Friday, September 21, 2007

Lies, damn lies and benchmarks

Computeractive magazine in the UK recently put up a broadband speed checker and asked readers to send in their results. Come to find out, typical speeds are a far cry from the "speeds of up to" numbers given by the providers.

More than half of respondents reported getting less than half the advertised speed. Naturally, users are not best pleased. Spurred by the reaction Computeractive is calling for government regulation of broadband advertising.

On the one hand, truth-in-advertising laws can help provide clarity when sellers have little incentive to provide it themselves. On the other hand, I'm curious just what sort of measurement will end up being required. The whole problem with the current advertising is that it provides a single, easy-to-digest number instead of a more nuanced picture that allows for (among other things) congestion at any of several points.

I wouldn't be surprised to see some sort of standard "speed rating" hashed out, perhaps with separate flavors for DSL-like, cable-like or WiMax-like services. I wouldn't mind being a fly on that wall.

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