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The State of UK Broadband — Not So Fast

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the but-you-have-actual-competition dept.

Communications 279

Barence writes "The deplorable speed of British broadband connections has been revealed in the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics, which show that 42.3% of broadband connections are slower than 2Mb/sec. More worryingly, the ONS statistics are based on the connection's headline speed, not actual throughput, which means that many more British broadband connections are effectively below the 2Mb/sec barrier. Better still, a separate report issued yesterday by Ofcom revealed that the majority of broadband users had no idea about the speed of their connection anyway."

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Fast enough... (-1, Offtopic)

F34nor (321515) | more than 4 years ago | (#25897649)

...for a FP?

Re:Fast enough... (5, Interesting)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 4 years ago | (#25897869)

Better still, a separate report issued yesterday by Ofcom revealed that the majority of broadband users had no idea about the speed of their connection anyway.

Maybe because at the moment there are very few applications of an Internet connection for which you'd notice the difference between 1mbit and 10mbit.

Unless you are a habitual downloader (a group statistically overrepresented here on Slashdot), you won't notice any difference to your web and email by moving above 1mbit. Hell, with the intelligent buffering that most video sites have, it's likely that you wouldn't even notice the difference on those sites unless you're really paying attention.

So cut it with the "we need faster broadband" BS. What we need before a 100mbit pipe is a legislative framework that ensures that consumers can actually use that 100mbit pipe without getting shagged six ways from Sunday by their ISP.

I'm looking at you, Telstra.

Re:Fast enough... (4, Interesting)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898093)

True - but then us corporate users who transfer sales & backup data between offices overnight *do* notice the problem.

Our new HQ is quite a long way from the exchange so we struggle to get above 4Mbit/sec anyway - but that's a side issue.

We have 30 satellite offices each running 1-8Mbit connections and we can get the data in overnight but if we wanted anything more 'real-time' we'd have to go fibre - and then we're talking something daft like a 10KGBP+ install to 'upgrade' to a whopping 10Mbit connection *PER SITE* - or get the connections cheaper in return for a long-term contract. Then, you'd need to factor in the monthly rental charges.

Overall, ADSL does what we need - slowly - but the price differential to the next possible speed solution is out of all proportion to the benefits.

Re:Fast enough... (1)

sticky_charris (1086041) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898151)

We do something similar using rsync over VPN connections to backup data. It is managing just now on the mediocre ADSL connections but the office is starting to scan and store a great number of documents and this could be a problem. A faster upstream speed will soon be required.

Re:Fast enough... (2, Insightful)

Phil John (576633) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898341)

You could always look at bonding multiple ADSL connections together.

Re:Fast enough... (4, Insightful)

blueZ3 (744446) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898149)

Better still, a separate report issued yesterday by Ofcom revealed that the majority of broadband users had no idea about the speed of their connection anyway.

My bet is that these are closely related. If consumers knew about their comparatively low speed connection (i.e., knew enough to know they should care and how to figure it out) then they'd be pushing for faster speeds. They'd leave providers who are providing "slow broadband" and move to better ones, and the screwups would have to get right or get out of the broadband business.

But your average Peter Pint doesn't know enough to know better. (Hey, I'm not putting down you folks over the pond--the average Joe Sixpack thinks broadband is a woman's belt)

Just my two cents

Re:Fast enough... (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898331)

Better still, a separate report issued yesterday by Ofcom revealed that the majority of broadband users had no idea about the speed of their connection anyway.

In other words, nobody cares.

My bet is that these are closely related. If consumers knew about their comparatively low speed connection (i.e., knew enough to know they should care and how to figure it out) then they'd be pushing for faster speeds. They'd leave providers who are providing "slow broadband" and move to better ones, and the screwups would have to get right or get out of the broadband business.

To what purpose? Are high internet speeds really that good for winning dicksize contests among "normal" people?

But your average Peter Pint doesn't know enough to know better. (Hey, I'm not putting down you folks over the pond--the average Joe Sixpack thinks broadband is a woman's belt)

Just my two cents

Unfortunately, you're probably right. If they did know better they'd go for faster speeds (or not) based on noticing that the slower speeds weren't good enough, rather than marketing hype and your "bigger (faster) is better".

Before or after throttling? (5, Interesting)

AlterRNow (1215236) | more than 4 years ago | (#25897651)

Because during my download of Fedora 10, Virgin Media will throttle my connection from 8 to 2 ( mb/s ) and put my ping time ( to Google ) into the 2 second range.

Re:Before or after throttling? (4, Funny)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 4 years ago | (#25897683)

But Virgin offers a new sixteen megabit DSL service! That's sixteen megabits total [] , of course.

I'm just picturing Virgin's 'thinking.' "We've heard that you can use things called 'computers' to send messages and even pictures. That'd be a good service to offer! We have this bloke in facilities who knows a bit about computers, we could get him to run it between refilling the coffee machines. If we tried, we could probably make it as reliable as our telly. Nobody really minds when the football drops out ten minutes before the end, do they."

Virgin: "We've Never Done It Before, And We Don't Really Know How To."

Re:Before or after throttling? (2, Informative)

Firkragg14 (992271) | more than 4 years ago | (#25897771)

Im on virgin and yes they will throttle your download if you download more than a certain number of gigabytes between their busiest times which is fair enough. I prefer that to a download limit dont you. In my experience though it doesnt alter my ping so you have some other problem going on there. My tip with virgin is to do any of your large downloading in the evening or at night.

