Networking

UK ISPs must give customers 'minimum guaranteed speed' when they purchase broadband

New rules from Ofcom aim to add transparency to internet service performance before a user signs a contract.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • In the future, Ofcom will require UK broadband providers to give a minimum guaranteed speed to a potential customer at the time of sale.
  • Ofcom will require ISPs to provide realistic speed estimates, even during changes that may occur in peak time.

UK broadband providers will be required to give potential customers a "minimum guaranteed speed" and clearer expectations around future performance, according to new rules announced in a press release from communications regulator Ofcom.

The rules, which go into effect March 1, 2019, will go a long way to increasing the transparency of service contracts that users and businesses sign with ISPs. What's more, the rules note that if the guaranteed speed drops below a certain level for longer than one month, the customers will be able to walk away from their contract without any financial penalty. Currently, broadband customers can walk away from their contract if speeds fall below a threshold and can't be fixed, but the provider has no time frame for when the fix must be completed.

This new right to walk away extends to any TV service or landline phone service that may have been purchased as part of a bundle from a provider, the rules said. "So, customers won't be tied to a TV contract bought at the same time as their broadband, if speeds fall short of what was promised and they decide to leave," the release said.

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"These protections will close the gap between the broadband speeds people are sold, and what they actually receive," Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom's Consumer Group director, said in the release. "And to give people extra confidence, we are making it easier to walk away—without penalty—if companies fail to deliver."

In addition to the minimum speed disclosure, providers must also provide realistic data on peak time performance at the time of sale. Broadband service often takes a hit during busy periods of the day, the release said, and consumers must be informed of when their service performance may suffer.

The new rules are part of a greater movement by Ofcom to "give people more confidence when choosing their broadband company," the release said. Ofcom has also revealed the best and worst providers in the area, strengthened rules for providers, and added compensation for users in the event something goes poorly, the release said.

Until the new rules get put into practice, users can brush up on their knowledge of UK speed codes here.

As noted by our sister site ZDNet, 24 Mbps or faster internet is now available to more than 95% of UK homes and businesses. Still, the UK ranked no. 31 in the world for broadband speed.

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/IR_Stone

About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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