UK regulator Ofcom seek volunteers to help them test how far real broadband speeds experienced by consumers actually match up to broadband speeds advertised by internet service providers. This will be in partnership with SamKnows, who say:
We aim to provide the UK with reliable and accurate statistics on the actual performance of broadband connections, and not just the speeds that they are advertised as being "up to".
The test will involve your getting a glamorous "‘White Box’ that sits in the consumer’s home, which does not monitor the home network or web traffic, but focuses solely on the relevant ISP’s network."
From their similar research in 2009, Ofcom found that the average ‘up to’ headline speed in April 2009 was advertised to be 7.1 Mbit/s - but the average broadband speed obtained by users was in fact only 4.1 Mbit/s (megabits per second) i.e. just over half the advertised speeds.
Ofcom have produced a guide on issues and factors to consider when you're looking for a broadband deal.
Remember, not only may actual average speeds be significantly less than the "up to" speeds ISPs advertise in big bold letters, but also the usage allowance may not in fact be "unlimited" even though they say it is - see my blog post on ISP and mobile networks' top speeds, "unlimited" usage & consumer rights.