Re:Before or after throttling? (2, Informative)

Mushdot (943219) | more than 4 years ago | (#25897927)

I've been really happy with my Virgin connection. I've never had an unannounced loss of service and my downloading speeds stay pretty constant, though not near the actual speed of the advertised package im on. I get my broadband and tv through a cable point which I think would increase the reliability?

I agree that I would rather have my speed throttled than penalised in some other way. The only bummer is when you hit your limit when there's only a small part of a file left to go and you have to wait another hour for it to trickle through.

I also noticed I was getting 800k/s download speeds the other night and then got an email from Virgin telling me they had upgraded my broadband speed for free, so I can't complain too much.

Re:Before or after throttling? (1)

AlterRNow (1215236) | more than 4 years ago | (#25897929)

During the throttle period, running P2P results in the ridiculous ping. It takes a minute or so for the ping to rise so I can only conclude that the ISP servers are putting our packets to the bottom of the pile because at any other time, ping is fine even with P2P running. Personally, I regard this as a download limit. Simply because they are limiting my download speed, therefore the amount I can download in any given time.

Re:Before or after throttling? (1)

nogginthenog (582552) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898027)

Virgin don't throttle the download speed, instead they delay your packets. So your ping times will increase. The increase in latency will make online gaming slower.

Re:Before or after throttling? (2, Informative)

AlterRNow (1215236) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898197)

I don't know about your experience but going from ( download ) 1000kb/s -> 30Kb/s and ( upload ) 45kb/s -> 11kb/s looks like throttling [] to me.

Re:Before or after throttling? (1)

AlterRNow (1215236) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898209)

And just for completeness, here are my results before and during throttling:

Before: 8482 kb/s 480 kb/s 11 ms Maidenhead ~ 100 mi
After: 2158 kb/s 118 kb/s 14 ms Maidenhead ~ 100 mi

Re:Before or after throttling? (1)

nogginthenog (582552) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898241)

I agree, the net effect is a slowdown. But what Virgin are doing is instead of capping your maximum speed they are stalling all packets. So if you are playing an online game that uses minimal bandwidth you will notice your latency increase drastically.

Re:Before or after throttling? (1)

AlterRNow (1215236) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898269)

I've not noticed this and the test results say otherwise ( 11ms -> 13ms ).
Unless, of course, they aren't stalling ping packets but are stalling everything else which would co-incide with what you are saying.

Hmmm.. thanks for the info!

Re:Before or after throttling? (1)

SimonTheSoundMan (1012395) | more than 4 years ago | (#25897817)

That is quick. I'm synced at 4Mb to BT Internet via ADSL, I can only get 40kB/s via BitTorrent in the day, evening more like 2-4kB/s.

My ping to is just under a second at night, some packets may fail, and forget Youtube or iPlayer past 5pm, they just wont play without pausing every 3 seconds.

I have tested other houses with ADSL, the all experience the same.

BT deny any form of throttling, yet if I download at any time of day via FTP I get ~450kB/s, it is morning now and with HTTP I can get 300kB/s, in the evening more like 50-80kB/s. Crazy, seems BT throttle port 80.

Re:Before or after throttling? (1)

shawb (16347) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898057)

There is the possibility that this isn't so much a result of throttling so much as a bottleneck in transcontinental traffic. These are primarily American companies you are talking about here... and for me a traceroute of even looks like that's within the United States... although that's probably just a local mirror. I don't claim to understand Google's network topology.

Re:Before or after throttling? (1)

daryl_and_daryl (1005065) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898115)

Comcast in the US denies any form of throttling - so that can't be the reason ---- Oh , wait .. that was before they were caught, throttling the truth.

Re:Before or after throttling? (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898305)

It seems to be common eh? My mum uses Tesco and their service is shit during peak times too. I work from home, with colleagues in California. I can't use my Vonage Canada VoIP phone and often Skype between 6pm and 10pm when I visit her due to the quality of the internet connection. It's fine during the day, but in the evening the latency shoots way up. Traceroute reveals latency to the broadband access server is fine, but it's after that that it jumps by 500-750ms or more. I guess that means either the BAS or the ATM network from the BAS to the ISP are over-subscribed. That's assuming wholesale DSL is implemented in the UK in the same way as it is in Canada.

Re:Before or after throttling? (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898321)

Hmm, maybe I can't ping the BAS itself. That doesn't seem right. Maybe it's the first hop latency, which puts the problem somewhere either on the BAS or the connection for it to the ISP. Definitely not the link from the home to the BAS as that would vary at such predictable times.

Re:Before or after throttling? (4, Interesting)

leenks (906881) | more than 4 years ago | (#25897883)

But it is all fibre optic! The advert says it is, so it must be quick!

Quite how Virgin can get away with saying their broadband is fibre optic when the last loop is copper is beyond me. It's about time the ASA did what they are supposed to do - BT broadband is fibre optic by their interpretation of things!

Re:Before or after throttling? (1)

elFarto the 2nd (709099) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898063)

Try Virgin Media's mirror server: []

Judging by the fact you have an 8mb/s connection, I assume you have ADSL rather than cable. I can happily download at 20mb/s and still have a reasonable ping time (I have some QOS on my router to help aswell).


Re:Before or after throttling? (1)

AlterRNow (1215236) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898229)

We're on cable.

