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British ISPs Favour Well-Connected Customers

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the thumb-on-the-scale dept.

Advertising 88

scurtis writes "An insider has told eWEEK Europe that some Internet service providers in the UK only sign-up customers who can be guaranteed a good service, in order to improve average speed claims. The revelation comes after the regulator Ofcom criticised broadband service providers earlier this week for not delivering the speeds promised to consumers. Meanwhile, TalkTalk's chairman Charles Dunstone has argued that Ofcom could be doing a lot more to push BT — as the operator of the copper infrastructure — to improve maintenance of the lines and its communication with fellow service providers."

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First (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33081212)

First!! mwahaha

Well, Virgin signed me up... (2, Informative)

HopefulIntern (1759406) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081218)

...to their sub-1mbps service. So kudos to them, I guess..

Re:Well, Virgin signed me up... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33081266)

Yea, the summary seems to complain about ISPs not being able to deliver promised speeds while at the same time complaining that ISPs try to avoid selling their services to people in areas where they can't meet their promised speeds. I realize that yes, in an ideal world everyone would have 10GB fiber run to their door, but that's simply not the case.

Re:Well, Virgin signed me up... (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#33082392)

This also reminds me of a documentary about "unintended consequences of laws". During the 90s the British Parliament mandated no more than 30 minutes wait time for hospitals, but the doctors could not meet that quota so instead they had sick people waiting in the parking lots. That didn't count as "wait time" so the hospitals met the legal requirements even when people were waiting for hours.

This Internet regulation sounds like it's causing the same problem. The letter of the law is complied with, but not the original intent. (sigh). When will people learn? Government micromanagement never works.

Re:Well, Virgin signed me up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33088106)

It wasn't just the 90s. The last government mandated that patients be given a GP appointment within 48 hours. The result was to stop giving out appointments when they couldn't guarantee one and make everyone turn up on the morning they wished to be seen.

Re:Well, Virgin signed me up... (1)

Sri.Theo (983977) | more than 4 years ago | (#33089966)

This isn't true. Nobody waited outside in carpark's (the Daily Mail lies). They simply created a waiting list to get on the waiting list.

The plan got scrapped soon after, although funnily enough the waiting time goals have now been achieved...

Re:Well, Virgin signed me up... (1)

valeo.de (1853046) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081354)

Virgin aren't picky... ;)

Which is a little strange considering the amount of complaints they've been getting recently.

Re:Well, Virgin signed me up... (1)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081664)

I can't fault Virgin's service
I can fault Virgin's Customer Service though.
It's all scripted and unwavering, the CSMs know nothing about the subjects and are powerless to do anything than tell you to wait and see if it fixes itself.

However, they're a damn site better than Opal.

Re:Well, Virgin signed me up... (1)

imsupporting (1694244) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081856)

Your not wrong there! I had an on going issue for around 2 months where my ping times were about 500ms to uk destinations. After troubleshooting here, I could see that the 3rd hop in their network was causing the issue. I phoned them and got the normal scripted response. After about an hour i gave up and tried another day. Same issue. EVENTUALLY! i got through to someone who seemed to know what he was talking about. We found that the router was indeed shafted and that he would tell the network guys. I phoned 2 days later to find out the progress and found that they had NO IDEA / NO CLUE about the previous phone call. So we had to start again, This happend about 4 times. Eventually i got hold of an engineer who managed to find that it was a problem with the 50Mb routers they use. He moved me to a new router and Pow. Problems fixed. I then logged a complaint and got a few months free after. Still VERY stressful and annoying.

Re:Well, Virgin signed me up... (2, Informative)

HopefulIntern (1759406) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081744)

My relationship with Virgin is love/hate.

House 1: I was on their fibre network, had the 20mb package, everything went as it should, always had between 16-20 down speed. Line attenuation was acceptable, usually under 70ms ping. Customer support, when needed, was wank. Truly awful.

House 2: Again, on their fibre network, but in a "high-density area" (they just let wayyy too many people on for the network to handle). Still got the full 20mb, but line attenuation was awful. Unless I wanted to stay up til 2am, my pings were 300-1000ms to any given server. This meant the line was fine for downloading stuff, but the speed was not reflected in my browsing (pages load faster on my current 1mbps line) and gaming...forget it. I would wake up early before work and get an hour in before it went to shit. Calling to complain about this, all they could say was "Are you getting your 20 meg?" I was, so they just said "We don't support [upload/ping/jitter/any other problem you might encounter]". Arguing with them for 5 months we finally managed to get a 50% discount since the product did not do what it was advertised to do (the 20meg line specifically says "perfect for gaming").

