While a lot of the focus in the news was on the changes to the rules of data protection, another set of rules which may prove significant for consumers came in last month. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is cracking down on misleading claims about available broadband speeds. The rules currently only apply to home broadband providers, but businesses will likely be hoping for a similar change for commercial broadband speeds.
Previously, broadband providers could advertise “up to” speeds as long as a minimum of 10% of customers could achieve this speed during a time of peak demand from 8pm to 10pm at night. The new rules state that at least 50% of customers must be able to achieve these speeds – which is certainly an improvement but not particularly helpful if you’re in the other half of the population that doesn’t receive them.
The move should hopefully force broadband providers to change how they present their services to customers as people become more aware of the caveats hidden behind those “up to” claims. This would certainly be beneficial for businesses, who end up tied into contracts based on vague promises of a certain level of speed. As we move to greater accuracy on reporting actual speeds, it’s likely that providers will also focus on other areas to compete.
Reliability is an issue that concerns home and business users alike, and just as important – perhaps sometimes even more so – than broadband speed. Response times to customer issues will also play a role, as will the flexibility of contracts. Small businesses can end up tied into a contract which doesn’t leave them with the capacity they need to address growth, for example. It may have been great value for money for a small start-up of five people, but as a business grows, it becomes more data-hungry and that means you either throttle your existing speed or need to upgrade.
As a broadband provider, we’re happy about these changes because not only does it move the industry away from vague claims, but because it means people will be motivated to become more educated about different providers and what different service levels mean. Most people would rather see broadband speeds in terms they understand – it would be much more useful to know what a certain speed means for your home when you’ve got different family members accessing the same Netflix account, for example. Businesses would probably prefer a clearer picture of whether a speed allows them to leverage cloud or VoIP solutions without bringing their broadband to a standstill, or what happens in the event of an outage rather than some relatively meaningless numbers.
The changes from the ASA mean that the focus now will be on the range of options available, particularly for businesses, that weigh speed against other factors such as capacity, reliability and the service levels of the provider. We welcome the changes at Green Co because we’ve always approached our business this way. The more educated people are on these issues, the more we think they’ll see the benefits of a local, environmentally friendly alternative to the household names that many businesses believed was their only option.