My ping is fine until both these two conditions are met:
Inside throttling period
P2P software running

Re:Before or after throttling? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898111)

What time are you downloading? In the early evenings they limit your usage to a relatively small quota and throttle you to around 1/4 of your normal speed. If your router doesn't prioritise TCP ACKs and ICMP then this will mean that your ping times will jump to around the size of your router's buffer.

Re:Before or after throttling? (1)

AlterRNow (1215236) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898253)

We get 2.4GB of download before being throttled at *any* time ( as the Virgin Media Traffic Management page says ).
It just happens that during the evening, that limit is halved to 1.2GB. So downloading in the early morning or at night doesn't make any difference, we'll still get throttled.

Re:Before or after throttling? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25898265)

That sounds fantastic, Tiscali like to give me 56K over ADSL if I so much as breath on the telephone line.

Key is perceived value (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#25897661)

If the customers are happily oblivious to their slow connection, believing that they are in fact surfing the information superhighway on a souped up Land Rover, then what's the point of trying to tell them otherwise?

Soak them for all they've got.

Re:Key is perceived value (1)

u38cg (607297) | more than 4 years ago | (#25897685)

This is a reasonable point. Good old-fashioned supply and demand economics have to come into play here. If a customer is happy with the price and quality of what he's got, then why should anyone invest money speeding him up? It's also worth noting that Britain has an ancient and decaying copper network so frequently getting anything useful out of broadband is a trial in itself.

Re:Key is perceived value (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25898243)

It's also worth noting that Britain has an ancient and decaying copper network

  1. There are at least two seperate networks in the UK (Basically, BT & Virgin Media). The Virgin network is no more than 20 years old.
  2. The BT network has been upgraded in the past twenty years also, so the entire backbone is fibre, leaving only the "last mile" on copper. Pretty much the same as everywhere else, as it happens.

Re:Key is perceived value (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25897803)

The thing the article fails to mention is here in the UK there are lots of broadband deals where you get the broadband FREE. So yeah its only 2Mb/s but when its free with your phone line or tv package, most customers dont care!

It also fails to note that broadband now makes up about 95% of all UK internet connections, which is the highest uptake in Europe.

Everything is relative.

Re:Key is perceived value (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 4 years ago | (#25897855)

If you are just surfing the web 512kbps is plenty. Afaict most website designers still designining thier sites so they are tolerable on dialup. Assuming the limiting factor is bandwidth at the users end (it often isn't unfortunately, often the limiting factor is badly designed and/or overloaded dynamic content) tolerable on dialup means fast on 512k broadband.

Re:Key is perceived value (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25898103)

I don't know. A few years ago that would have been the case, but more and more you are seeing websites become bloated. 512kbps would not be a fast browsing experience. Tolerable, yes, but fast, not by any stretch of the imagination.

Take Slashdot, for example. The home page itself is 190KB of HTML alone, combined with 600 KB of images and a static javascript page. While obviously the images and javascript content would be cached (and a non-trivial amount of the text would be compressed with gzip), an initial page load would still take a lengthy 11 seconds on a 512kbps link. A trip to YouTube's home page - a common destination for many - is a 750KB monster with only half of that being cacheable, meaning an initial page load of 12 seconds with a cached load of 5 or 6. 512kbps is barely enough to play the stock YouTube footage, much less the high definition material they are now beginning to support.

Today's media-rich web doesn't work quickly on 512kbps. Tolerable, perhaps, but quickly, not by any stretch of the imagination.

Tell it to the people who cannot get broadband (4, Insightful)

tagishsimon (175038) | more than 4 years ago | (#25897689)

Concerned as I am with slow speeds, I'm more concerned that I cannot at home get broadband at all because there's insufficient regulation of the monopoly landline supplier. BT is not interested in fixing the twisted pair arriving at my house such that ADSL will work. The UK government is not interested in extending the Universal Service Obligation - the thing that forces the monopoly to connect you to the phone system for voice calls - to broadband.

HMG's insistence that broadband is of economic and social importance is just so much humbug and cant if they will not bother themselves to lift a regulatory finger to ensure that the whole population can access at least a basic service.

Perish the thought that the vast additional profit arising out of millions of DSL connections should be put towards improving the basic infrastructure.

But I can get 2kbps downstream (yup, that's right) through my 2.5 or 3G connection. Yay. I think I was getting better than that on dialup in about 1995.

Re:Tell it to the people who cannot get broadband (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25897961)

Can you post more details e.g. what have BT done to test the line, where are you, how far is your exchange, what do you have internally that's connected via your master socket, etc. Someone here may be able to help.

Re:Tell it to the people who cannot get broadband (2, Interesting)

tagishsimon (175038) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898259)

I've had a number of BT engineers visit the house to try to get DSL working. And they've done some work on the line to improve the signal strength. They conclude that it ain't going to happen; anecdotally, because the line is mainly buried, old, and waterlogged.

As they have reached this conclusion, they've marked my phone line on their database as "cannot get broadband" ... and that's it. They'll make no further attempt / take no further interest / decline any further order from me for broadband.

I cannot give a precise distance to the exchange; the straight line distance looks about 4km, by the roads probably 6 or 7. I know the house a half mile before mine in the direction of the exchange can get a slow broadband. And communities all around mine can get broadband, albeit in a number of cases, from different exchanges.

I'm in discussions with my MP, who's talking, as they do, to the useless secretary of state for business (his advice dated 12 months ago: wait for the market to provide, or maybe knit your own in your spare time - I kid you not), and also to BT regional management and the local development agency.

