Up To No Good

The speed of ADSL services is not an exact science. However, that does not stop ISPs trying to link speed with price, at least in the minds of customers. The problem is that whilst ISPs can do little better than offer services that might be best categorized as “quite fast”, “pretty fast”, “not as fast”, “faster”, “even faster still” or “give us a break, you cannot possibly want faster than this”, a consumer might reasonably want to know what speed they will get. Because an ISP is never very sure what speed the customer will get, any speeds quoted must be ballpark estimates. Except, they are not. Using a standard marketing ploy, ISPs have instead relied upon the up to formulation to explain what speed they offer. Up to 2Mb, up to 8Mb, up to 20Mb… everything is stated up to. Instead of being told what ballpark they are in, consumers are instead shown a map with a line showing how far the ball might go, if a steroid-taking Barry Bonds is at bat, he connects with a 100mph zinger, and has assistance from a hurricane-force tailwind. Now consumers are not daft. They know that using the words “up to” means they can guarantee they will never get more and probably can expect a lot less. The problem is there comes a point where a lot less is unacceptably less, especially if you can end up in situations where a service described as up to 8Mb might turn out to be slower than somebody else’s up to 2Mb service. In what is turning out to be an unusually busy Christmas period, the UK regulator, Ofcom, has responded to its consumer panel (a bunch of people asked to think on behalf of consumers because presumably consumers cannot think for themselves) and agreed there may be a need to intervene and do something about it. Ofcom is not entirely sure what it should do about it, but is keen to do it anyhow. BBC News came up with a concise explanation of the story you can read here or see here. Those of you who prefer to check your own facts, can see the letter from Ed Richards, Ofcom Chief Exec, to the consumer panel here.

Of course there is one number associated with broadband that is never stated as up to. That is the price. I wonder how much disgruntled customers would pay if it was left up to them to decide…

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is the Editor of Commsrisk. Look here for more about the history of Commsrisk and the role played by Eric.

Eric is also the Chief Executive of the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG), a global association of professionals working in risk management and business assurance for communications providers.

Previously Eric was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and he has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and other telcos. He was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.