Fibre Broadband: In a statement yesterday, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said it was acting because of “evolving concerns” about the way fibre internet services were being advertised. ISPs are advertising services as being “fibre internet” or “fibre broadband”, when in actual fact they rely upon copper wires for the last-mile link. The probe has been prompted by complaints from customers and MP Matt Warman has called for an investigation. Mr Warman said ISPs were misleading customers by giving them copper when they expected fibre.
Fans of accurate definitions of services, and the avoidance of misleading claims, will be pleased that the Advertising Standards Authority has finally agreed to review the often confusing way in which ISPs promote “fibre broadband” and “fibre internet” packages. This can be applied to both slower hybrid fibre, known as Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) and ultrafast full fibre optic Fibre-to-the-Home/Premise (FTTH/P) services. The ASA has allowed hybrid-fibre broadband products to be promoted as “fibre optic” or “fibre broadband” or “fibre internet” since 2008. Despite the fact that Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) and most EuroDOCSIS based cable connections require a mix of both copper and optical fibre.
Copper delivery can easily suffer from electrical interference and signal degradation, which gets worse over distance. This is obviously a significant performance limitation on such connections, which is why some FTTC services struggle to deliver even ADSL capacities, and yet others can push near to the top rate of 80mbps.
Following our research on broadband speed, our sister body CAP is currently considering how best to tighten standards on speed claims in ads with an announcement expected in the next few weeks.
We are also aware of evolving concerns about the advertising of ‘fibre’ broadband services. The term ‘fibre’ is currently used in advertising to describe both part-fibre and full-fibre broadband services.
The UK Government’s recently published Digital Strategy made clear its commitment to invest in full-fibre broadband infrastructure, which is likely to make those services available to significantly more people, and also made clear its view that the term ‘fibre’ should only be used to describe full-fibre broadband services. A recent debate in Parliament saw those MPs who participated also expressing their concerns about the use of the term ‘fibre’ to describe part-fibre broadband services.
In response to that context and those concerns, we are now scoping a review of how we interpret the Advertising Codes when judging the use of the term ‘fibre’ to describe broadband services. In particular, we will be considering whether the use of that term is likely to cause people to be materially misled. Our work has already begun and we will provide an update with more information by the summer.
The ASA did not say when it would complete its work but said it would provide an update by the summer.