UK to crack down on slowpoke ISPs

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UK to crack down on slowpoke ISPs

Deliver minimum speeds or customers can walk.

Internet users in the UK could soon be allowed to exit contracts without penalty if their service fails to live up to the advertised connection speeds and throughput.

Regulator Ofcom is considering new rules whereby ISPs would have to tell customers the minimum speed they could expect, before selling them a broadband service.

They would then need to deliver the advertised speeds.

Customers would have the right to exit their broadband contract without penalty if actual download speeds fell below the minimum guarantee for three consequtive days, intermittently or continuously, and if they failed to rectify the performance problems within 30 calendar days, Ofcom suggested.

"For most people, a reliable broadband connection is a necessity - so when they don't get what they’ve paid for they should always have a quick and easy way out of their contract," Ofcom's chief executive of citizens advice Gillian Guy said.

"These changes are an important step in giving consumers more power to hold their broadband provider to account for poor service."

Ofcom's move comes as a debate on similar accountability measures is occurring in Australia.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has embarked on several initiatives this year to ensure subscribers get the level of broadband service they pay for.

In August, the ACCC published guidance for ISPs on how to market broadband services to consumers.

The guidelines state ISPs should clearly identify typical minimum speeds during peak hours in their marketing material. 

ISPs should also create a standardised labelling system that covers the speeds available on different plans during the evening, for easy comparison.

The ACCC's move follows a rise in complaints about broadband performance lodged with the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO).

The ACCC is also in the process of setting up a long-awaited broadband speed monitoring scheme after four years' of deliberation and fierce resistance from telcos and internet providers.

It has threatened to haul ISPs before the courts over slow connection speeds.

NBN Co has also been under pressure in recent months to publish a database of attainable line speeds on its network, but has so far resisted calls to do so.

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