Ofcom has called for a ban on internet service providers (ISPs) advertising misleading broadband speeds.
Research by the regulator has found that the average download speed remains less than half of 'up to' speeds advertised by some ISPs, especially when data is sent through older style copper lines.
The average broadband speed increased from 5.2 MB (May 2010) to 6.2 MB (November/December 2010) but was less than half (45%) of the average advertised broadband speed of 13.8 MB
ISPs advertise their broadband services with 'up to' speeds, but these are often difficult to receive as a number of factors, such as location and wiring, dictate the speed of broadband connections.
The Advertising Standards Agency is looking into the matter, with a view to issue new guidance to the industry to ensure customers can compare services effectively.
Ofcom is recommending that if speeds are used in broadband advertising they should be based on a Typical Speeds Range (TSR), so consumers have a clearer idea of what speeds to expect.
Ofcom has also recommended that the TSR must have at least equal prominence to any maximum 'up to' speed, and that a maximum speed must be used only if it is actually achievable in practice by a minimum number of consumers.
"It is important that the rules around broadband advertising change so that consumers are able to make more informed decisions based on the adverts they see, and that advertisers are able to communicate more clearly how their products compare to others in the market," said Ofcom chief executive, Ed Richards.
In the tests, a number of providers fell well short of their 'up to' speeds.
BT's 20Mbit/s service offered average actual speeds of 6.9Mbit/s to 8.7Mbit/s, while Sky delivered average speeds of 7.4Mbit/s to 8.8Mbit/s on its equivalent service.
Where newer technology was used, results were better.
Virgin Media's cable and fibre service delivered impressive speeds, with its 'up to 20Mbit/s package delivering an average of 17.4Mbit/s to 18.6Mbit/s.
Its 50Mbit/s package delivered average speeds of 43.9Mbit/s to 47Mbit/s.
Ofcom has also responded to the consultation on the use of the term 'unlimited' in broadband advertising. Ofcom recommends that this term only be used when a service has no usage caps implemented through a fair usage policy.
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