Broadband speedsEvery few weeks the media awakes to the fact that broadband speeds don't always (ok, never) match up to the claims made by the telecoms suppliers.

Today, it was another Ofcom report that alerted us (again) to this apparently startling revelation. Hold the front page, it's last week's news again. Drag out the tech reporter and make him say the same thing he said a few days ago. The audience will never notice.

The damning report shouts that more than 50 percent of ADSL broadband users in the UK can achieve only half the download speeds promoted in ISPs' "up to 8Mbps" adverts.

Well, it does say "up to 8Mbps", so I'm not putting broadband suppliers among the ranks of lying politicians and greedy bankers just yet.

If we're going to be pedantic, we should change that marketing spiel to "up to 7.2Mbps" as the communications regulator's research reports that the highest download speed someone with an 8Mbps package can achieve is actually 7.2Mbps.

Broadband speeds are determined by several factors - distance of your house/office to telephone exchange, your phone line, time of day, etc, and a rather difficult thing to accurately monitor: what other people are doing at the same time you're online.

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Maybe it should be marketed as "Maximum speed 7.2Mbps", just like with cars - although that too is fuzzy, as cars could go faster if going downhill with a fierce tail wind, just as they're unlikely to go at max mph full of children and luggage, uphill on a busy motorway during a bank holiday weekend.

Despite wanting to doze off when I saw that this topic was again being broadcast as a new revelation I hauled myself to the home PC (OK, a Mac if we're being pedantic) and checked my broadband speed (at that moment in time).

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I was rather surprised (almost delighted) to discover that my speed was better than 50% of 8Mbps. It was a rather racy 6.01Mbps.

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To me that represents a pretty good definition of "up to 8Mbps".

If you want more reliable broadband speeds of 8Mbps, then you need a cable operator such as Virgin Media - you know, it wouldn't surprise me if it was Virgin behind this fortnightly broadband speed "revelations" leaked to a forgetful or local-news-desperate media. (Or Ofcom trying too hard to justify its existence and attempt to show it has some real teeth rather than the pretend rubber ones protruding from its gums.)

In fact it would be remiss of Virgin's PR machine if it didn't try to get this story out on a daily if not hourly basis.

That would save Virgin Media the fortune it is spending on mailshots and general junk mail.

As someone on Twitter pointed out the other day: "The amount of paper Virgin have sent me trying to sell broadband, they might as well have just printed out the Internet and mailed it."

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