OFCOM to tackle speed grievances

Posted by Karen on Jul 26, 2010 12:00:00 AM
When it comes to obtaining the right internet line for your needs, the speed of the connection is fundamental in the decision making process. Although any competent IT manager will not order a line offering 8 Mb/s download when in reality their company needs at least 12 Mb/s, many make misjudgements when faced with the cloudy issue of ‘up to’ speeds. Dissatisfaction felt by consumers and business at not receiving the speed of connection they hoped for, has led to OFCOM threatening tougher action on ISP’s who don’t fulfil their code of practice and precipitated a review into providers’ willingness to disclose estimate speeds. When working with a organisation to find a solution that best fits their objectives, it is the responsibility of each individual account manager to not only asses the services available, but also the external conditions that could affect the delivery of the service i.e the distance from site to   exchange and if available, information that may hint at the quality of the copper in the area (such as performance of existing lines). OFCOM’s intentions to enact measures that help ensure this process is undertaken are admirable, but emphasis on speed estimates could prove foolhardy. Although it is relatively easy to get an estimated line distance, there is no way of knowing 100% what speeds an individual customer will receive. If only a post code is supplied for example, one can only work out the straight line distance from the exchange and not take into account the path the copper will take. In addition to this, the infrastructure in the UK is by all means antiquated and so the true quality of the copper is never fully known. In this way anomalies will occur, with some sites exceeding expectations whilst inexplicably others will fall short of the predicted level of service. To introduce penalties on such an ambiguous area may be controversial.  This does not however suggest that providers should not actively work to meet client expectation. Although there is limited control over the line quality and length to a site, providers can ensure that every other factor is well covered.  By guaranteeing low contention ratios and adding resiliency to their network, internet providers can make sure that clients get maximum throughput and performance from the line and the best speeds achievable at their location. Shorter contract lengths, easy upgrade paths, or even migrations to different technologies or network carriers which some ISPs offer; also afford clients flexibility should a line fail to meet expectations. For an ISP to neglect to mention an estimate speed early in the quotation process may not necessarily be deliberately misleading to a business. In many ways estimates can actually cloud an IT manager’s judgement - pinning their hopes on a particular speed, when appreciation of all the determining   factors and eventualities helps set expectations better. OFCOM would be better placed working to ensure providers work transparently and consultatively and also that clients exercise proper due diligence.
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