In Depth

How to make your broadband faster: Ofcom reveals new rules

Consumers can now ditch internet providers if they fail to provide the minimum speed they promised

It is an excruciating modern problem, but consumers suffering slow broadband internet access will now be able to ditch their provider at any point during a contract under new rules to be announced by Ofcom today.

Until now, customers could find themselves locked in to a slow provider once the first three months of a contract had elapsed, unless they paid a penalty fee. This left many trapped in lengthy deals that offered a painfully slow service.

But new rules, to be announced by the communications watchdog, will tighten the industry code of practice to allow subscribers to switch broadband provider at any time if they are not getting the minimum speed they were promised when they signed up, reports the BBC.

Certain conditions will need to be met. For instance, the customer must have given their provider a "reasonable" opportunity to fix the problem – for example, several weeks of time and access to their property.

Ofcom's new rules apply only to internet service providers using digital subscriber line technology, which means BT, EE, Sky and TalkTalk are all affected, but not Virgin Media, which uses a cable-based system.

In her first speech since taking the post, Ofcom’s new chief Sharon White is expected to say: "When Ofcom was established, access to a reliable internet connection and mobile phone was a 'nice to have'. Now it is essential to the functioning of the economy, to the way people work and live their lives."

The executive director of consumer group Which? welcomed White's announcement. "This is an encouraging start by Sharon White at a time when there are very big challenges facing Ofcom,” said Richard Lloyd.

Meanwhile, here are five key ways to make your broadband quicker:

Test your speed

A good place to start is an online speed tester. This will tell you the speed at which your broadband connection is currently running, and allow you to assess what difference other methods make.

Password-protect it

If your wireless router is not secure, anyone nearby could log on to your broadband, slowing down the speed considerably. They could also be putting your online security at risk. If you do not know if your router is secure, search for available wireless networks. Unless there is an image of a padlock next to yours, you are not secure.

Move your router

All sorts of items can weaken your wireless signal. So if your router is based near a wall or a door, it needs to move. Also, items that emit signals of their own can cause problems, including power leads, baby monitors, television sets, computer monitors, speakers and cordless phones. Is your wireless signal particularly weak in certain rooms in your home? Powerline adapters could help you address this. They use the electricity power lines in your house to boost the signal from room to room.

Update your internet browser

If you are not using the latest version of your web browser, that could be slowing down your browsing experience. Again, taking this measure should improve your security. Close down any applications such as media player pop-ups and instant chat applications, as well as streaming services such as BBC iPlayer and Spotify – as these eat into your bandwidth.

Upgrade your router

If you have an old router, upgrading to the latest model could speed up your service and prevent irritating disconnections. Speak to your provider in the first instance.

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