering issue is a simple binary one in most cases, if your service is fast enough you don't see it, else you do. It depends on content, and actually services like netflix are clever, they do lower quality if you don't have the speed. So the issue is seen as lower resolution rather than pauses and buffering.

But in all cases the reason something may be slower than you hoped comes down to a lot of different factors. Just some of which are :-

  • Your device or PC may be old and slow. That is actually becoming an issue as PCs from only a few years ago simply did not expect to transfer data at the speed of modern lines. It will not be long before people have gigabit fibre links to their home and still have 100Mb/s connected machines, or 50Mb/s wifi, and a machine that cannot even manage that speed. We can't all afford the latest and fastest machines.
  • Sharing at your home/office - where other people are using some of that capacity, even when you do not realises. This is especially confusing when devices download upgrades by themselves and you, alone in the house, find things going slow when in fact the ISP is delivering a good service to your home.
  • You are using wifi - this is a big issue, and confused by the fact that wifi standards exist that even go over 1Gb/s. The exact type of wifi in your access point(s) and devices will impact the speed, and internet connections can be faster than your wifi could do, even in ideal conditions (especially if old equipment). This is compounded be people having a single wifi access point under the stairs that is part of the free router they got. A house of any decent size, or if it happens to be Welsh or Cornish (OK, not that fair, but they do seem to have a lot of places with stone walls!) will need more access points for good wifi coverage.
  • The modem itself - newer modems are better and get better speeds, but this is less of an issue these days as the chipsets have come a long way.
  • Protocol overhead - a tricky one as the protocol overhead is part of what is sent on the wire, so why not included in the speed. But people expect something that matches what their screen shows in terms of bytes per second, so people expect the protocol overhead to be removed when quoting a speed. Usually it can be worked out as a fixed percentage.
  • The line (coax or telephone wire) will be one of the biggest bottlenecks. Even when a fixed speed link on fibre, it is likely to be the bottleneck compared to your PC and the internet. When not fibre, it is one of the most variable issues between customers and hence the main reason for "up to" speeds. Other than faults, or bad internal wiring which can be fixed, you are mostly stuck with what your modem can achieve using the specific technology. VDSL (to cabinet) is better than ADSL (to exchange) where you have a choice (not actually always the case on some long lines). Fibre is better still.
  • Once we get passed the modem links, we are in to things which are not customer specific, but can be regional, and can be ISP specific - like congestion to your cabinet. Now, BT (Openreach) are pretty good on this, and ISPs can pay for better services (lower contention). We generally do not see this being an issue, yet.
  • Congestion on back-hail network - linking all these people to the ISP. This may be part of the ISP network or totally separate as a wholesale access network. This can have issues. Again, using BT and TT backhaul, any congestion we see is almost always temporary (waiting to upgrade a link) or a fault (which we chase to get fixed). Even so, the back-haul do not actually sell an un-congested service to us.
  • Congestion in to ISP - this is perhaps more of an issue as typically the link from back-haul to ISP costs by the capacity of that link. This means ISPs may well dimension their links so that at peak times the link is full, and then take steps to make it a fair way to access the internet without some people hogging all of that capacity. This makes for complex shaping systems.
  • Shaping systems within ISP to manage capacity and keep costs down.
  • Capacity within the ISP themselves - not so hard to get right.
  • Links to other ISPs and transit - this is usually less of an issue as such links are much lower cost.
  • Now we get to things that are well outside the ISP control, such as congestion on peering and transit links. We have seen on peering links, but not generally on transit links. Of course it is ISPs choice which links they have and how big they are.
  • The next ISP - the ISP of the service you are actually trying to access - they have all the same congestion, capacity, and shaping issues.
  • The end servers themselves, policy based speed controls. We have seen this on downloads where clearly a service has capacity, two downloads at once are fine, but all downloads are limited to, say, 10Mb/s.
  • The end servers themselves just over capacity - can happen and things get really slow. This can be noticeable in some game upgrades. It depends how it is done. There are content delivery networks which are really good at getting this right.
  • And finally, faults. The way faults are detected and managed is crucial. Lines can be slow because of a fault that needs fixing.
So, when someone sees something being slow, the actual slowness could be any or all of the above. Some are end users fault, and can be fixed (use ethernet not wifi, fix internal wiring, etc). Some are the backhaul provider (contracted by the ISP), and some are directly the ISPs "fault", but then a whole load are not the ISPs fault. They are "the Internet" which is a shared service at heart.

