LONDON Thousands of Internet users are being
short-changed by Internet broadband connections that are slower
than advertised, Ofcom said on Wednesday.
The Consumer Panel, which advises communications regulator
Ofcom, said there was widespread discontent among computer
users that broadband can be frustratingly slow.
Panel chairman Colette Bowe called on Ofcom to establish a
code of practice giving customers more protection when they
sign up for a high-speed Internet package.
"This code would establish agreed processes to give the
customer the best information during and after the sales
process," she said in a statement.
The panel recommended that:
- Companies should contact customers two weeks after
installation to give them their actual line speed.
- Firms must allow customers who are unhappy with their
service to switch to a different provider or cancel their
contract without any penalty.
- The Advertising Standards Authority should work with the
industry to ensure that broadband commercials give more
prominence to the factors that affect speeds
Slow broadband can be caused by a wide range of problems
and is not always the fault of the service provider, Bowe said.
Speeds depend on everything from the telephone wiring and
quality of the line to the distance to the exchange. Viruses or
a poorly maintained computer can also slow the link.
The Internet Service Providers' Association, a trade body
which represents dozens of companies, including BT, Tiscali and
Virgin, said it already has a code of practice and complaints
"Every broadband connection's speed will be different," it
said in a statement. "Even neighbouring houses supplied by the
same provider can receive different speeds due to a range of
factors, including the wiring of the house and the amount of
cable for each house used in the local exchange."
It said consumers should never choose a service provider
based on price alone.
The government said last month that Britain's economy could
suffer if it fails to build an ultra-fast Internet network.
Minister for Competitiveness Stephen Timms held a broadband
summit to discuss how to upgrade the existing network, much of
which is based on old copper wiring.
(Editing by Steve Addison)