British ISP accuses Ofcom of exaggerating the UK’s broadband progress

Ofcom is exaggerating the progress that is being made with the UK’s broadband speeds – that’s the accusation levelled at the watchdog by a British ISP.

This all stems from the story we reported on yesterday, whereby Ofcom declared that the UK had moved up the European rankings, and in fact was now top among the “EU5” (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK) in terms of take-up of superfast broadband, and overall superfast coverage.

However, fibre provider Hyperoptic, or more specifically its Managing Director, wasn’t overly impressed with Ofcom’s findings.

Dana Tobak told PC Pro: “It's very easy to just put out a number saying average speeds are 'x', but how does it actually apply to people's experiences? If you’re on ADSL, speeds aren’t going up.”

It’s a fair point – and as we’ve pointed out ourselves on numerous occasions, the gap between the UK’s broadband haves and have-nots is still very much a chasm. And the have-nots on ADSL in the middle of the sticks may still have to deal with a 1Mbps connection which is touch-and-go at times.

He added: “I think it’s valuable that there are places that are being exposed to faster speeds of broadband, but I just feel like inherently it’s overstating the progress that we’re making.”

Tobak also noted – as we also mentioned in our report yesterday – that a lot of the average speed boost is down to Virgin Media cranking up its fibre packages (which are now at 152Mbps on the top tier) and not charging customers for these upgrades (so they’re all going through to every line, obviously enough).

Tobak also took issue with the comparison to the EU5 nations, and not Europe at large, another point we made in our report yesterday. We noted that clearly there are European countries still well ahead of us in terms of broadband, such as the likes of Scandinavian nations and the Netherlands, not included in Ofcom’s latest Euro broadband analysis.

Boris Ivanovic, Chairman of Hyperoptic, also stressed the disparity between Ofcom’s official broadband speed figures and other sources. He said: “There is a disconnect between these average speeds reports, with Ofcom now putting it at 17.8Mbits/sec while Akamai is measuring at just 9.1Mbits/sec.”

Ofcom is apparently due to respond to Hyperoptic later today. We’ll be very interested to hear what the watchdog has to say.

Hyperoptic, incidentally, is no stranger to fast speeds – in fact the ISP came first in our UK broadband showdown 2014 feature, which measured and ranked the fastest top ten providers.

UPDATE 16:30: Ofcom has responded to us with a statement. A spokesperson said: "Our research into broadband speeds in the UK provides an accurate reflection of users' actual experience. Our robust methodology involved collecting 735 million test results from a panel of 2,391 UK residential broadband users. The panel is selected in order that it is representative of the UK population as a whole."

"Increasing take-up of superfast services, including cable, is reflected in the overall improvement in average speeds. The report also transparently presents the variations in average download speeds achieved in urban, suburban and rural areas."

And on the topic of the latest EU (broadband scorecard) report, the spokesperson added: "The charts in the Scorecard focus on the UK's position relative to the EU5 because the factors that affect the development of broadband networks – such as geography, population size and density and legacy infrastructure – differ significantly between the [then] 27 EU Member States. For this reason we consider it more appropriate to compare the UK's broadband network with those in other major European economies than with those in all 27 countries."

Image Credit: Adrienne Serra