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Councils: Force broadband providers to open up address-level speed data

Tuesday, September 13th 2016 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Consumers should be able to easily compare what broadband speeds they can get at their property, councils have said.

At the moment, it is only possible to see postcode-level estimates of ‘up to’ speeds that can vary significantly from what people actually receive.

The Local Government Association (LGA) wants broadband providers to open up their data so consumers can see a side-by-side comparison of exactly what speed can be achieved at their address.

The association, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, says Ofcom should have the power to request address-level data.

Councils also want comparison websites to have access to live data on household speeds so consumers can make more accurate comparisons.

The Digital Economy Bill, which is having its second reading in the House of Commons today, includes new ‘information collection powers’ for Ofcom that will cover customer experience data as well as broadband line speeds.

The Bill will also give everyone in the UK the legal right to fast broadband and proposes automatic compensation for customers when things go wrong.

The LGA has previously called for the minimum broadband speed target set by the government to be flexible and for a change in the rules that allow providers to advertise ‘up to’ download speeds.

In order advertise an ‘up to’ speed, providers only need to prove that 10% of their customers can achieve it.

The association said these speeds don’t reflect the experience of many users, especially those in rural areas.

'Informed choices'

Councillor Mark Hawthorne, chairman of the LGA’s People and Places board, said: “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.

“We support the government’s aims to allow Ofcom to demand providers open up their premises-level data on broadband so that residents can more easily compare who will provide the best service to their home – not just their postcode, which can often be inaccurate.

“Our residents can only make the most informed choices if they have all the data at their fingertips in one place.”

Mark Collins, co-founder and director of strategy and public affairs at infrastructure provider CityFibre, said: "It must be remembered that all major consumer ISPs (internet service providers) except Virgin Media use the same digital infrastructure provided by BT Openreach.

"This means it is unlikely for those with slow speeds to be able to access much faster services without costly upgrades. It is only through digital infrastructure competition and ISPs selling services over pure fibre infrastructure that a step change in speeds will occur.

"We continue to believe that advertising guidelines could do much more to clarify the differences between gigabit capable pure fibre networks and the legacy copper-fibre hybrid networks we have become used to."

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