Bulldog broadband speed claims rapped, but is it really their fault?

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The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has rapped Bulldog’s 8 meg speed claims because it says that a significant proportion of users can’t reach that magical number. The ruling stated that those living further than 3km away from an exchange would see a significant drop in speeds, to 5 meg or less at over 3.8km away, due to ‘unavoidable signal attenuation caused by line length and quality.’ That could affect up to 35% of the UK population.

The ASA took exception to the attractiveness of the offer than might not be achievable by a large number of people: “We understood that users of an up-to 8Mbps service could take advantage of capabilities such as video streaming, file sharing and online gaming but that there would be a noticeable degradation of quality of the service when speeds fell below 6Mbps.”

This issue is one that all broadband providers who rely on BT will face – BTs own service has the same problems. For example, I can supposedly upgrade to 8 meg but have been told I’ll only get 5. Other providers can’t improve upon the hardware they have to work with.

It’s also a little unfair, as some bloggers have pointed out, because other factors come into play, also under the control of BT and not the ISPs.

Nevertheless, the advertising needs to be made clearer so that people don’t think they’re getting a better service than their location allows.

Presumably if BT can get these issues sorted out (and let’s face it, 35% of the population is a large chunk to be capped at 5meg given the increasing reliance and usage of broadband) then all providers who rely on them will also benefit. Either that, or we’ll have to look to cable operators to provide the extra speed.

Andy Merrett