Re:Tell it to the people who cannot get broadband (1)

jrumney (197329) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898203)

But I can get 2kbps downstream (yup, that's right) through my 2.5 or 3G connection. Yay. I think I was getting better than that on dialup in about 1995.

You need to get an iPhone. Apparently they are really fast [] .

Re:Tell it to the people who cannot get broadband (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25898225)

Err, you can't get broadband but can get a 3G signal? That doesn't sound right. Full 8 meg here no 3G due to not being in an urban area and the mobile networks being even worse in providing a proper service to their customers than BT. If you purely have old lines whinge to BT that you have low quality voice

I've tried wrangling with BT over this (4, Informative)

OneSmartFellow (716217) | more than 4 years ago | (#25897699)

I'm supposed to have a 8MB connection. I've checked the distance to my DSLAM, and I'm well within the distance that 8M should be possible.

I've got a good modem/router - Alcatel Speedtouch - which lets me run diagnostics on the line. The diagnostics report that my signal to noise ratio is just within the limits to establish an aDSL session (from memory it's 9dB), and certainly nowhere close to being able to run at max speed (which would need a S/N of something like 50+dB).

I've contacted BT about the poor state of my line, and they basically ignore me. Actually, it's worse than that, they lied to me claiming that they have tried to contact me by phone, but I provided only my cell phone number and my e-mail, and there is no record of any missed calls from BT, just an e-mail claiming they tried to call. (not to mention that I always have it switched on and within easy ear-shot during working hours).

I guess they just suck !

Re:I've tried wrangling with BT over this (2, Informative)

Firkragg14 (992271) | more than 4 years ago | (#25897791)

Your on ADSL. The way ADSL works is that you get quoted a theoretical maximum speed and then you in fact get something completely different which is nothing like what you were quoted. The sad thing is that its considered acceptable by DSL companies to supply a connection that is in reality 25%-50% slower than the quoted speed.

Re:I've tried wrangling with BT over this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25897861)

Not in The Netherlands. We still get quoted a maximum speed, but every (good) provider offers a range-check based on your zip code, which will give you an indication of the estimated speed. If, after hooking up, you cannot achieve an acceptable speed (and, like in England, the line supplier will not fix it), they are obliged to migrate you (cost-free) to a lower plan. You won't get more speed, but you'll pay less accordingly.

Re:I've tried wrangling with BT over this (1)

Zsub (1365549) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898033)

I'm sorry? Which Netherlands are you living in? Because where I am living, it takes quite some effort to get downgraded if the service is unacceptable.

Also, as a rule of thumb, you can/will only be downgraded when your ADSL2+ speeds are lower or equal to the speeds offered by your ISP's normal ADSL subscription.

Re:I've tried wrangling with BT over this (2, Informative)

cgenman (325138) | more than 4 years ago | (#25897887)

To be fair, DSL companies really have no idea how dirty your line will be until it is fully hooked up. Is it a problem in your house? Last mile copper? Switch box? Nobody really has a way of knowing, and it is bloody expensive to find out.

They're not stiffing people through neglect or malice, but rather because of technological limitations.

Re:I've tried wrangling with BT over this (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25897909)

It's you're motherfucker.

Re:I've tried wrangling with BT over this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25897947)

You're wrong. What they sell is the sync speed from the DSLAM to the customers' modems.

For reference, ADSL2/+ is capable of a 20mbit/2.5mbit simultaneous down/up sync speed at 1500 meters distance. If your ISP can't manage this at even 1000 meters, then your TELCO needs to know about it, 'coz that means the telephone lines are seriously F'd.

It should also be noted that "sync speed cheating" by the ISPs is a practice that is far from unheard of. Only a very small percentage of the customers are informed and technical enough to find out what speeds they are syncing at, and how to address their ISP about it.

Re:I've tried wrangling with BT over this (1)

pisto_grih (1165105) | more than 4 years ago | (#25897885)

I have an 8MB connection with BT, and according to them, I live "on top of" the local exchange (its certainly very close). I am using the BT HomeHub modem/router that they supplied to me, and according to the status, I am connected at 8,096Kbps. That doesn't mean anything when I've never seen download speeds faster than 300-400kbps, and even when I run speedtests at 2am, I rarely get above 4500kbps.

Re:I've tried wrangling with BT over this (1)

matt1553 (1010755) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898015)

You've probably got a 128k upload limit. This matters for your download speed because almost all internet traffic is TCP and requires acknowledgement packets to be sent confirming that packets you requested have been received. If you can't get the acknowledgements back quick enough then you can't get data sent to you any quicker. The fastest a TCP connection will download with a 128k upload limit is around 4500k. Upgrade to a plan with a quicker upload speed and your download speed should climb closer to 7000k.

Re:I've tried wrangling with BT over this (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898059)

Upload on BT is 256kb minimum and some packages go up to 832kb. It's possibly down to the speedtest itself.. the real test is to go to a fast FTP site ( for example) and download something big.

Re:I've tried wrangling with BT over this (1)

leenks (906881) | more than 4 years ago | (#25897903)

How close are you to the exchange?

Re:I've tried wrangling with BT over this (2, Interesting)

daBass (56811) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898005)

Complain about excessive line noise when you call people It cuts in and out. Oh, and it kicks off your ADSL too regularly. They'll run a remote test and tell you it is not so. You put your foot down and they send down an engineer "but we will charge you if there really is no problem". You accept this.

