'

​Broadband breakthrough: Buyers will get minimum speed guarantee before they buy

And if their broadband speed drops below the promised level, they can quit without penalty.

Broadband buyers will get a better idea of the real-world speed of their internet connection before they sign a deal, under new measures announced by Ofcom.

From March next year, broadband providers will be required to give potential customers a minimum guaranteed speed for their service at the point of sale. And after the customer has signed up, if their broadband speed drops below the promised level, the provider will have one month to improve it or the customer can quit the contract without paying a penalty.

SEE: 20 pro tips to make Windows 10 work the way you want (free PDF)

This right to exit a contract will also apply, for the first time, to landline and TV packages bought together with broadband. This means customers won't be stuck with a TV contract bought at the same time as their broadband, if speeds fall short of what was promised and they decide to leave.

special report

Download the Blockchain Guide

You can read this executive guide as a PDF (free registration required).

Read More

Consumers often complain that they are confused about the broadband speeds they are likely to get and the service they pay for, and there's often a gap between the broadband speeds people are sold, and what they actually receive. Broadband providers must also provide more realistic peak-time speed information upfront, said Ofcom, as broadband speeds can tumble when more people are online during the busy periods of 8-10pm, or 12-2pm for businesses.

But the telecoms regular said that because these changes will require broadband providers to make major changes to their systems, such as developing new speed testing methods, and train staff, companies now have 12 months to make these changes before the new requirements come into force for services purchased from 1 March 2019.

At the moment, broadband customers can exit their contract if speeds fall below a minimum guaranteed level and their provider is unable fix them -- but providers currently have an unlimited amount of time to resolve the problem before letting you leave. From March next year, broadband companies will have 30 calendar days to improve speeds before allowing customers to leave without penalty: this protection will now also apply to cable broadband customers, who Ofcom said can experience particularly wide variations in speeds during peak times.

Broadband at speeds of 24Mbps or faster is now available to more than 95 percent of UK homes and businesses, the government has said. However that means 1.4 million premises (five percent of the total) are still struggling with no speed option above 24Mbps.

Analysis published last year put the UK in 31st place in the world for broadband speeds, with the average connection speed of 16.51Mbps -- behind 20 European countries, 17 of which are in the EU.

RECENT AND RELATED COVERAGE

UK businesses' lament: All I want for Christmas is... decent broadband
Hundreds of thousands of UK enterprises don't have access to basic broadband.

One million UK homes still without decent broadband
Getting 10Mbps is still an ambition for a significant proportion of UK households.

Fact: Broadband really does work over a piece of wet string
And it's faster than kilobit speed dial-up internet.

BT's $778M broadband investment could improve remote work for rural UK workers (TechRepublic)
Telecommunications provider BT wants to ensure that all houses in Britain can access internet speeds of at least 10 megabits per second. Here's what that could mean for tech workers.