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UK broadband speeds climb 34 per cent in 2012, but at a cost

The UK's average speed has hit double figures for the first time ever, Ofcom says. But are we paying more for faster service?

The UK's broadband speeds have hit double figures for the first time, watchdog Ofcom jubilantly reports! But are Brits paying over the odds to get faster Internet speeds?

The average fixed-line speed of a UK connection was 12Mbps in November of last year, the report claims, up from a more modest 9Mbps in May of last year -- a 34 per cent speed increase. The numbers come via 1,291 panel members, who had measurement units strapped to their routers to measure Internet speeds.

It's not all good news though, as Ofcom's findings suggest there's a greater disparity in speeds -- a kind of broadband inequality. The average speed of connections advertised as 'up to 10Mbps' (excluding connections billed as 'up to 2Mbps') was 4.4Mbps in November, down from 5.6Mbps in May.

Ofcom reckons this fall is partly down to Virgin Media shifting its cable customers onto speedier 20 or 30Mbps services. As cable is generally faster than ADSL1 connections, the average has fallen -- ie most of the people left on 'up to 10Mbps' connections are getting less than half that. BT, meanwhile, is upgrading its ADSL network, leaving ADSL1 connections in rural areas that are further from exchanges, and consequently get slower speeds.

The overall speed bump appears to have come from an increase in the number of folks opting for super-speedy fibre connections of 30Mbps and above. The average speed for these connections was a pacy 44.6Mbps, but Marie-Louise Abretti of Uswitch warns the increase in broadband speeds may be putting pressure on our wallets.

Demand for streaming video and downloads has "led to some being frustrated with slow speed," Abretti says, "and, where they can, opting for a pricier fibre connection.

"There are still coverage blackspots across Britain," Abretti also notes, "where consumers still struggle with frustratingly sluggish speeds."

In other words, while the average speed across the UK is up, things don't look much rosier for those who can't afford -- or can't access -- the kinds of zippy download speeds that fibre provides.

The report to some extent contradicts recent findings by streaming-video service Netflix, which found the UK's average speed recording by its servers was 2.07Mbps. That put us near the bottom of a league table of the countries in which it operates.

How's t'Internet round your end? Let me know in the comments, or on our Facebook wall.