You don't have to be a dyed-in-the-wool technophile to be feeling the pain from your broadband connection right now. The gap between advertised and actual speeds is getting larger as 8Mbps and ADSL2+ connections begin to proliferate the market and at last industry regulator Ofcom has had enough.
In a thinly disguised threat to UK ISPs Ofcom has warned service providers they must become more transparent about the real-world performance users can expect to attain from their package and - vitally - that should these expectations not be met a user must have the freedom to move to a lower (and cheaper) package.
"We would like to see Ofcom leading discussions with industry to produce an enforceable code of practice that would be mandatory for ISPs," said my new best friend Colette Bowe, Chairman of the Ofcom Consumer Panel. "This code would establish agreed processes to give the customer the best information during and after the sales process, and to give them flexibility to move freely to different packages that reflect the actual speeds with which their ISPs are able to provide them."
As part of the reforms any new broadband customer has to be given information about the realistic line speeds they are likely to attain (this is actually easily approximated based on information at a users local exchange, the number of other customers in the area and a customer's distance from their exchange). Furthermore, two weeks later the ISP must call the customer to inform them about the real-world speeds they are attaining and provide the option to freely switch services if the customer deems them unacceptable.
In sum, this is all long overdue. Broadband technology may well have revolutionised the Internet but as the market has become increasingly competitive ISPs have become ever more outlandish - and in some cases downright misleading - in their attempts to woo customers to their company or a more expensive package.
The gig is up service providers, time to reap what you sow…