House 3: Checked their postcode checker before moving in, and yes fibre net was available. Get there, having already signed the contract (we did it in a bit of a hurry since we were running out of time to find a new place) and find the fibre actually stops 3 houses down. They only laid the cables halfway down my street. Virgin won't put in more cable unless it's less than 4 metres because it isnt economically viable for them... So I say fine, I will try your ADSL service. I get to speak to an engineer, who asks me my internet habits etc. to establish what package would be best. I tell him I want the biggest, XL, because I don't want capped downloads. The speed of the package is 20 meg but I stop him and ask him for a no-BS assessment, how fast is the typical speed gonna be. He says typically around 8mb. I say fine, that will do, you got a deal. To this day I have never seen it go above 1mbps in any speed test.
The one redeeming thing is that I now have personal phone numbers for both an engineer and a sales person, who both live locally, to help me out without going through BS call centres.
Like I said, it is love/hate. But mostly hate.

Re:Well, Virgin signed me up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33081794)

Get to the know the engineer a little better and maybe you can convince him to run some cable to your house "out of hours"...

Re:Well, Virgin signed me up... (2, Interesting)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#33082444)

Is this "Virgin" the same company that provides cellphone service, aka Virgin Mobile?

I love that they let you buy just the service you need - in my case that's $5 a month worth of calls. They also sell data bundles for cheap (1 GB for $5). All the other companies require you get $30 minimum even if you rarely use your phone.

Re:Well, Virgin signed me up... (2, Informative)

jimicus (737525) | more than 4 years ago | (#33082890)

Not quite as simple as that. Branson licenses the Virgin name and companies operating under the name tend to run fairly independently of one another.

In the UK, there used to be two cable companies which merged, bought Virgin Mobile and with it the rights to use the Virgin brand across their entire business. AFAIK, the relationship between other Virgin companies (including other companies in similar industries but in different parts of the world) may be minimal.

Re:Well, Virgin signed me up... (0, Offtopic)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#33083136)

Well when I type in virginmobile.com it asks me to identify which country, so there must be some connection there?

Re:Well, Virgin signed me up... (1)

mpe (36238) | more than 4 years ago | (#33084376)

In the UK, there used to be two cable companies which merged, bought Virgin Mobile and with it the rights to use the Virgin brand across their entire business.

Actually there used to be a fairly large number of independent cable companies, who also provided telephone lines in more or less in direct competition with BT. These started to merge eventually leaving only NTL and Telewest. A side effect of these mergers was that companies who had been quite activly expanding their networks (or at least putting in ductwork) stopped doing so. IIRC There were even cases of merged companies losing records of their external plant. Even after the creation of "Virgin Media" it took a long for "Telewest" and "NTL" to go away especially on their business telecoms side.

Re:Well, Virgin signed me up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33082766)

So I say fine, I will try your ADSL service.

Virgin Cable != Virgin ADSL

Got be careful Virgin as a company in most of its enterprises is just a reseller "a brand"
with "their" ADSL service its usually BT wholesale infrastructure resold to you, you think its a different company when in reality under the mask its still crappy ol' BT just with now a red logo and the word Virgin written in
they do the same with mobile phones and just re-sell T-Mobile (Deutsch Telecom) to you under their name, they dont actually own any mobile kit (assets) themselves, so you might as well deal direct with those whose services they are re-selling.

but with the cable business instead of Virgin taking a commission for re-selling NTLs hardware, NTL actually paid them $2B and gave Branson a seat on the board so they could use the "brand", underneath the cover its still NTL except they now have an extra 2B$ bill to pay for a "name" instead of buying more hardware/cable/capability any existing customers are now worse off as these costs are all passed to them without any tangible benefits to them of the "brand"

when i buy things like to hand my money to companies that are the actual owners (investor/creators/operators) of a system,
ones who actually have assets related to their final product, instead of these plethora of middleman companies who just suck value out of the chain without adding anything over a "logo" a strapline and a room full of desperate people in a callcenter.

OAC

Re:Well, Virgin signed me up... (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 4 years ago | (#33082834)

Virgin have recently started expanding their network, and the areas they're particularly interested in expanding are streets like yours where the cable almost but not quite covers every house on the road.

You should contact them and ask if they'd be prepared to reconsider.

Re:Well, Virgin signed me up... (1)

lightversusdark (922292) | more than 4 years ago | (#33091850)

My house is at the end of the road from the exchange, about 400 yards.
My phone line is at the end of a loop taking in my surrounding streets, and I have 6.5km of copper between me and the exchange.
I couldn't get any service at all before the introduction of Rate Adaptive DSL, and then only poor service at best.
At the time, "HomeChoice" offered the best DSL deals, but wouldn't sign me up because the package also included TV over IP, and they couldn't guarantee enough bandwidth for the TV. They would not sign me up to a package without TV because I wouldn't be able to upgrade to a TV package in the future.
I ended up with Bulldog and the worst broadband experience I've had in any country, until Virgin (Cable & Wireless at the time) laid fibre.
Now I have 50MB Unlimited, no TV, no phone line.

