updated 11:30 am EST, Fri December 5, 2008
Ofcom UK Internet Rules
British telecom regulator Ofcom today put into effect a new set of guidelines meant to improve the state of Internet access in the UK. The voluntary system requires Internet providers who agree to the terms to give users a better idea of the real-world maximum speeds of the Internet connections and also guarantees that customers can step down their service plans without suffering a penalty fee.
The service providers are also being asked to educate users and to both help them understand what could cause slowdowns as well as to clearly notify users in advance when they are about to hit any bandwidth caps so that they can either curb their usage or else anticipate the extra costs or speed restrictions.
Multiple Internet providers, including Talk Talk, have agreed to follow the Ofcom rules and will be checked over the course of the next six months to see how well they follow the guidelines. Users can also visit Ofcom's site to check which providers are currently following the guidelines.
The optional rule set follows an increasing number of complaints from users who say that British providers have misled customers by advertising speeds that can't be achieved in real-world conditions. Consumer advocates have pushed for such rules in other countries, including the US, where customers have complained of overloaded networks or fringe DSL connections that slow performance well below expectations.