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Vicky Read

Vicky Read, CityFibre

Our colleagues at CityFibre are taking the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) to court over the use of ‘fibre’ in advertising for part-fibre or ‘hybrid’ broadband connections, arguing that this term misleads consumers and will risk millions missing out on the benefits of “full fibre”, just at the point these enhanced networks at set to be built across the country. This action has been sanctioned by the High Court, who have granted permission for CityFibre to take the ASA’s original ruling to judicial review.

Victoria Read, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Manager at CityFibre explains why this legal challenge is so important for the channel and consumers and the potential impact that could be felt if the rules are not changed.

“As we in the telecoms industry already know, ‘part-fibre’ or ‘hybrid’ broadband services, which utilise old copper infrastructure (such as FTTC) are NOT the same as full-fibre (FTTP) and therefore are not able offer consumers the same reliable gigabit-capable digital connectivity that FTTP can. But despite this, for years consumers have been led to believe that these copper-based services are “fibre”, thanks to lax advertising rules, which allow ISPs to describe their FTTC products as “fibre”. The result has been widespread consumer confusion.

In a report from Censuswide, which was commissioned by CityFibre and surveyed 3,400 broadband customers, almost a quarter (24%) thought they already have fibre cables running all the way to their home (fibre-to-the-premises), when the truth is that only 4% of the UK can actually receive a full fibre connection at present with the vast majority actually using a part-fibre/part-copper hybrid. Additionally, 45% believed that services currently advertised as “fibre” deliver this type of connectivity as standard. Once the difference between hybrid copper-fibre connections and full fibre was explained, two thirds thought the advertising rules should be changed so that hybrid services could no longer be called “fibre”.

This is not just a problem for consumers – who are being led to believe they are buying the “best” connectivity available when they are not, or for CityFibre – which is set to deploy FTTP to 5 million homes in the coming years – but for the future digital economy of the UK. Only last week the Government published its long awaited full fibre strategy, setting out ambitious new full fibre targets – 15 million premises by 2025 and nationwide coverage by 2033. But unless consumers have accurate advertising information to help them to migrate from old copper to new full fibre networks, the UK’s consumers and businesses won’t be able to benefit from the huge investment now being made in our nation’s digital infrastructure. In our view, while it’s fantastic  that Government, industry and the regulators now agree that a successful digital future is reliant on a truly full fibre infrastructure and that existing copper infrastructure is unsuitable, it’s also now time to end “fake fibre” advertising.

The court case against the ASA is just one of the ways in which we are trying to right this wrong. Kicking off this week, we have launched a consumer-facing campaign, highlighting how, despite what advertising has led us to believe, the UK is in fact relying on prehistoric digital infrastructure. We are bringing this issue to life with a huge ‘Coppersaurus’ revealed in Milton Keynes yesterday and the launch of our new website (https://www.coppersaurus.com/). You can join the debate and send a letter to the ASA CEO calling for change.

But we are also calling for Government, parliament and other stakeholders, to take action. The Government’s new full fibre strategy offers the perfect opportunity to end this farce and encourage clarity and education across the market, so that we can ensure a successful digital future for the UK. Other countries are taking steps to bring clarity to broadband advertising in order to help spur on the full fibre revolution, with Italy recently banning ISPs’ from calling FTTC products “fibre”; we call on the ASA to do the same.”

Have your say!

What do you think about the use of ‘fibre’ in part-fibre broadband advertising? Do you think market confusion exists and how do you think we can combat this? Share your thoughts and experiences with us.

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