Cool thing is, the engineers are usually reasonable people and they like fixing your problems and do care about ADSL too - it is truly only the call centre idiots that are trained to screw you.

Do you have above ground wires? They are the worst (insulation cracked by 50 years of sunlight, moisture corroding them, etc.) and easiest replaced.

I have done this 3 times now - twice with BT in London and once with Telstra here in Oz. Every single time speed and reliability went up dramatically.

Your mileage may vary, but worth a shot.

Re:I've tried wrangling with BT over this (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898045)

9db is a good SNR. SNR does *not* measure capacity only the noise on the line. btw. a good modem can hold a line at 3db or less.. try the netgear dg834gt for example.

A 50db SNR is probably impossible unless you throttled to 512kb and connected yourself by CAT5 directly to the DSLAM.

You need to be looking at Attenuation. From that you can calculate approximate line length (18.2db/km theoretically, although it's a very rough calculation).

Re:I've tried wrangling with BT over this (2, Interesting)

Xelios (822510) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898267)

I had a similar situation with 1&1 in Germany. I paid for a 16 Mbit connection (which they assured me was available in my area) but the lines were so poor that I'd never see more than 6 Mbit. On top of that the modem would lose sync at least once per hour after 5pm which made VOIP a real pain in the ass. Talking to someone on the phone? Oops, not anymore.

Incidentally the sync losses always started after the street lights turned on, I guess the lines weren't insulated properly. The customer service at 1&1 is worse than terrible, and after the 3rd time of being on the phone with them for half an hour (at 25 cents per minute no less) and getting nothing resolved I simply gave up.

After moving to a new place I ordered a cable connection from Kabel Deutschland instead, 20 Mbit with VOIP for 30 EUR a month. I'm getting 19 Mbit with every speed test I can find and the connection is rock solid. At only 10 EUR/month more than the 1&1 DSL connection it's well worth it.

So I'm happy with the connection I have now, but don't get me started on all the underhanded tricks they use to obscure what you'll really be paying every month. I'm honestly amazed at what they can get away with in that department.

Re:I've tried wrangling with BT over this (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898369)

SNR isn't completely useful by itself. At 6dB you'll probably start having problems. You need more information. What's your theoretical max rate, or the line occupation? Some modems tell you this, some don't. Maybe DMT [] will work with your modem. It's a fantastic diagnostic tool.

BT caps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25897701)

British Telecom's capping and throttling strategies make Comcast look like a philanthropy.

Is that really so bad? (1)

g253 (855070) | more than 4 years ago | (#25897713)

There are a lot of advantages to DSL/Cable over dial-up besides speed (always on for instance).

So maybe a lot of people are using "broadband" as a more convenient replacement for dial-up, or as part of a "triple play" package, but actually don't download much and therefore don't care.

If all you use is e-mails, youtube, facebook, and the occasional iTunes download you have no reason to care about speed.
I mean, 8Mbit/s still means a whole album will download in a couple of minutes, I think it's sufficiently fast for Joe Average...

It would be interesting to know how much of this broadband is actually comprised of basic low speed offerings.

Maybe (5, Insightful)

Roland Piquepaille (780675) | more than 4 years ago | (#25897729)

I've contacted [any telco anywhere in the world] about the poor state of my line, and they basically ignore me.

There, fixed that for you.

Re:Maybe (1)

seasunset (469481) | more than 4 years ago | (#25897841)

Not really, here in the UK things seem to be a bit worse. I just have two personal experiences (plus what I hear from other people) to talk about, but speeds are worse, coverage is worse.

I've lived in two other countries in Europe and I would agree that the UK situation is not very good in comparison.

Re:Maybe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25897977)

Canada is far worse.

Re:Maybe (4, Interesting)

Numen (244707) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898075)

I live on a small Spanish island off the West coast of Africa. I have a 10Mb/s line, and I can hit the full throughput of this on a good torrent... I did so downloading Ubuntu... This was after contacting Telefonica shortly after the line was installed to express concern about the poor throughput and them saying yes the line wasn't set up properly but should work fine within 48 hours which it did.

At a previous apartment I lost my line after somebody basically cut through it while doing DIY somewhere in the block. It was rewired I think 3 days later.

Yes there are many bad storied about Telefonica that could be told, but my point is that I'm quite confident that I have better bandwidth here than I would have if I returned to the UK. One more reason not to go back to the UK I guess.

Re:Maybe (3, Interesting)

eebra82 (907996) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898183)

I don't want to sound like a brat, but I actually wanted to test my 1 Gbit home connection to its full extent. I had two identical computers with 1 Gbit cards and wiring, RAID configurations that surpass the 1 Gbit barrier and whatnot.

I was actually very satisfied with the 544 Mbit throughput that I reached, but I wanted to see if I could get more. I phoned the ISP, explained the problem and had it fixed two days later. Now I'm peaking at 978 Mbit. Still, it's interesting that ISP:s of such high speed connections care so much about the extra excessiveness.

Anyway, that was about a year ago and since then I've moved to another country. Nowadays, I have a 30 Mbit over cable, effective bandwidth of some 25 Mbit, but I'm not complaining.

Headline speed isn't that important (3, Informative)

shin0r (208259) | more than 4 years ago | (#25897749)

Headline speed isn't everything.

