Page last updated at 10:34 GMT, Monday, 19 October 2009 11:34 UK

Broadband test offers street view

Screen grab of map on SteetStats
The speed test shows broadband in a whole street

There are big variations between broadband speeds in the same street, a new broadband speed test has revealed.

The test, launched by comparison site Top 10 Broadband, allows users to zoom in on their postcode area to see what speed their neighbours net runs at.

It will be a wake-up call for internet service providers, thinks Alex Buttle, marketing director at Top 10 Broadband.

"One person at 1Mbps [megabit per second] could be next door to someone receiving 8.5Mbps," he said.

"We know that broadband speed will vary depending on things like distance from the exchange and the way the wiring and equipment in your house is set up but we do not believe this explains all of the variations we have seen between people in the same street," said Mr Buttle.

"We think some of this may be due to outdated technology some providers use in their local exchanges, as well as the fact that some providers use traffic shaping or throttling at peak times while others do not," he added.

The service, dubbed StreetStats, collects speed test data from users to build an interactive map.

More than 170,000 speed test results have so far been added to the map and the firm hopes to have two million by the end of the year.

Future plans

While many consumers remain focused on their current speeds, the debate about broadband has moved on to how quickly, how far, and at what cost next-generation speeds can be rolled out.

Entering this debate, Shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that a Conservative government would scrap the proposed broadband tax, which was intended to provide a fund for next-generation access in difficult-to-reach areas.

The £6 a year tax was aimed at every home with a fixed line phone.

Mr Hunt told the BBC that the Conservatives had a different vision of how to make sure superfast broadband was available across the UK.

"We're saying that this is the wrong time to decide about how to fund comprehensive coverage when we haven't even got the infrastructure in place in the main areas," he told the BBC.

"We accept that to make coverage comprehensive might need public funds at some stage but we need to look at other things too, such as the regulatory framework," he added.

It could be that the UK follows France's example and forces BT to open up its ducting to other parties, he said.

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