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Misleading Broadband Adverts

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has been criticised by CityFibre for a lack of regulation of the use of the term “fibre” in broadband adverts, which has meant that some consumers may have been misled.

Findings of CityFibre Research

The findings of the research, commissioned by network provider CityFibre, appear to show that customers may be confused about the fibre aspect of the broadband service they have.

For example, of the 3,400 broadband customers surveyed, 65% believed that they had already upgraded to a fibre connection and they were no longer on slower copper cables, even though copper is still the most common broadband connection type in the UK.

Also, 24% of the broadband customers surveyed by CityFibre believed they purchased services that used fibre cables running straight to their front door or FTTP (Fibre To The Premises). The reality, however, is that only 3% of the UK population have FTTP connections, as opposed to FFTC (Fibre To The Cabinet) connections, which go to a cabinet in the street, then by copper to the property. Virgin Media offers a slightly different model, using coaxial cable for improved speed between cabinet and premises.

The problem with this, apart from the fact that the UK is still lagging behind in fibre broadband provision, is that almost half of those customers surveyed believed that services advertised as ‘fibre’ delivered internet in this way as standard.

Broadband Providers & ASA To Blame

The report by CityFibre lays the blame for years of apparently misleading advertising information about what “fibre” actually means at the door of broadband providers for how they have used the word in their adverts, and the ASA for appearing to not regulate how the word has been used.

Stop Using The Word Unless…

CityFibre has called upon broadband providers to stop using the word ‘fibre’ unless it is describing a full-fibre connection, and has stated that it plans to take the “backward looking” ASA to court to dispute the ASA’s conclusion that ‘fibre’ is not a misleading term in advertising.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Many critics would say that years of misleading advertising of broadband speeds, as well as spurious use of the word ‘fibre’ without explaining what it really means, have left many domestic and business customers totally confused about what they are paying for. This has undermined trust in the industry.

The sad prevailing fact for UK businesses is that, according to a recent survey, the UK is now at 35th place in the global average broadband speed league tables. This is because it has been too late in embracing a full-fibre solution – FTTP (fibre to the premises). Many critics have pointed to UK infrastructure provider Openreach shying away from FTTP because of the perceived costs and level of difficulty of large-scale rollouts.

All this means that UK businesses still have to rely on the slower FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) alternative, which uses copper wires to carry broadband from street cabinets to their premises. This has put UK businesses at a competitive disadvantage with businesses in many other European countries.

Regardless of advertising claims, and despite government plans and announcements, it looks as though the UK may only actually have 7% full fibre coverage by 2020, with full coverage unlikely for another 15 years.

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