Every now and then I get an unsolicited phone call offering to "upgrade" me. The conversation goes like this:
"Will it be faster?"
"No."
"Will it be cheaper?"
"You will get a discount of £5 for the next 3 months."
"And then?"
"The discount is only for 3 months."
"Is it still unlimited?"
"We don't offer your particular package any more, but it is our current 'Unlimited' package."
"Does your current 'Unlimited' package have a 'Fair Use' policy? My present package does not."
"There is a 'Fair Use' allowance on all our packages."
"Not on my current package. £15 is not enough to bribe me into letting you start charging me arbitrarily for exceeding your bandwidth caps. I will keep my current package."

There is effectively no choice. Virgin could charge what they want and I'd have to suck it up. At some point they will find a way to get me onto a package with 'Fair Use' limits.

What I really want is a symmetrical connection. Virgin don't offer it, and BT's infrastructure won't support it.

My exchange is unbundled and it's a slap in the face walking past it every morning. I'd like the choice of Be, or some of the other ISPs that people recommend.
The best telephone service I ever had was from TalkTalk, who wouldn't offer me broadband for the reasons stated in the article.

Most informed people I know agree that BT is a disgrace and should probably be broken up.

Re:Well, Virgin signed me up... (1)

neokushan (932374) | more than 4 years ago | (#33108616)

Just to clarify, the 50Meg service from Virgin doesn't have traffic management (I.e. if you download too much, your speeds wont get slowed down), unlike their 10 or 20meg service, however ALL of their connections have a "fair use" policy, which is for the ones that download non-stop, through traffic management, all night long, all week long. I have the 50meg service, I've regularly downloaded 60, 70, 80Gb per day for weeks at a time and I have never ever been contacted over "fair use" and more often than not, the people that do get contacted about it are Zombies distributing SPAM or being used as part of a DDOS network.

Eh? (1)

GauteL (29207) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081232)

Do we REALLY want them to sell broadband to anyone even if they know the service will be shit? As far as I can see, this isn't the crux of the matter and I think Slashdot could be doing a lot more to improve the quality of their editing.

Re:Eh? (3, Informative)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081284)

Do we REALLY want them to sell broadband to anyone even if they know the service will be shit? As far as I can see, this isn't the crux of the matter and I think Slashdot could be doing a lot more to improve the quality of their editing.

I dunno...

If they know I'm not going to get anything better than 1 Mbps, I sure as hell don't want to be paying for a 5 Mbps connection.

But, at the same time, I don't want them telling me no, sorry, your lines aren't good enough for our service and I wind up stuck with dial-up.

I guess what I'd like to see is universal availability, with an attempt to match the pricing to the performance you're actually going to get. Which sounds like I'm asking for an awful lot, but I'm not. If they'd drop the pretense of an "unlimited" package and just be honest with folks - you get 2 GB a month, over that you're paying $X/byte - then the pricing would kind of work itself out. Folks with crappy lines that can't download too fast would be unlikely to exceed that monthly allotment. Folks with blazing fast connections that like to download everything they can find would pay more, since they're downloading more. Nobody would really have to do extensive line testing or modify fees or anything.

Re:Eh? (3, Insightful)

Yamata no Orochi (1626135) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081324)

Except there's no reason to charge more for more downloaded, because it doesn't cost more to provide it. What costs more money is additional bandwidth, which is entirely different from $X/byte. It's more like $X/byte per second.

That's why caps are horseshit.

Re:Eh? (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081358)

There's always the possibility that X users use their 2mb/s connection to the fullest, making either the base station for the town or the cable lines become saturated and slow down speeds for everyone else, causing an unusually high volume of customer service calls and cancellations (if it's a regular occurrence). That would cost them money, but that's a fairly unlikely scenario.

Re:Eh? (1)

Yamata no Orochi (1626135) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081740)

It's also an example of overselling. If all your customers can't utilize what they're paying for simultaneously, you've oversold your capacity. It's the ISPs fault, not the customers.

Re:Eh? (1)

Steve Max (1235710) | more than 4 years ago | (#33082660)

Have you ever seen the prices for dedicated connections? Compare the cost of a T3 line with your common 50Mbps residential fiber.

No ISP in the planet designs their network so that all their customers can use the full bandwidth allocated to them at the same time: They'd have to charge a lot more than everybody else, so nobody would use them; and most of their infrastructure would remain unused all the time, since most users don't keep using their full bandwidth all the time; they usually do so for short bursts (get a page, stream a video, etc), and those bursts don't overlap for all of them at the same time.

Now, the ISP should sell the capacity so that the probability of someone not having their full paid bandwidth (or, say, something like 90% of the advertized bandwidth) available at a given moment is small. The difference is how they define "small", which may go from "0.1% of the users won't have the full amount available at some moment during the day" to "20% of the users will have to do with ~50% of the advertized bandwidth at peak hours". This is what differentiates well-structured ISPs and those who oversold.

Re:Eh? (1)

Yamata no Orochi (1626135) | more than 4 years ago | (#33083734)

The fact that it would cost more does not relate to the fact that it's advertised the way it is.

I'm well-aware of the business model in use, but it doesn't change any of the facts.

