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Broadband Speed Advertising: stopthebroadbandcon.org

# 18 November 2010, 17:26 by cfteam

Virgin Media has created a campaign for transparency in advertising of broadband speeds with its website stopthebroadbandcon. It seeks to promote the view that broadband should be advertised on the basis of average broadband speed that can be experienced by consumers instead of the current practice of headline “up to” package speeds.

This is a side swipe at Virgin’s ADSL competitors. ADSL speeds are variable and often reduced by the quality of the copper wire connection, and distance from the exchange. Virgin Media’s cable technology is more consistent. Virgin Media’s recent advertising has extolled the virtues of its speeds being more consistent and faster for a given package type than its competitors citing the results of a July 2010 Ofcom survey. It seems this campaign is another step of consolidating that advantage.

Stopthebroadbandcon is an attempt to gain leverage with the Advertising Standards Authority, by encouraging the public to support the Virgin Media stance. The ASA is consulting on advertising methods for broadband speeds, and whether there should be a change to the advertising code. The ASA has perceived problems may exist with consumers being mislead.

Siince 2008 Ofcom’s Voluntary Codes of Practice for ISPs have promoted greater transparency for broadband services. Despite this we still see websites, including that of Virgin Media, promoting “up to” speeds rather than average. Many broadband providers that have signed up to the voluntary code do have average speed information, or line checkers available, but this is often concealed behind other links.

For many users, it is not just the standard speed that is important, but also whether that is at risk of being throttled back through traffic management systems. All too frequently such services are promoted as “unlimited”, but frequently unlimited is misleadingly meant as “always on” rather than the consumer’s expectation of “unlimited use”. Virgin Media is one of the greater users of such limitations.

Perhaps the issue is not as clear cut as Virgin Media would wish us to think?

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