Call for broadband speed comparison checking sites

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Finding out exact broadband speeds can be hard work, said the Local Government Association

Consumers should be able to easily compare the maximum broadband speeds they could get at their home from various providers, councils say.

The Local Government Association (LGA) wants internet service providers to surrender accurate data about speeds to resolve the issue.

It says current methods only give an estimate covering hundreds of houses.

These can “vary significantly” from the speeds that a particular household might receive, it added.

‘Vital element’

There is no one place that consumers could go to get accurate side-by-side estimates of the speed an individual address might enjoy, the LGA said in a statement.

The only way that consumers could find this out, it said, was to carry out their own speed tests via the websites of each internet service provider (ISP) offering them a service.

This process, it said, added unnecessary time and complications for consumers.

“The quality of digital connectivity can be markedly different from area to area with some households being able to access superfast broadband speeds whilst others can only achieve substantially less, said Mark Hawthorne, head of the LGA’s People and Places board.

The LGA, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, said regulator Ofcom should have the power to make ISPs hand over information about address-level speeds.

This data, it said, could be used to monitor the accuracy of speed predictions and be given to third-parties so they can provide live data on household speeds.

The issue of obtaining more accurate data about broadband speeds is part of the Digital Economy Bill which is due to get its second reading in Parliament on Tuesday. The LGA said it supported the text in the bill that handed Ofcom powers to find better data.

“Good digital connectivity is a vital element of everyday life for residents,” said Mr Hawthorne.

Sebastien Lahtinen from the Think Broadband website said; “There is no question that more transparency about available speeds is good for consumers as it allows them to make informed decisions about providers.”

Often, he said, speeds to postcodes could vary because cable broadband was available only down one side of a road or because houses were linked to different exchanges.

He said one other issue that might arise was whether a headline speed was fit for a consumer’s particular needs.

For instance, said Mr Lahtinen, a line that can support 200 megabits per second (Mbps) but only for 80% of the day might not be right for everyone.

“For someone who relies on their broadband for working from home, this might well present problems and a stable 10Mbps service may be more suitable,” he said, “It’s not all about the fastest speed.”

The Digital Economy Bill also features plans to include the introduction of a legal right to receive a minimum download speed and automatic compensation for customers if networks fail.

It also introduces tougher penalties for nuisance callers and will force porn sites to ensure only adults can view their content.

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