I'd frankly rather accept that I'm not going to have 100% of my advertised bandwidth 100% of the time than have arbitrary caps imposed, which is exactly what download caps are: arbitrary. What they're trying to accomplish is prevent the small percentage of heavy users from being able to use the service heavily for as much of the time. But what it accomplishes is preventing heavy users from being able to use the service at all once they hit the cap. That's stupid. What would be more appropriate would be traffic shaping to prioritize VoIP and latency-dependent packets while simultaneously acknowledging that during peak hours, performance may be reduced. Everyone could be happy that way.

Re:Eh? (1)

cynyr (703126) | more than 4 years ago | (#33085098)

so they should provide a real way for to to say "yes this is torrent traffic, go ahead and throttle it down enough to get the rest of your traffic in, but no more than you need to" or "this is an ftp download of the 6 debian dual layer dvds, it's going to take a while anyways, so go ahead and slow it down a small amount if you need to". Of course that requires your ISP to be trustworthy... good luck finding one like that.

Re:Eh? (1)

crazycheetah (1416001) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081380)

Besides the fact that I realize holes in my following thought, I'm going to throw it out there.

Why don't they just charge on the actual bandwidth we get? Something along the lines of $1 per minute at 1mbps or something like that. The numbers would probably be different on some order, but I think my point is made with that.

Re:Eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33081452)

This is charging per byte downloaded:

minute x mbps = [time unit] x [data unit] / [time unit] = [data unit]

Charging for a x MBps connection *is* charging per bandwidth. The problems is that ISP oversell their service and put download caps in place, so they can keep overselling.

Re:Eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33081944)

Why don't they just charge on the actual bandwidth we get? Something along the lines of $1 per minute at 1mbps or something like that. The numbers would probably be different on some order, but I think my point is made with that.

Do you have any fucking idea how expensive that would make downloading?

That's $60 to download 450 MB. A Linux distro would be almost $87 to download. A game weighing in at a mere 1 GB in size would cost you $136.53 to download. A game that filled exactly one DVD would rack up $641.69 in download fees.

The numbers would probably be different on some order, ...

Yeah they'd be way different because downloading would be completely unaffordable unless you were Donald Trump or Bill Gates.

I think my point is made with that.

Yeah you made a point. The point you made is that you spent math class sniffing glue or eating paint chips or perhaps sniffing glue AND eating paint chips because you clearly do not have two brain cells to rub together.

Re:Eh? (1)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 4 years ago | (#33088110)

Why don't they just charge on the actual bandwidth we get? Something along the lines of $1 per minute at 1mbps or something like that.

Primarily because it's simply not economical for the ISPs - it basically rules out any sort of oversubscription model.

The other big reason is because it's basically impossible to sell around such a metric, which is both largely incomprehensible, and mostly irrelevant, to the average user.

Most people care more about how much they can download (eg: 1000 mp3s every day), as compared to how quickly they could download it (eg: get an mp3 in 5 seconds). That's because once you get past the point of being able to receive data faster than you (the human) can process it, volume is a much more relevant measure.

Re:Eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33081456)

Except there's no reason to charge more for more downloaded, because it doesn't cost more to provide it.

Only if your network has no bottlenecks, ie is capable of sustaining every end point at maximum throughput simultaneously. Unfortunately, no network in the world currently meets this criteria, and if an ISP did, a 10Mbps connection would probably cost a few grand a month.

Re:Eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33081880)

I disagree.

A network capable of every end point at maximum throughput certainly has no added costs for downloading 1MB versus 100MB, but as you point out all public networks are oversold to some degree. So what happens? Let's say, just for the sake of argument, that you have 100 customers and support 1Mbps each, on a line capable of 50Mbps. IE, you're oversold 2:1 (which is fairly minor, but I digress). If everybody is downloading, they can't get 1Mbps -- the most they can get is 500Kbps. They can still download the same amount of data, they'll just do it slower.

The only way what you're saying is true is if so many connections are constantly running 100% that your line is always saturated, meaning that the maximum theoretical amount of data each person could download would be reduced. For common use-cases, it's still the throughput that matters. Giving you 1Mbps on a 50Mbps link means you're taking up 2%; giving you 5Mbps is 10%. Whether you download 1MB or 100MB matters very little to me, because the amount you're filling my pipe is still determined by how much you're pulling down per unit of time (ie, speed). There's only so much room in the pipe, but I don't necessarily care how long it is filled (except, of course, as an indication that I have oversold so dramatically that I need to increase capacity).

Think of it like your water tap. You can fill a bathtub full-on or at a trickle and it will fill either way. How big of a burden you're putting on the infrastructure as you do so is determined by how far that tap is opened. What happens if somebody turns on another tap? Chances are you lose pressure -- it comes out slower. It will still fill.