So, naturally, if an ISP quoting speed in an advert is trying to allow for not just sync speed but also some aspect of "peak time slow down" where do they draw the line? As an ISP I would say it is speed in our own network, and for that we, as an ISP, we (AAISP) don't have a "peak time slowdown" at all.

You then have issues of what happens when an ISP has a speed tester and deliberately prioritises traffic linking to that speed test...

See, it is tricky!

P.S. My son's view on this...

Don't allow one-to-many adverts to state a speed at all. They have to sell on something else. It becomes the razer blade adverts, 5 blades better than 4, obviously.

24 comments:

  1. The problem, I think, is that the "speed" is attached to the wrong thing - it isn't a property of the ISP, it is a property of your location combined with the technology being used.

    Say, for example, you have a hybrid car. The car manufacturer will tell you how many litres/100km of petrol you can expect to get when running the petrol engine, and how many Kw/100km of electricity it will consume when using the electric motors. But the petrol station will never advertise their petrol as giving you a specific efficiency and nor will the electricity supplier, because they can't know that (without tailoring the advertisement to specific people) in the same way that an ISP can't make general claims about connection speed.

    In the car example, the fuel supplier can give some rule of thumb indications, such as "electricity is cheaper than petrol", which is similar to an ISP saying "FTTC is faster than ADSL".

    So really, the speed figure should be attached to your house rather than the ISP - when you buy a house is should be advertised as getting X Mbps over ADSL, Y Mbps over FTTC and Z Mbps over coax, and ISPs should steer clear of giving sync speed indications beyond a "rule of thumb" ranking of which technology is usually fastest.

    There remains the question of how you advertise the speed of the ISP's internal network (i.e. how much of a bottleneck is it at peak times), but maybe this needs to be some vague "this is better than that" advertising rather than hard numbers, much like petrol companies advertise their expensive high-octane fuel as "better performance" without telling you just how much better it is.

    Another thing is that maybe variable pricing based on the sync speed would be sensible, with the option for the user to cap the connection at a lower speed at a lower price. If BT's wholesale prices were linked with sync speed it would encourage the line quality to be improved. Also, the user wouldn't feel like they were being ripped off if they were only paying for the 45Mbps they were able to get instead of the whole 80Mbps they can't get.

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    1. Good comments, except maybe the last bit. This is where user perceived value is very disjoin with costs - the technology at the end will have a cost (regardless of speed), and the capacity used results in a cost (i.e. total download, not speed). In fact, the long lines actually use more power at the exchange and so cost more than the short (faster) lines.

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    2. Long (slow) lines also have more scope for faults and so cost more to maintain. If anything, long (slow) lines should be more expensive than the short (fast) lines.

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    3. Fair points, although we already have multiple grades of FTTC at different price points (e.g. 40Mbps or 80Mbps). Although I don't know how BT prices them - I assume the wholesale price for 40Mbps is still cheaper than 80Mbps?

      Although long lines are more power hungry than short ones, I suspect the extra cost from that is almost unmeasurable, so the cost difference between short vs. long boils down to installation costs (possibly need to dig up more road in the first place, more conduit needed, more copper needed) and maintenance costs (more faults).

