Should Broadband advertising be 'legal, decent, honest and truthful'? If so ...

Further to my recent blog on the way in which the Advertising Standards Authority has been accused of approving serious “misrepresentation” of the broadband offerings from dominant suppliers and thus helping prolong the current distortion of the market, I have received a number of responses as to what their approach should now be.

I particularly liked that from Dave Cullen, now with ITS , which has been providing high speed networks using hybrid (fibre and wireless) technologies for urban centres , business parks and rural communities for nearly 20 years.  The recent rapid growth of ITS (taking over smaller operators as well as winning ever more and bigger contracts) is indicative of the way the UK communications infrastructure market has changed over the past 18 months and now offers the prospect of genuine competition and growth.

Dave believes that, regardless of whether there is a good case for challenging BT’s claim of “19 million fibred homes” as “mis-representation”, the providers of alternative networks should ask the ASA to follow the logic of its own judgement.

Given that the ASA position appears to be that the issue is around customer’s service expectations and performance, it should be pointed out that Fibre to the Cabinet cannot  deliver  the claimed ‘up to’ levels of performance more than about 700 metres from the cabinet – and that distance is as the copper meanders, not as the crow flies.

Therefore, as a minimum, BT should be obliged to clearly state the “risks” associated with their product within EVERY ad, in much the same way as mortgage and loan companies have to warn that “Interest rates can go up as well as down; your home is at risk if your do not keep up repayments… etc”

BT should similarly be required to say: “our fibre optic service relies on copper for your final connection; it cannot guarantee superfast speed or quality to premises using copper cables longer than 700m from your connected cabinet…

The same would, of course, apply to those whose “fibre” services also depend on reselling the BT Openreach fibre to the cabinet services. It would give BT an incentive to repromote its own fibre to the premises service, instead of hiding it away lest too many customers ask for it and thus overload its creaking backhaul infrastructure. It would, of course, also give its resellers (incuidng Sky and Talk Talk) an added incentive to offer “crapfree” (i.e. no copper, rust, alluminium or other pollutant) broadband using rival local fibre and wireless to the premises providers.  

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