Broadband providers should open up their data so people can more easily compare the estimated broadband speed they can receive direct to their home, rather than to their postcode, councils say today.
At the moment, there is no one place that consumers can compare side by side estimates of the broadband speeds that providers could supply to their home.
Instead they can only see postcode estimates giving “up to” speeds which can vary significantly from what residents might actually receive.
Only by conducting a line speed test on every potential broadband provider’s website, can consumers get a true assessment of the speed their premises will achieve. This adds complication and time for people who want a simple view of the market and makes it much harder to choose the best package.
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, thinks the regulator Ofcom should have the power to request address level data from providers in order to monitor the accuracy of speed predictions and for third parties to have access to live data on household speeds to present accurate comparisons to consumers.
The issue features in the Digital Economy Bill, due to have its second reading in Parliament today.
The LGA also pushed recently for greater transparency for broadband users by calling for a change to the rules which allow providers to promote “up to” download speeds if they can demonstrate that just 10 per cent of their customers can achieve them. These speeds don’t reflect the experience of many users, particularly those in remote rural areas.
As part of the Bill, the Government will also give everybody the legal right to request a broadband connection capable of delivering a minimum download speed of 10Mbps by 2020.
The LGA has called for the Government to continue its commitment to the Universal Service Obligation in the face of industry scepticism and to push ahead with giving powers to Ofcom to demand more open data from providers.
Cllr Mark Hawthorne, Chairman of the LGA’s People and Places Board, said:
“Councils are working hard to ensure everyone has good quality internet access.
“Good digital connectivity is a vital element of everyday life for residents and can help them cut household bills, shop online for cheaper goods, stay in touch with distant relatives, access their bank accounts and even run their own businesses. As central and local government services increasingly become ‘digital by default’, more people will need to have faster and more reliable speeds.
“The quality of digital connectivity can be markedly different from area to area with some households being able to access superfast broadband speeds whilst others can only achieve substantially less. We support the Government’s aims to allow Ofcom to demand providers open up their premises-level data on broadband so that residents can more easily compare who will provide the best service to their home – not just their postcode, which can often be inaccurate.
“Our residents can only make the most informed choices if they have all the data at their fingertips in one place.”