Ofcom proposes new guidance to combat confusion about broadband network tech

Wi-Fi modem in home
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The UK industry regulator, Ofcom, has announced it is to launch a consultation on its plans to provide new guidance for consumers. This aims to help customers make more 'informed choices' about their broadband. 

This has come following the regulator's own research into how much broadband customers actually understand the 'language and terminology' providers use around their products, with as many as 53% claiming they 'would find it useful to have a short description of the underlying technology used to deliver their [broadband] services'. 

One of the biggest focusses here will also be with how the terms 'fibre' and 'full-fibre' are used on everything from the websites, to the contracts and product descriptions internet service providers (ISPs) have on offer. 

Ofcom hopes that with this new guidance, consumers will be able to properly understand and make the most of the best broadband deals on the market, and ultimately, get the right products for their needs. 

What's causing the confusion?

Ofcom claims that as more and more broadband technologies are being rolled out, the term 'fibre' is being used inconsistently when referring to the increasing number of connection types. 

The example given is that fibre is 'sometimes being used to describe older part-fibre, part-copper technologies' and there's little differentiation at times with what constitutes 'full-fibre'. In turn, Ofcom has found 'more than a quarter (27%) of broadband customers lacked confidence in understanding the language and terminology used by providers'.

Moreover, it appears that some customers who have 'full-fibre' could be getting misled about what broadband packages they're purchasing. In reality, Ofcom found that 'only 46% of customers who reported being on full-fibre broadband were living in areas where it is actually available'. 

What will the new guidance include?

Speaking about this issue and the findings of their research, Selina Chadha, Ofcom's Director of Connectivity has said:

"It’s vital that customers are provided with the right information to help them choose the best broadband service for them. But some of the industry jargon used to describe the underlying technology supporting their broadband service can be unclear and inconsistent, meaning customers are left confused.

"So today we’re proposing to introduce new guidance to ensure that broadband firms give clearer, straightforward information about their services – making it easier for people to take advantage of more reliable, and potentially higher speed technology, as it becomes available."

If we look at the specifics here, Ofcom has said that the new guidance to support consumers will mean providers must: 

  • Include a short description of the underlying technology of the network delivering the broadband service, on their websites and in contract information, using one or two terms such as ‘fibre’, ‘cable’, ‘full-fibre’, ‘copper’ or ‘part-fibre’.
  • Use those terms consistently to describe the service.
  • Only use the terms ‘fibre’ and ‘full-fibre’ when referring to fibre-to-the-premises [FTTP] networks.
  • Provide an explanation of the one- or two-word terms used to describe the service, in a way that can be easily accessed by customers.

The consultation on these proposals will be open for feedback until 5pm on 3 May 2023. Once this closes it's believed a statement about the new guidance will be released in August.

What broadband can you get?

While we wait for this guidance, you may be pleased to know that there are some approaches to take to get a better understanding of the broadband markets.

One thing to do is to enter your postcode into our widget below to see what packages are on offer in your location. This will also tell you more about the download speeds and the specific type of broadband that's available. 

In addition to this, you can also check directly with the ISP you currently have or are interested in choosing. They will be able to let you know what broadband type and the speeds you can or are currently accessing in your property. Equally, they can give updates on the rollout of faster 'full-fibre' in your area if you don't have it yet, or if there are opportunities for you to upgrade to an FTTP connection right now. 

Richard Hart

Rich is a freelance copywriter and content strategist with over 10 years' experience. His career has seen him work in-house and in various agencies, producing online and offline content marketing campaigns and copywriting for clients in the energy industry.