"Unlimited" offers that are actually very limited, FUPs, throttling, packet shaping, off-peak, on-peak, web caching, port blocking, Phorm; - no wonder with all this crap the average customer is confused about their connection.

I will now shamelessly plug [] and get me coat.

Re:Headline speed isn't that important (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25897871)

The above, or Andrews & Arnold, or [] or GTFO. ...even Sky Broadband is actually substantially better than BT or Virgin Media.

There are plenty of great ISPs in the UK. It's just that none of them include BT or Virgin Media. Shop around, for God's sake. You owe it to yourself, especially in this economy!

Re:Headline speed isn't that important (2, Insightful)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898009)

I pay about £5/mo over the going rate for, because they're still geek-run and Very Good Indeed. They also superlatively BS'ed British Telecom to get my DSL connected faster than usual at my new house, and that's the sort of service I'm willing to pay for!

I have Sky as well - I looked at the "free" Sky broadband, and to get the equivalent of my Zen connection would be £5/mo less. It's entirely worth it for competent service.

Re:Headline speed isn't that important (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898179)

And none of them are price-competitive with Virgin if you don't want a telephone line. I have a mobile phone, and I pay less on it per month than the cheapest BT line rental. If I switch to someone other than Virgin then I have no option but to pay BT £9.50/month in order for a service I don't need. In theory, an LLU provider could offer me broadband without this, but I'm not aware of any that operate in my area. If OFCOM were serious about increasing broadband competition, but they would require BT Wholesale to offer a cheap line-only package that didn't include POTS termination.

Re:Headline speed isn't that important (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25898329)

That's a very fair point - price sensitivity plays a huge part in service selection, after all we are in a recession.

"Is that really so bad?" Yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25897895)

You should try think a bit further about what the brittish are in for, when a developed country like theirs has what is actually the worst, most underdeveloped IT infrastructure of all developed countries in the world.

I'm alright, Jack. (1)

ciderVisor (1318765) | more than 4 years ago | (#25897901)

Consistent night and day >6Mb/sec on an advertised 8Mb connection. Bittorrents running at several 100 KiB/sec in the right circumstances. Never been capped, throttled or shaped despite downloading 10's of GiB/month regularly. Who's my ISP ? That evil multinational known as Orange ! They just recently blocked The Pirate Bay but I found a way to ACCESS BLOCKED SITES and all is good once again.

Re:I'm alright, Jack. (1)

Spatial (1235392) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898367)

If your ISP starts blocking anything, it's not time to access blocked sites. It's time to access another ISP.

OK in my experience (1)

AlecC (512609) | more than 4 years ago | (#25897917)

I have broadband connections in two places. With my 10Mbit headline Virgin cable service, I get 9.6Mbit+ which persists long enough for me to download a Linux ISO. With the 8Mbit headline ADSL I can get about 5.5 Mbit for the same purpose. I suspect some upstream blocking, because when this line first came active, I was getting 7.6Mbit, but I haven't seen that for a year or so.

So you can get reasonable connections in some places.

Re:OK in my experience (0, Troll)

Xest (935314) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898159)

Yes, unfortunately those places aren't the other half of the country where our connections outright suck and BT refuses to do anything about it.

Inner city slums full of chavs wanting to browse the latest video of their mates beating up some granny in the street get far better connections for doing this than better off, semi-rural to rural locations with people who are better off because they work hard or have done well for themselves through entrepeneurial spirit, people who actually contribute to the economy.

I'm not generalising here and saying everyone with good connections all live in slums or anything, nor am I saying all people in nice rural areas have necessarily worked hard. I'm also not saying people who just want to use YouTube shouldn't have better connections than those who do things that benefit the country. What I am saying however is that the broadband disparity does actually lower the country's potential and it's a problem the government wont solve because as with their ideas for intrusive surveillance, their threatened legislation against file sharing they simply don't understand technology and the internet specifically.

Of course, even if it's not a problem for you now, can you be sure you wont move house some day and find out the location can't get more than 1mbps or perhaps can't even get broadband at all? I think everyone accepts some areas get great broadband connections- most of London, central Birmingham, Manchester and places like that. The problem is the crappy connections exist everywhere else and something needs to be done about it, just as Britain was slow about adopting broadband in the first placing leaving it years behind we're finding ourselves in the same situation with next generation broadband. The UKs internet infrastructure is an abysmal joke.

and in my Aussie accent, all I can say is... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25897935)

bloody pommie whingers

(that's a term of endearment)

Better than certain countries (1)

tikram (1262046) | more than 4 years ago | (#25897951)

Well it's still a lot better than certain countries, for instance Serbia, where the FASTEST broadband connection you can get is only 2Mbit ADSL with an uplink of 196kbps.

They are probably worried about piracy, hence the weak uplink, but for about $70 a month one would expect a decent connection in a country that is supposedly heading for the EU in a few years...

Bulldog Broadband are good (1)

QJimbo (779370) | more than 4 years ago | (#25897967)

I'm still on their 8MBit package and it's great, always solidly at the max speed with no throttling, but costs a bit over the average at £20 + £10 line rental. They were recently bought out by Pipex/Tiscali but so far nothing has changed, hopefully it'll stay this way! Unfortunately it means you can no longer sign up for a new account with them.

Re:Bulldog Broadband are good (2, Interesting)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898017)

Bulldog is about the only broadband company in Britain who could have been improved by being bought by Tiscali. Now that they're not criminally overselling services they literally couldn't provision.

speaking as a UK user (1)

thermian (1267986) | more than 4 years ago | (#25897969)

There is considerable obfuscation being performed by UK ISPs on the subject of connection speed.

