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UPDATE2 BT in Court for “Fibre broadband is here” Adverts on Street Cabs

Posted Friday, December 13th, 2013 (7:25 am) by Mark Jackson (Score 2,188)
bt-rural-fibre-broadband-cabinet-uk

BT is being taken to court by Bridgend County Borough Council in Glamorgan (South Wales) for putting allegedly illegal advertising for its latest superfast broadband (FTTC) product on the front of its new Street Cabinets, which is a reference to the text and stickers that many of you will have already seen stating: “Fibre broadband is here“.

According to Wales Online, the Bridgend council has already issued nine separate summonses against BT for “displaying advertisements advertising fibre broadband on BT cabinets, without the consent of Bridgend County Borough Council“. The case is now due to be heard at Bridgend Magistrates Court on Monday and BT says it intends to plead not guilty.

The cabinets are of course being upgraded both as part of BT’s £2.5bn commercial deployment of FTTC/P services to 66% of the United Kingdom and through the Welsh Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) and state aid supported Superfast Cymru project, which aims to make fibre optic based broadband (FTTC/P) available to 96% of Welsh premises by the end of spring 2016 (95% by 2017 for the UK).

At this stage neither side wishes to comment on the case, which is complicated by the fact that the cabinets are actually installed by BTOpenreach. However Openreach only maintains and manages access to BT’s national UK telecoms infrastructure, they do not sell a service directly to consumers and the “advert” itself doesn’t promote a specific retail product.

Instead the wording “Fibre broadband is here” tends to be followed by the website address for their www.superfast-openreach.co.uk service, which allows you to check the local availability of the product and separately offers a “Buy it now” page that lists the websites of various supporting ISPs. But the site itself is really just a simplified information hub and availability checker.

Similarly Openreach typically does not require planning permission to install street cabinets, except in certain areas, although councils and locals can still object to their placement. Never the less it will be interesting to see the outcome, which could force the operator to start tearing down its “Fibre broadband” stickers.

Meanwhile we suspect that many of BT’s most ardent critics would rather the court debate whether or not Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) technology can really be described as “Fibre broadband” in the first place, which is something that we took a closer look at last year (here).

UPDATE 19th December 2013

We are chasing this one for an update but the local government and court seem to be slowing down for xmas, which is making it difficult.

In the meantime it’s worth noting that this stems from a case in April 2013 against just one of BT’s street cabinets in the area (here). In that case BT lost and did not appeal, while the current case appears to concern the rest of their cabinets in the area.

UPDATE 19th Dec – 12:39pm

BT has confirmed to ISPReview.co.uk that they pleaded “not guilty” during Monday’s hearing and the court itself has confirmed to us that the case was adjourned to 26th March 2014, although it could slip into the summer period.

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47 Responses
  1. cyberdoyle

    It isn’t fibre broadband unless its fibre to the home. If it comes through a phone line its copper broadband. End of.

    • on this planet

      why the hang-up with a name? What really matters is the service customers get and whether it is transparent what they will get. Whether it is called ultrafast, true fibre, genuine fibre, super fast, fibre, mostly fibre, glass pipe, fibre to the home, hyperfast, fibre to the cabinet matters very little.

    • DanielM

      “fibre to the cabinet matters very little.”

      It matters very much. as FTTC VDSL can suffer the exact same problems as adsl.

    • It matters because a single true Fibre Optic line could in the future do several Gigabits per second to homes at any distance but the performance of FTTC and even G.Fast will always be way.. below that capability and much less if you live further from the node/cabinet.

      Not that FTTC is bad but the issue of calling something “fibre broadband” when the correct terminology would be “hybrid fibre broadband” or indeed “hybrid copper fibre” is something that could become a lot more significant in the future, thus adding to the consumer confusion. Not that thinking about it keeps me awake at night :).

      http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2013/01/will-the-real-fibre-optic-broadband-service-please-stand-up.html

    • FibreFred

      Well we all know where this sales term originated, its hard to see them changing it now

    • JNeuhoff

      Fully agree. Let’s hope the court decides against this illegal advertising scheme.

  2. FibreFred

    “they do not sell a service directly to consumers and the “advert” itself doesn’t promote a specific retail product.”

    Exactly, so its a statement isn’t it as opposed to an advert?

