ASA is challenged on use of 'fibre' in broadband rules

CityFibre has called on the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to ban broadband providers from claiming their service is ‘fibre’ if it is delivered by copper cables.

Last November the ASA determined there was no need to change the definition of what constitutes a ‘fibre’ service, but CityFibre says the continued use of the term to describe fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) broadband is confusing and misinforming customers.

FTTC uses copper for the final few hundred metres of the connection, whereas Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) uses fibre all the way to the home. This means significant increases in speeds and reliability.

ASA ruling

The overwhelming majority of ‘superfast’ broadband connections today are delivered by FTTC, but CityFibre, Openreach, Virgin Media, Hyperoptic and TalkTalk are now moving towards FTTP rollouts.

The mobile industry has called for more fibre in the UK, as this will provide the backhaul infrastructure for 5G networks and power network densification technology such as small cells.

CityFibre, which plans to reach as many as five million homes and premises by 2025, says the differences between the two services are significant enough to warrant a clear distinction and is calling for a judicial review of the November decision.

“The time has come to do away with ‘fake fibre’,” declared CityFibre CEO Greg Mesch. “The ASA’s short-sighted decision to allow yesterday’s copper-based infrastructure to masquerade as the future-proof full fibre networks of tomorrow is a clear failure in its duty.

“It has failed to ensure honest and truthful broadband advertising, it has failed to enable consumers to make informed choices and it has failed to support a national infrastructure project critical to our success in a digital age.”

The government has lent its support to the construction of ‘full fibre’ networks, which it sees as essential to futureproofing the UK’s infrastructure. CityFibre is arguing that takeup is essential for investment and therefore there must be transparency in marketing communications.

“UK operators such as CityFibre are busy building the gigabit capable networks that UK consumers and businesses will need for the future, but without clear and transparent advertising to guide their purchasing decisions, millions of consumers risk being conned into staying on inferior copper-based broadband services,” continued Mesch. “The first step to righting this consumer wrong is for the ASA to reverse its decision, which perpetuates the ‘fake fibre’ lie.”

“We acknowledge that Cityfibre has applied for a judicial review of our November 2017 decision on the use of the term ‘fibre’ to describe part–fibre services,” an ASA spokesperson told TechRadar Pro. “The full reasoning for our decision is available on our website.  We will be responding to the application [for judicial review] in due course.”


Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.