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    4. Yes, they are charging less for 40Mb/s - we made a choice not to charge differently to simply pricing (reducing the 80Mb/s pricing to that of the 40Mb/s pricing). I suspect maintenance costs are actually the main issue if someone did a study on it. BT charging differently for 40Mb/s or 80Mb/s is not actually because they have different costs though. Though, surprisingly, getting a 3dB profile on BRASs was a challenge at one point because of the power issue. We had not even thought about that.

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    5. One of the many problems about this scheme is that VDSL2 in the UK is a variable service EVEN on a specific circuit (phone line).

      Due to BT's utter incompetence we're pretty much the only country in Europe (not sure about Montenegro) which has deployed VDSL2 without vectoring. So as uptake increases then so does crosstalk between circuits in the same cable bundle - I know people who started off with attainable rates of over 100Mbps who are now lucky to get 60Mbps. My own attainable rate fell by 42Mbps on downstream (I was first on the VDSL2 cab) as more people subscribed to the service. I'm lucky that the neighbours only sub to a 40Mbps service otherwise I wouldn't be synching at 80/20.

      I do disagree with you on cost Adrian - long lines should be cheaper for data services and if they incur more faults then penalties should be applied to the incumbent teleco. If we do otherwise then there's no incentive for BT to do anything about those lines. However I appreciate that the port rental charges are a small part of your costs so there's limited scope for a "big stick" to beat BT with.

      I can't see the scheme making anything clearer for "Joe Public", it'll be more confusing not less.

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    6. Vectoring is in use I am sure. BT were doing stuff with that ages ago. As for costs - this is my point - people perceive more value in higher speed and so expect slower speed to be cheaper - the actual costs are more for longer and hence slower lines though (whether paid by us or openreach) - so there is this disconnect in perception and cost which will always create friction is not resolved. Imagine if line costs we per mile not speed related - would people understand that there could be a cost per mile? And I agree, this scheme cannot make things clearer at all.

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    7. Vectoring is not in use anywhere in the UK & I find it worrying you think it is.

      ECI cabinets do not support it (or g.INP) without a significant hardware upgrade (vectoring module which will never happen) and some of the Huawei cabs don't support it either without hardware revision (new rack/cards).

      Basically BT bought the cheapest VDSL2 kit available and its junk, as you'd expect.

      So ALL VDSL2 circuits in the UK are subject to degredation as uptake increases - as were ADSL2+ circuits but 2.2MHz bandwidth isn't as prone to xtalk at 17MHz bandwidth.

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    8. Not everywhere, but this article from 2015 says they are http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2015/06/bt-begins-uk-rollout-of-vectoring-to-fix-fttc-fibre-broadband-speeds.html and I know some competing telcos are as I heard of some turning on in their cab before BT and pissing BT off as "there can be only one" MSAN doing vectoring on a bundle and BT lost out on that one.

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    9. ...and also to be fair to BT there is the issue of LLU ADSL2+, which most other Euro countries don't have. That doesn't preclude vectoring on the spectrum from 2.2-17MHz however but as stated much of the kit BT bought simply isn't capable of vectoring.

      Gods help anyone dumb enough to buy g.fast services from them....

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    10. I suggest you go ask your BT contacts rather than refer to a 2 year old report on ispreview Adrian ;)

      I can ASSURE you that there is not one single BT VDSL2 cab in the UK running vectoring in 2017. It is not enabled.

      You may be thinking about g.INP which works on Huawei cabs but not on ECI - apparently BT are going to try (for the third time) to get it to work on ECI cabs this summer. Don't hold your breath on that....

      Buy cheap, buy twice - but BT don't care about that as the taxpayer paid for most of the crap they bought.

      I do have a passing familiarity on the subject of vectoring as I helped redesign the front-end of the (then) Alcatel-Lucent g.fast chipset 3-4 years ago ;) The maths are brutal...

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    11. We'll look in to it, but we do have an email from BT early 2015 saying "All Huawei cabs are enabled" and "come March time ECI should be too". We're emailing them to confirm.