Re:Eh? (1)

kbielefe (606566) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081874)

Actually, it does cost more, because they plan the trunk bandwidth based on everyone not using their full bandwidth at the same time. If you use your full bandwidth a higher percentage of the time than average, especially during peak usage periods, it costs them more either by not being able to sign up as many subscribers, or by needing to invest in more infrastructure. While bytes downloaded per month isn't a direct measure of "the percentage of time you use your full bandwidth," the math works out pretty close and it's a lot easier both to measure and to explain to customers. If you want a guaranteed slice of bandwidth all the time, it gets priced into the contract accordingly.

Re:Eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33082298)

Actually, it does cost more, because they plan the trunk bandwidth based on everyone not using their full bandwidth at the same time.

And yet it's marketed as Unlimited 20 Mbps. It's their fault if they can't provide that, not mine for trying to use it.

Re:Eh? (1)

Retric (704075) | more than 4 years ago | (#33082840)

Useage outside of peek times is meaningless. So someone who downloads 2MB/s at peek times cost more than someone that downloads at 1MB/s 24/7.

Re:Eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33081362)

Let's say you live in a rural area and your connection is shitty. You want to pay less because your connection might not be available 99,9999 and the ISP wants to charge more because those long shitty lines require helluva maintenance, this means that either you will not be a happy customer or the ISP will not be a happy ISP in some cases both are very unhappy with the situation.

Internet is like a basic utility these days so it's very hard to justify denying service, but because most ISPs aren't operated by the Salvation Army the pricing model that you suggested is not likely to interest them much.

Re:Eh? (2, Insightful)

KlaymenDK (713149) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081374)

I live at the end of 5km of old copper, where the fastest ADSL speed seems to be about 600k. The smallest package I can get, however, is for 1mbit. It's not all that thrilling for a geek. :(

Would I rather have no connection? Err, no. Slow is fine, relatively speaking.

Re:Eh? (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081518)

I live at the end of 5km of old copper, where the fastest ADSL speed seems to be about 600k. The smallest package I can get, however, is for 1mbit. It's not all that thrilling for a geek. :(

Would I rather have no connection? Err, no. Slow is fine, relatively speaking.

Same here. I won't complain though because up until about 8 years ago they used to say that the line was too bad for any broadband - and 500-600k is a lot better than dial-up, which ties up your phone line, costs more, etc.

Re:Eh? (1)

Demonantis (1340557) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081392)

But, at the same time, I don't want them telling me no, sorry, your lines aren't good enough for our service and I wind up stuck with dial-up.

Bell kinda does the same thing in Canada. When a friend of mine changed apartments the phone line did not support the connection speed he had with Bell so he switched to cable. Bell's retention department called him up during the change and had the balls to ask him to keep his old plan with them when they couldn't provide the service.

Re:Eh? (1)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081946)

... and a pony.

Re:Eh? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081298)

But what is "service will be shit" vs cooking the books to ensure they will be bumped up in national rankings?
This seems to be beyond a downstream attenuation at a set limit for everyone to a selective sorting of "those quite near exchanges".
The stats look great but how many will miss out on any broadband for no physical reason, just marketing?

Re:Eh? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081646)

Indeed, around here we're fortunate enough to be able to get 5mbps, and Speakeasy is apparently able to do 10mbps for an arm and a leg. But latency and connection quality suck big time. Qwest the owner of the last mile doesn't seem to do any maintenance on it and consequently none of the options seem to be particularly stellar. Because of this they insist on adding 32ms to the first hop for error correction.

Requiring them to offer the connection is just the first step, requiring them to then make the necessary upgrades is the real goal.

Re:Eh? (1)

klingens (147173) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081388)

Yes we do.
Here's why: You have two choices: Broadband which is slow but has a flatrate, or PSTN which you pay per minute and is a lot slower to boot, resulting in higher costs for even less bytes transmitted.

As long as the ISP is upfront about this when ordering, it's no problem. Admittedly this is a pretty big IF with your average ISP, but it's all that can be done.
I have two relatives, one lives in a small city (~15k-20k residents), the other out in the boondocks. The small city gets only 3MBps instead of the usual 6MBps DSL city wide due to bad, old wires, the other gets around 600 kBps due to wires and distance. For both, DSL was a no brainer compared to PSTN: at least ten times faster than the analog modem and no ticking clock in the background.

It's not the speeds that are important in Europe, it's the the ticking clock which is always running when using the phone network for Internet access.

Re:Eh? (3, Informative)

cappp (1822388) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081444)

BBC ran a story [bbc.co.uk] on that a couple of days ago actually - the summary above links to a different article which doesn't lay out the facts quite as cleanly.

Its analysis of broadband speeds in the UK shows that, for some services, 97% of consumers do not get the advertised speed."The gap between the average headline speed and actual speed has increased in this period even though the actual speed has risen," he said.
In 2009, he said, when actual speeds for broadband were 4.1mbps, the average that those services were being advertised for stood at 7.1Mbps. In 2010, when people are generally getting 5.2Mbps out of their broadband, ISPs are claiming they will support speeds up to 11.5Mbps

For example, the survey found that on DSL services advertised as being "up to" 20Mbps, only 2% of customers got speeds in the range of 14-20Mbps. Of the others, 32% were getting a 8-14Mbps service and 65%, 8Mbps or less.

