Anyone with cell phone or cable service knows that the transfer rates they advertise to get you to sign up (up to 100 Mbps download!) almost never match what you get in the real world. That is why they use those magic words “up to” since it allows them to say to you that they never promised you would get those actual speeds, even if they charge you extra for them.
As this article I ran across today notes, the UK is taking steps to give its citizens some recourse if the speeds they advertised to sign you up for that contract fail to materialize:
Internet users are to be granted more rights on connection speeds as [the UK] imposes tougher rules on how ISPs advertise broadband services.
The proposals give consumers the right to exit contracts penalty-free if speeds fall below a guaranteed minimum.
[British government regulator] Ofcom says there is a mismatch between what is advertised, and the speeds customers receive.
But experts say speeds are affected by different factors, and are not strictly a measure of connection to a device.
A public consultation is currently being conducted until 10 November.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of [the consumer advocacy group] Citizens Advice, said: “Many people seek our help each year because their slow and intermittent broadband service falls short of what their contract promised.
“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.”
She said: “These changes are an important step in giving consumers more power to hold their broadband provider to account for poor service.” Ofcom’s existing broadband code of practice requires ISPs to provide consumers with an estimate of the internet speed they can expect from their service.
If the proposed rules pass consultation, broadband providers will need to be much more specific about the speeds customers will receive and will have to set a guaranteed minimum speed for each package.
This could mean current estimates of “up to 17Mbps” become “a minimum of 10Mbps”.
If the speed falls below the guaranteed minimum, under the new rules, the ISP will have one month to fix the problem, and if it cannot be fixed, the customer can terminate the contract without penalty.
With that simple change — changing the words “up to” to “a minimum of” the ISPs would be forced to account for the actual speeds you get on your service.
So what are the chances of these types of rules being forced on similar companies in America?
Don’t hold your breath. As you can see from the screen cap graphics from OpenSecrets.org accompanying this article, the telecom industry gave just under $26 million in political contributions to candidates for federal office in 2016 alone, almost evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.
In Washington money talks, and the telecoms are in the drivers’ seats on Capitol Hill until we consumers get our act together and decide to hold both parties accountable for the ways they allow cable and cellular companies in this country to saddle Americans with some of the most expensive service in the world for the least amount of reliable bandwidth.