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    12. Most products are priced based on what the customers will pay, rather than how much it costs to provide the product (you don't think that £600 iPhone actually cost twice the price to make then a £300 Android phone of equivalent hardware spec do you?). In fact, it's quite common for vendors to supply exactly the same product at a lower price-point with some features disabled - the production cost of the "fully featured" product is exactly the same as the "crippled" product, but it allows the supplier to fill a gap in the cheaper end of the market and inflate the price of the "fully featured" version a bit.

      In the general sense, ISP pricing has always re-enforced the "faster is more expensive" idea - back in the early ADSL days, most ISPs charged more for a 2Mbps line than a 512Kbps line; when FTTC was introduced most ISPs charged more for a 40Mbps FTTC line than 24Mbps ADSL2, more for 80Mbps FTTC than 40Mbps FTTC, more for FTTP, even more for a leased line, etc. I know that there are other things at play besides speed that makes some of the more expensive offerings "better", but the general trend has always been that you pay more for higher speeds so it isn't unreasonable for customers to think about it in terms of "pounds per Mbps" and feel ripped off when they feel that they are paying for 80Mbps but the ISP is only delivering 45Mbps.

      Certain ISPs have a history of advertising on somewhat dodgy grounds (BT advertising "unbeatable wifi signal" and such rubbish), which I'm sure does nothing to improve how ripped off people feel when they find that what the advert said actually isn't true.

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    13. Àctually I tell a lie - the cabs/exchanges involved in the "long-range" VDSL2 trial (like North Tolsta on Lewis) have vectoring enabled. Important to note that the cabs are Huawei and no LLU is involved - ie BT control every circuit.

      Apart from that vectoring on BT/Openreach VDSL2 in the UK doesn't happen.

      I was over in Ireland last year & saw a circuit there synched at 110Mbps down and 20Mbps up. Dunno about data rates but on synch they seem to just let it do "best efforts". Vectored of course and has been for years - if my circuit was vectored it'd be capable of 150Mbps aggregate between d/s & u/s.

      Oh and what happens to this new shiny advertising system when g.fast pops up? Its a TDD system rather than FDD so no frequency splitting for d/s and u/s - symmetry ratios from 90/10 to 50/50 are mandatory. What then?

      Do you actually do much/any advertising which involves specifying speeds anyway Adrian?

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    14. "We'll look in to it, but we do have an email from BT early 2015 saying "All Huawei cabs are enabled" and "come March time ECI should be too". We're emailing them to confirm."

      That's g.INP you're thinking of, not vectoring. ECI cabs still aren't enabled as of 2017 partly due to Lantiq chipsets being utter crap and partly because the majority of BT "modems" supplied prior to self-install don't work with g.INP & ECI/Lantiq MSANs.

      You might remember a lot of complaints about people losing around 10Mbps of sync speed? That was ECI cabs & BT "modems" in general.

      Vectoring isn't enabled.

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    15. Not really advertising speeds anyway. And looks like BT did trials on vectoring, but scrapped it as you say. They are being very misleading. They do have the retransmission on some though.

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    16. BT's "fix" for failing at vectoring is to drop the SNR to 3dB where possible. This will (in general) recover the sync rate initially achieved before xtalk on the cable bundle reduced the sync.

      However that's a bodge and isn't available to anyone on an ECI cab as it requires g.INP to be active on the circuit.

      Apparently Montenegro has vectoring but Macedonia doesn't so I did Montenegro a disservice.

      The only major teleco in the world to fail to deploy vectoring on VDSL2 in their home market is....yep you guessed it, our current incumbent. Institutionally incompetent, that's BT.

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  2. I would hope that ASA have provided CAP with real customer survey data indicating the actual customer concern.