. Check out the BBC write-up - there's a great graph there which really drives the point home.

Re:Eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33083624)

For example, the survey found that on DSL services advertised as being "up to" 20Mbps, only 2% of customers got speeds in the range of 14-20Mbps. Of the others, 32% were getting a 8-14Mbps service and 65%, 8Mbps or less.

Bare in mind some of it is not the link speed, it's the ISP themselves. My previous ISP decided that rather than investing in the network and getting fatter pipes, they would use Deep Packet Inspection to throttle services it did not like like P2P, binaries Usenet, and VoIP (at least the VoIP service that was competing with theirs).

As soon as they announced the DPI, many people, myself included upped to a different provider who did not throttle the network because they oversold it. However, all the newcomers to the internet and those ISP's that use DPI don't realise it is their ISP that is in part contributing to the rubbish download speeds.

Re:Eh? (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081454)

I think Slashdot could be doing a lot more to improve the quality of their editing.

Yes, in the same way as squirrels could be doing a lot more to improve the quality of their international architectural contracts.

Re:Eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33081802)

OMFG, those evil corps! Not offering what they can't actually deliver! They should just advertise 2 Mbps when they know they can deliver 1 Mbps, so we can all go back to bitching about them ripping off their customers!

Rust belt tech? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081244)

Or just the physics of distance?
http://www.internode.on.net/residential/broadband/adsl/extreme/performance/ [on.net]
Has a nice adsl 2+ theoretical maximum speed chart. (1 meter =~ 3.28 ft)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7448704.stm [bbc.co.uk] shows some insight and
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/click_online/8028793.stm [bbc.co.uk]
Or is this really backhaul too?

It's not just the quality of the lines (3, Interesting)

crimperman (225941) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081248)

It's also the routing. I once had a case where two adjacent sockets (on different lines) got entirely different speeds. Turned out one went direct across the road to the exchange and the other took a left out the building, went round the block for about 4 miles and came back to the Exchange across the road.

Re:It's not just the quality of the lines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33081538)

Well, duh. The internet interprets adjacency as damage and routes around it.

tiered pricing based on service possibility (3, Interesting)

SkunkPussy (85271) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081280)

I don't see why ISPs don't just measure the possible speed to your location, then put you in the highest price-band tarriff that your connection will allow.

So as an example if you sign up for 20 Mbps at £10.99 but your connection only allows 14Mbps, you get the 12-16Mbps tarriff at 9.49 or whatever.

Re:tiered pricing based on service possibility (2, Insightful)

HotBBQ (714130) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081346)

Holy guacamole! You can get 20Mbps for $17 USD? Shit, I pay $50 USD for 15Mbps. The US of A really sucks when it comes to telecommunications.

Re:tiered pricing based on service possibility (1)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081372)

and we pay 20USD for 256kbps, so USA is better off

Re:tiered pricing based on service possibility (1)

HotBBQ (714130) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081400)

Does your service come with free NSA eavesdropping too?

Re:tiered pricing based on service possibility (1)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081586)

No, but the govt recently wanted to ban blackberry and nokia messaging for "Security risks"

Re:tiered pricing based on service possibility (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081652)

s/NSA/GCHQ/g ... same UKUSA, different side of the pond.

Re:tiered pricing based on service possibility (1)

Barefoot Monkey (1657313) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081972)

Holy guacamole! You can get 20Mbps for $17 USD? Shit, I pay $50 USD for 15Mbps. The US of A really sucks when it comes to telecommunications.

Holy chakalaka! You can get 15Mbps for $50 USD? Here in South Africa you would pay $60 for 4Mbps plus another $4 for each gig you download. When it comes to telecommunications, US of A is a dream compared to the R of SA.

Re:tiered pricing based on service possibility (1)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 4 years ago | (#33082014)

Holy guacamole! You can get 15Mbps for $50 USD? Shit, I pay $50 USD for 1.5Mbps/384Kbps. The US of A really sucks when it comes to telecommunications.

Re:tiered pricing based on service possibility (1)

Splab (574204) | more than 4 years ago | (#33083202)

I pay 350 DKR ( around $55) for 60/60Mbit here in Denmark. Granted I rarely get above 40Mbit in the evening, but guess it's ok.

Re:tiered pricing based on service possibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33083208)

Do yourself a favour and consider haggling with your ISP. Personally, I don't think I've paid full price for my Internet connection since early to mid 2008.

http://www.mymoneyblog.com/how_to_save_138.html [mymoneyblog.com]

Re:tiered pricing based on service possibility (1)

jisatsusha (755173) | more than 4 years ago | (#33084000)

The speed may be 20Mbps, but at that price you're usually limited to 2-10Gb bandwidth per month.

Re:tiered pricing based on service possibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33081870)

> I don't see why ISPs don't just measure the possible speed to your location,
> then put you in the highest price-band tarriff that your connection will allow.