For example, I have an 8Mb line. I know that this speed isn't theoretical, I can obtain it fairly easily, dependent on the servers I connect to. For instance if the server is on Janet, I'm pretty much assured of 7-8Mb. 5-6Mb is usual, with 2Mb happening some evenings.

However, when talking to several ISPs recently as I was considering changing provider, they all insisted that they had 'tested' my line, and it was incapable of greater that 2Mb. Other people I know have found the same thing.

The thing is, UK ISPs don't want people to think of 8Mb as being a standard speed, they want that to be something they can charge more for. I stopped calling ISPs in the end, because I got tired of the bullshit they were all spouting.

No ADSL2+ in UK? (1)

Facouille (1000787) | more than 4 years ago | (#25897973)

This is why I get in France with a standard connection :
Attainable bitrate 1365 kb/s (up) 27231 kb/s (down)
ADSL2+ works well!

Figures are out of date (1)

ds_job (896062) | more than 4 years ago | (#25897989)

Well, I upgraded from 2Mbit/s to 20Mbit/s (Virgin Media) on Friday so the balance has swung a small distance the other way. ;-)

However, I have now noticed that my router is only allowing ~6Mbit/s through it so I really need to get to a shop and buy a new one. Fortunately the torrent uploads are going at nominal values. I expect to have a Demonoid ratio of 3 later this week. Sad, but it gives me something to strive for.

Be... (1)

Xordan (943619) | more than 4 years ago | (#25897995)

Posting from my 24mbps connection with pretty much no speed throttling or bandwidth caps (Be Internet) :)

I am living in London however, so I suppose that doesn't make me representative of most of the country.

Re:Be... (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898137)

From all I hear, Be really is Just That Good. They're owned by O2, though, which gives me pause - as noted above, a strong plus point for Zen is that they're still geek-owned and run. I used to be with Eclipse, who were brilliant when they were geek-run and were then bought by Kingston and rapidly turned to complete shit.

Re:Be... (1)

Xordan (943619) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898285)

Yeah, my parents use Zen for both their home and business internet and they're really good.

As long as Be continue their good service I don't really mind that they're owned by O2 :) So we'll see.

Re:Be... (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898309)

The other reason to stay with Zen is that of our work team of six, three of us are on Be, one on Zen (me), one on Virgin and one on Pipex. We need more variety for utter reliability on call ;-)

(Mind you, if I got company broadband it'd probably be BT. Been there, done that, changed IPs every eight hours, used OpenDNS 'cos BT Openwound can't even run a DNS server competently. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO)

Virgin 20mbit (1)

Inda (580031) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898021)

Yes, I total agree with the article. I pay for 20mbit and yet, when connected to one of Astraweb's servers, using 30 SSL connections, I can only manage to 18.5mbit. I am disgusted. Where's my other 1.5mbit?

Some webpages, even the BBC in the early hours, are slow to _display_. The requesting of 50+ images, loading of a flash plugin and rendering by Javascript all add up. It has nothing to do with a slow connection on the client side. From 5pm til 10pm there is a noticable slowdown on all websites - I still get 16mbit from a decent server.

I had a point at the start and now I've forgotten it. Maybe I'm saying if you want fast broadband, you have to pay for it and you can't expect free services not to slow down at busy times.

Re:Virgin 20mbit (1)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898171)

I ran a script to check my broadband speed when I was with Virgin. Here's a quick overview:

8am - 4pm: Excellent speed
5pm - 6pm: Good speed
7pm: Noticeably slow
8pm: Slow
9pm - 11:30pm: Unusable, can't even get onto Google
11:31pm: Good speed*

In short, Virgin can go fuck themselves.

*No, this isn't a joke

Why should people care? (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898023)

It's fast enough for the purposes I use it for. I have next to no wait for websites to load. Movies download in less time than it takes to watch them. I have plenty of bandwidth for my purposes.

My ISP is great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25898035)

My ISP is great, but I won't tell you who they are because I want to keep the bandwidth to myself. But I get a 30Gb on-peak allowance and a 300Gb off-peak allowance, and pretty close to 8Mbps downloads nearly all the time.

Go with Virgin (1)

zbharucha (1331473) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898039)

If they cover your area, go with them. I really do get the 20 Mbps (almost) that they advertise.

but-you-have-actual-competition (1)

El Tonerino (875866) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898077)


Not really. Mostly you still go through BT. Many exchanges don't have other ISPs in them. Mine has 1 other ISP in it and that is Sky :(

...and don't even get me started on line lengths...
I'm physically 200 meters from the exchange. Somehow the line is over 2000 meters long...

UK vs. Poland (1)

muszek (882567) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898081)

I spend considerable amounts of time in both countries.

In Poland I pretty much get the advertized speeds, maybe it's slightly slower in peek hours. Currently I'm connected via cable - 6 Mbps and yesterday's episode of House is coming home almost that fast.

I've lived in two different houses in UK over the past 1.5 years and used the web at friend's house numerous times. Every house had DSL connection (speeds between 6 and 10 Mbps) from different providers. It's decent during the day (I'd say ~3 Mbps), but once everyone comes back home from school/work (~5p.m.) speeds drop to below 512 kbps (web, anything out of the standard ports range drops to a crawl).