    From my own experience/friends/etc I would say that people get most annoyed by two specific things:

    1) They sign up for a service with an advertised speed and then do not receive it due to "last mile" problems. Most often their line just cannot provide it; sometimes it is a fault. The solution to this seems to be for providers to be more diligent in making sure that the customer has received and understood the estimate for their specific line and making sure that a failure to achieve the speed in the estimate is regarded as a fault (and, ultimately, a reason to cancel the whole service if it cannot be provided as quoted). Yes, I realise this is probably unfair on the ISP but that is what people want to see.

    2) Contention issues where the line achieves the advertised clock speed but in practice streaming never occurs at that rate at popular/useful times. As you say, there are many potential reasons but what people want is that if the problem is the ISP failing to choose to pay for a low enough contention ratio (or any other problem within the ISPs control) then the ISP should not be able to advertise that speed. This feels like it is best addressed by requiring that ISPs quote a number that they can prove (from historical data) is being achieved as an actual download speed for real streaming by 90% of customers in the busy hour.

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    1. Interesting point on download speeds - though streaming is actually not the best one - you want to look at whether people do fill their lines to capacity by a large download at peak times. Interestingly, we have that data, on 100 second samples. We could actually look to see if there are times of day when nobody manages to fill a line to capacity (per carrier, per exchange, etc) as a clue that there is some congestion somewhere. What we usually do is look for packet loss or latency. If we did that though we could actually quantifiable say we are not slowing down at "peak" times, which would be nice to be able to say.

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    2. I wholeheartedly agree about "last mile" problems. I've always used the "up to" speeds solely as an indicator of the technology (ADSL, ADSL Max, VDSL, etc.) rather than a prediction of speed to my premises.

      But what gets up my nose is BT Wholesale's speed predictor for VDSL. It tells me that, assuming I have a clean line, I'll get 27 - 36 Mb/s. The "handback threshold" is 25 Mb/s, which I presume means if they can't achieve that then I can hand back the VDSL upgrade.

      I get 22 Mb/s VDSL sync speed :-(

      Ah, that's because they say I have an "impacted" line - "a line which may have wiring issues (e.g. Bridge Taps) and/or Copper line conditions." Predicted speed is 15 - 30 Mb/s for an impacted line.

      I can believe that there are copper line issues - my end of the line isn't even copper, it's steel - and it rusts. The Openreach guy who goes up the pole and tries to scrape the connection back to bright metal has told me this in the past.

      So, what I'd like is for BT to fix the copper line issue, so I have a clean line and faster VDSL. And this is when you discover that Openreach don't fix copper line issues - because they aren't classed as faults.

      So I don't really see the point of having "clean line" and "impacted line" figures. There's nothing a customer can do to move a line from impacted to clean*, so why not just give a speed prediction of 15 - 37 Mb/s ?

      (* Actually, I guess wirecutters could be the answer)

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    3. That is actually exactly what we do when we do the forecast for customers when ordering - range of lowest impacted to highest clean, simple as that. There is no point showing the other figures as they don't help a customer predict or then complain.

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  3. Just to show what a mess we are in - your average couldn't even be 79.82 Mb/s because sync speeds are not judged permissible in advertising! Overheads must be deducted, to gauge a "real" download speed. TCP or UDP payload are considered permissible.

    Source: I made a complaint to the ASA to test the waters and this was the outcome. "Experts" at Ofcom judged that on FTTC, 76 Mb/s was not possible with TCP but possible with UDP, therefore big ISPs ads were sound..

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    1. Ha, OK, but that is also rather crazy: Where do you draw the line. What about HTTP or email headers - do they count? What about sending an email encoded in base64 - does that count as a protocol overhead? It is simpler to use sync speed as anything else is a guess based on choice of specific overheads (or not even choice, what if IPv6 is used and that changes overheads).

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    2. Well, as I understand the consultation, they're gonna make ISPs run speed tests on users, in order to back up advertised speeds (24h average or peak-time). They need to prescribe some basics in this case... on overheads and a whole lot of other matters!

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