There's no real opportunity for an ISP in the UK to vary base pricing in that manner.

1. The DSLAM at the exchange has roughly the same power consumption and maintenance requirements whether it is operating 1 Mbps or 24 Mbps sync.

2. The local loop maintenance costs have an inverse relationship to the sustainable sync rate.

3. The backhaul from the exchange to the ISP's POP is priced at a standard rate per Gbps.

What the ISP could do, and some do, is charge a standard flat rate for the service, covering the above costs, and then charge per unit data consumption. So in theory a 24 Mbps user would rack-up higher monthly costs than a 1 Mbps user.

Re:tiered pricing based on service possibility (1)

SkunkPussy (85271) | more than 4 years ago | (#33084286)

This is quite a good point:

The local loop maintenance costs have an inverse relationship to the sustainable sync rate.

Re:tiered pricing based on service possibility (1)

locallyunscene (1000523) | more than 4 years ago | (#33082260)

Because it would cost more money to do the tests and make them less money in places where speed is bad.

If X is the cost of doing above, and Y is the cost of class action lawsuits for breach of contract, they will not do anything until Y > X .

Your proposal makes sense in the real world, but it doesn't make cents in the market.

I agree with Charles (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33081302)

Some of the phone line backbones are in a terrible mess in even concentrated zones where you'd expect there to be more focus and resources spent.

I'm apparently supposed to be capable of running at 5Mbps at the moment, my average is usually around 2 with tests. (Ayrshire FYI)
As for today though, i'm guessing i'm barely getting 512kbps for some strange random reason that usually pops up at least twice a month.
Friends connection is perfectly fine though, and he is almost certainly on the same exchange. (both of us are TalkTalk now after BT screwed us over in 2 unique ways)

When i was with BT, the connection was terrible, always dropping, moved to TT, connection is actually stable most of the time.
It isn't just the lines that are buckled stupid, their hardware and network in general is just awful, including their hub that takes about 10 years to change any settings and restart the damn thing. (exaggeration, but damn it there is no way it should take that much to change some simple settings. Even BELKIN are better, and that is sad)
I remember they even suggested to me to change my MTU settings beyond the standards because it is easier on their networks... SERIOUSLY?!
God knows what the people on top are doing at BT, probably hoarding all the money for steaks and bubbly.

Re:I agree with Charles (1)

skyride (1436439) | more than 4 years ago | (#33082400)

Not to slate you in any way, but Ayrshire is the arsehole of the earth. Its a sort of semi-somewhere in the middle of no-where. Even if they improved the local infrastructure, I highly doubt the backbone running there would be capable of providing much more.

Re:I agree with Charles (1)

Pax681 (1002592) | more than 4 years ago | (#33084714)

Ayrshire is far from the middle of nowhere, especially when talking about the coastal parts of it

the problem being with it, especially Ayr, is that there is only (in general) a single exchange per town

a lot of the real country side parts of Ayrshire don't have an exchange of their own and thus get routed to their nearest decent sized town, hence their crappy connection speeds and connection issues

i am originally from Ayr, but , live in Edinburgh now and enjoy the bliss of a Bethere [bethere.co.uk] connection at the full 24 megs a sec due to being 438 metres by wire from the exchange

My cousin and mother both live in Belmont in Ayr and get around 7 meg connection , both with talk talk

my aunt, who live a mile up the road in Kincaidston gets about 4.5 meg a sec with AO-hell and my other aunt who stays in Alloway(fringes of Ayr) gets a mere 2 meg a sec.

an old school friend of mine who stays in Maybole gets a crappy 1 meg a sec on a good day.

in the UK this is pretty average for non city connections and to slag it off just shows what an ignoramus you really are skyride

Re:I agree with Charles (1)

Pax681 (1002592) | more than 4 years ago | (#33084770)

oh btw mr Ayrshire AC... change yer MTU to 1458.... i do... windows standard setting is 1500 .. ISP's also the same at 1500

so if you change yours to something like 1458 then it CAN help you ;)

We do it to (3, Interesting)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081322)

US telcos do it to. Although I don't think it's to increase average speed claims. Customers that are too far out to get 1meg service usually have so much noise on the line that they generate a lot of repair calls. If you're getting under 1mb DSL you're also probably going to get dropped service every time there's a storm as well.

Re:We do it to (2, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081434)

US telcos do it to. Although I don't think it's to increase average speed claims. Customers that are too far out to get 1meg service usually have so much noise on the line that they generate a lot of repair calls. If you're getting under 1mb DSL you're also probably going to get dropped service every time there's a storm as well.

I don't know if it's still happening but telcos were being slammed hard for DSL failures so they reduced the range to which they will sell. Pacbell (well, now it's AT&T, but I think they made the change so long ago they were still pac bell) moved from selling to 14,000 feet to selling to 10,000 feet.

