Broadband guinea pigs wanted

UK residents annoyed about the lacklustre speed of their broadband connections will be able to put the lie to their ISPs' advertising claims under a new Ofcom scheme.

The regulator is looking for volunteers to install a box in their homes which measures actual connection speeds, which can then be compared to what providers say they provide.

A similar test of 1,600 homes last year found that average speeds came in at 4.1Mb, compared to the average advertised “up to” speed of 8.1Mb. Some ISPs fared better than others; Virgin topped the list with its "10Mb" broadband topping out at 8.7Mb.

Volunteers for the 2010 trial will have to install a “white box” from broadband researcher SamKnows.com in their homes. The device tracks speeds without tracking usage habits, Ofcom said.

Geeks will be able to use the boxes to monitor their own Internet performance. Interested UK broadband users can sign up at SamKnows here.