The Infamous ‘Up To’ Broadband Qualifier

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has issued a warning to Australia ISPs to come clean about their broadband speeds and stop using the “up to” marketing term, or face possible litigation. “Most consumers won’t understand what ‘up to’ means and then they are significantly disappointed when they don’t achieve those speeds,” says ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel. “We know all the technicians know that in most cases the speeds that you are claiming as the headline speeds are not achievable,” he warns.

There’s been a similar debate here in the States. While technicians and informed users know that an “up to 3Mbps” connection means under optimal conditions (line quality, CO distance), less informed consumers are repeatedly surprised when they perform their first speed test and notice they’re getting significantly less. While some have suggested regulator-enforced speed tests to ensure customers are getting what they pay for, there’s too many factors to consider (trojan infection? poor home wiring?) to make proper enforcement practical.

Our resident ISP techs will be the first to tell you that residential broadband is a “best effort” service, and users desiring guaranteed speed and reliability should look toward business class lines with SLAs. Users on the other side of the fence argue you don’t pay for “up to” a gallon of gasoline, with the gas station saying .7 gallons was their “best effort” in getting it from the ground to your tank. Either way, if there’s a problem with the “up to” tag, it’s a marketing department issue. Is the “up to” tag misleading? Is it something regulators should squash?


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