Re:We do it to (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081644)

They should definitely not be selling beyond 10,000 feet. There's no equipment that I know of (short of fiber) that can do that without huge problems.

Re:We do it to (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081700)

They should definitely not be selling beyond 10,000 feet. There's no equipment that I know of (short of fiber) that can do that without huge problems.

They used to sell to something like 17,000 feet if you got a good signal test. I used to live in a house in Santa Cruz that was at about 17,500 (or so they said) and they sold to us anyway because we apparently had good copper, and we always managed to max out our advertised speeds, with little to no packet loss.

Re:We do it to (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33081850)

I work for a small Finnish ISP and some customers have lines over 26kft (8km) in length. Even the longer lines work when they are in good condition and consist of relatively small number of connections ie. the connection runs over a single continuous copper for the most part. However, the phone network here is quite good in terms of quality.

Re:We do it to (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#33090318)

I work for a small Finnish ISP and some customers have lines over 26kft (8km) in length. [...] However, the phone network here is quite good in terms of quality.

Pacific Bell copper is legendary for high splice count. Lots of it has been flooded. SBC and now AT&T have inherited it, each performing the minimum possible service to keep the regulatory minimums working, which is to say audible voice conversation and some low modem speed for TDD and alarm systems, perhaps 9600 bps? 2400 maybe? It's probably the worst copper in the first world.

Re:We do it to (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 4 years ago | (#33117914)

Any cable route that's old enough is going to be like this. What they do is called "frogging" they will have a pair that goes out say 3000 feet and then is shorted or open... they'll cut that pair there... then they'll have another pair that has a short at 1000 feet... so they splice them together to leap frog over the short. What eventually ends up happening is you have a binder whos pairs do not match from end to end what originally were. So say pair 142 comes out on the other end as pair 523 now... It's a huge mess and it gets worse as the cable continues to degrade. Every splice makes it even worse. But in some of these low population areas the cost of laying a new cable far outweighs all the profits for the entire CO they are out of so they put it off until it's so bad they no longer have a choice.

Re:We do it to (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081608)

Verizon hooked us up at 16,000 feet a few years ago. 1.5/384 service. It went down at least twice a day and often came back up at a lower speed than what we were paying for. We dumped them and switched to cable.

They were decent enough about it to let us out of the contract without paying a termination fee. Not that I would have anyway -- but it was nice not to have to fight about it for once.

Article lacks credibility (3, Interesting)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081460)

The reference to ISPs cherry picking customers comes from a single unnamed "insider". No information is provided to substantiate the claim and no ISPs were named, to allow for follow-up investigations.

So, ask yourself: in the dog-eat-dog world of extremely price sensitive internet provision, is it likely that some ISPs have so many potential customers queuing to sign up (with them) that they can afford to turn away those who may not get a good service?

You insenMsitiv3 clod.. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33081474)

Personal experience (1)

ran93r (671906) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081488)

VM were pretty flakey for me a couple of years ago so I had decided on making a move back to BT, after jumping through all the required hoops BT called me back to say that they wouldn't be able to take me on as they couldn't guarantee any kind of service. I'm far enough away from the exchange to get something just shy of 1mb. Thankfully VM have improved a ton but just a confirmation that this does go on, at least in my case.

Re:Personal experience (1)

Cyblob (800812) | more than 4 years ago | (#33082454)

I had exactly the opposite issue with BT back when broadband was relatively uncommon.

They set up everything, sent us all the hardware etc. but we couldn't get it to work. It took almost a month before we managed to get them to admit that they couldn't provide us with any service and we had to go back to dialup...at least they didn't ask for the hardware back...

Move to present day, I'm back at my parents for the weekend and they can get broadband, but they're stuck with ~786kbs compared to the 14mb I get for the same price in a city.

Go East! (2, Funny)

dimethylxanthine (946092) | more than 4 years ago | (#33081578)

Maybe I should switch to one of the two Chinese ones... at 20% world customers they seem to have no problems signing up whomever. And nobody is complaining...

Re:Go East! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33082126)

Some comprain... yes, but aftel plopel education they arr good customels ale.

Re:Go East! (1)

ctchristmas (1821682) | more than 4 years ago | (#33082192)

They are Chinese providers though, so two words: No porn.

What is even the point of having an interweb connection at that point.

mod -0p (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33083046)

Waters4ed e5say, [goat.cx]

Cherry-Picking (1)

ktappe (747125) | more than 4 years ago | (#33086326)

Sounds like a cousin to Verizon's cherry-picking of customers to whom they roll out FiOS here in the U.S. Because they charge in excess of $100/month for the service, they won't run it to any neighborhoods where the median income is lower than a certain level. Because I choose to live economically in a townhouse, Verizon won't run fiber down my street and I'm stuck with 1Mbit DSL that goes down once a day.

so presumably (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | more than 4 years ago | (#33091108)

Charles Dunstone still thinks its like the old stowdger days when the YIT (youths in training) had to do bank cleaning - how exeactly do you improve a 30/40 year old cable economicaly ?
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