The UK's fibre industry wants European regulators, who meet in Brussels today, to get tougher on misleading broadband claims. Topping its complaints is "fake fibre" – the practice of calling broadband connections digital "fibre" when they contain plain old copper.
"We are witnessing 'fake fibre' advertising practices in several Member States using 'fibre' or 'fibre speeds' in advertisements for copper-based broadband, when the advertised product is not genuinely based on a full fibre connection," said the Fiber To The Home (FTTH) Council, a group representing 150 companies.
As evidence, Ronan Kelly, the group's president, cited a survey – which we reported on here – in which 24 per cent of UK consumers think they have fibre to the premises, when in fact only 3 per cent do.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has permitted broadband companies to advertise "hybrid" broadband – which means it "may contain fibre" – as true "fibre broadband".
This has infuriated CityFibre, which applied for a judicial review of the ASA's position in March.
CityFibre recently unveiled a further £2.5bn investment laying its own fibre and has a £500m deal with Vodafone to sink some more, providing both retail and backhaul.
The ASA's reasoning was that "fibre" is "seen as one of many generic buzzwords to describe modern, fast broadband" and customers don't care. It would be interesting to see this logic applied to other situations – for example, the ambiguity extended to "meat" products.
National regulators like Ofcom have to ensure the market adheres to four principles – promoting competition, the internal market, end users' benefits, and connectivity, access to and take-up of Very High Capacity Networks – but advertising isn't one of them.
The regulators wrote: "We urge Member States, National Regulatory Authorities and BEREC [Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications] to take action both individually and collectively to prevent misleading fibre advertising," the council said. ®