How ? (4, Funny)

daveime (1253762) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898091)

How in God's name is the UK Government supposed to keep a record of everything you do online, if you are using these unholy fast speed internet connections ?

Overbooking (1)

Zsub (1365549) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898097)

It's the magic word here.

Does anyone know why SDSL is so hugely expensive? Because they guarantee that speed. With your normal average ADSL2+ subscription you will have an overbooking ratio of somewhere around 25:1, meaning that if your theoretical maximum is 20 mbit, 24 people share those 20 mbit with you... (for a total of 25 :P) Of course, it is unprobable that all those people want to utilize their full speed at the same time, which is why such a construction works, but it is one of the reasons why ADSL(2+) works so badly.

The other reason why ADSL performs so badly is because of line quality. I have read lots of comments of people with phonelines so bad they can barely carry voice signals, let alone some digital signal. Also with ADSL2+ the degradation of the signal rises almost linear with the distance to the DSLAM. This combined with rotting copper and bad connections makes for an interesting 'broadband' experience...

Re:Overbooking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25898323)

DSL doesn't share bandwidth. Cable shares bandwidth.

DSL providers may experience backbone congestion, but that's not the equivalent of sharing bandwidth.

Speed Isn't Everything (1)

kmsigel (306018) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898117)

Low latency and consistent speed can be just as important (or more important, depending on your use) as maximum speed.

I pay $135/month for a 1.5mbps synchronous connection in the United States. On the face of it that seems ridiculously expensive for what I'm getting. But that includes a /28 block of static IP addresses and the connection is *always* that fast. There are no slow times. There are no problems. (The longest "outage" I've seen in the past 6 months is about 5-10 seconds, and that's been 2 or 3 times.)

Of course I wish (like everybody) that my connection was faster. But I'll take a connection that always works and always delivers low latency and moderate speed over one that goes fast sometimes and slow (or worse, fails) other times.

Well, yeah... (1)

Cloud K (125581) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898119)

Better still, a separate report issued yesterday by Ofcom revealed that the majority of broadband users had no idea about the speed of their connection anyway.

Furthermore, the majority don't care. Ask most of the non-geeks I know what speed their internet connection runs at, and the answer will be "Who knows, I don't care really, as long as I can get the internets on my computer thing I'm happy".

Heck I still know a lot of people who use dial-up, as it achieves their only goal (getting on the internet) for no monthly cost. They don't even begin to think about broadband until a goal such as "watch TV online" gets added to the equation.

As long as there is this level of apathy, there will be very little progress.

Eric Schmidt speaks about solutions for energy sec (1)

cnnetc (1413919) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898129)

Google CEO Eric Schmidt spoke last Thursday at a Natural Resources Defense Council event held at Google offices in New York. The topic for the evening was "Partnership for the Earth: Strategies and Solutions for Energy Security [] ." Eric spoke about Google's Clean Energy 2030 plan [] and the importance of rebuilding America's energy infrastructure.The speech was followed by a panel discussion featuring Frances Beinecke, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Ralph Cavanaugh, co-director of NRDC's energy program, and Dan Reicher, Director of Climate Change and Energy Initiatives at

My Broadband (1)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898131)

I'm happy with my Broadband. I get between 5 and 6 Mbps all the time, which is the best I've ever had. I was with Virgin ADSL before and their service was so poor I even managed to get them to send a letter saying that they were throttling the line. Because of this I managed to get away without paying any cancellation fees, thank God.

The provider I'm with now "only" lets me download 30GB per month peak and 300GB per month off peak, which is more than enough for me since 30GB per month is about 1GB per day which I very rarely hit.

I'd much rather have a limited amount of downloads per month and a fast connection than unlimited downloads and a shit connection.

Anyone else had the misfortune of using Virgin ADSL?

Not a big deal (1)

TOGSolid (1412915) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898247)

After all, with the rate that the UK government is stripping the populace's civil liberties, I'm sure it's just a matter of time before the only thing they'll be able to get over there are government authorized websites. *insert obligatory V for Vendetta reference here*

Capping is real issue (1)

bossanovalithium (1396323) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898293)

People who arent savvy enough to know what speed their connection is - well, they deserve to get a crap service. The issue here is unfair and misleading use of capping. I have a BT Business Broadband account - even though the line goes into a residential location, I pay roughly double what a residential customer pays. The fair usage policy that BT rolls out to me once every two months is still activated by home user levels...BT now cap for a month at a time - from 8 meg down to 1 meg. BT think they can do what they like because they are BT. As oon as my contract is up I am goign to go to a different supplier.

Re:Capping is real issue (1)

biscuitlover (1306893) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898355)

People who arent savvy enough to know what speed their connection is - well, they deserve to get a crap service.

Bit harsh, don't you think? My mum doesn't know jack about broadband speeds, nor is she especially interested in reading more about it. Does this mean she should get a crap service?

You're right about BT though. Everyone I have ever spoken to has had an appalling experience with them. They should be avoided like the plague.


Conor Turton (639827) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898343)

What the article fails to mention is that there is hardly anyone in the UK who cannot get broadband. My parents live in a small 10 house hamlet 5 miles from the nearest town and get 2MBit. You have to be basically living in a solitary house half way up a mountain in the middle of Scotland not to get broadband in the UK.

Compare this to a country like the USA where even a town with a population of 30,000+ is deemed unworthy of getting broadband by the telcos.

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