    Much like saying “This Cabinet is a fibre cabinet, you can buy a fibre service”

    • Yes that’s indeed what I was getting at and is the reason why “advert” is in speechmarks. Now we’ll see what the court says.

    • No, it is a blatant advert! Otherwise BT would not have put them on in the first place.

      “This Cabinet is a fibre cabinet, you can buy a fibre service (which has to use BT infrastructure) that will make BT lots of money, stuff the competition by destroying LLU and generally allow us to further dominate the market and abuse that dominant position!” :-)

    • One of the biggest problems I have is the colours used are quite clearly the BT brand colours. And the BT openreach logo is pretty indistinguishable from the BT retail logo if you are a “normal person”.

      People see it and go Infinity is here.. not “Great, I now can pick a provider”.

      I’ve seen less intrusive entirely green stickers with white writing but they only seem to be used in one town – the one that got fttc years before everyone else.

      At least none of the ones around here are like this:
      http://beusergroup.co.uk/technotes/images/9/95/IMG_20130329_172202s.jpg

    • Yeah fair point about the BT logo.

    • Yes Tom, I have a horrible feeling we are going to see a lot more of those as the various councils will want to blow their own trumpets loud and clear.

      It would be great if BT lost the battle in Bridgend as it would strengthen the hands of the alt nets in complaining later when the councils blatantly favour one solution (ie BDUK superfast) over others – which they will def do as the councils’ contracts generate kick-backs if/when the take-up of BDUK funded FTTC reaches certain levels.

    • CrazyLazy

      All the flyers on cabinets clearly are adverts. The website they list takes you to a website advertising a product. Be it the one in the news item picture or the cornwall one Tom points to.

      I highly doubt if other business went and put posters up saying as an example “Electricity is available here” along with their web address which in turn links to retailers of that electricity (much like the openreach website links to retailers of FTTC) for the public it would be deemed as stating a service is available rather than an advert for their business.

      Especially when combined with your great big logo of not only your NON-Retail division of the business but the Retail division also.

      Lets hope the courts make them take them down, there are no National Grid posters on the Electricity infrastructure or even substations round my way. With a web address that then links to all the Retail providers in my area.

      Would not be so bad if they were not in vomit inducing colours, but BT, design, style and substance used in the same sentence has always been a misnomer.

      Lots of negative BT news on here today, great job to Mark and the team on reporting it all.

  3. colin

    I think it would be good all round for BT Group to sell off Openreach.

    • In the overall scheme of things it would not really make a bit of difference – we would just be moaning about Openreach blatantly abusing its dominant market position rather than BT.

    • JNeuhoff

      @collin: I agree. This would actually force BT to compete with other telecom providers, and put an end to cross-subsidising between various BT-Group owned companies.

    • CrazyLazy

      It would be interesting if BT can show where the funding came from for the flyers on the cabinets. I hope the cost has not come out of the various funding they have been given.

    • TheFacts

      BDUK funding is also to encourage takeup and get more people online.

    • CrazyLazy

      If that is the case and the flyers came out of BDUK funds and are design to “encourage takeup and get more people online.” then clearly the posters/flyers are indeed advertising.

  4. Phil

    “Fibre broadband is here” should be ok if it was declared FTTP. But, if it was only FTTC then BT are in trouble on Monday because it not 100% fibre all the way to the houses from exchange. Should be called “Fibre/Copper is here” instead for FTTC.

    • ethel prunehat

      To play devil’s advocate for a moment, fibre broadband is “here” when “here” is a cabinet, it’s just that you won’t be getting fibre at your house ;-)

    • Ignitionnet

      No they aren’t. The ASA have already approved FTTC being described as fibre broadband.

  5. I’ve described ADSL to customers in the past as Fibre to the Exchange, and regularly explain FTTC as Copper FROM the Cabinet. It’s all a marketing gimmick, and all a matter of perspective, and choosing to ignore certain things.

    I also like the demands from fibre Ethernet customers that “my service must be fibre all the way to the internet”. It’s just not the case.

    When a simple RJ45 socket on a cat5 cable in the Exchange fails, the fibre circuits running off it will go down (happened to a very unfortunate customer of ours several times a week until fixed by BT). Fortunately we bond our services even when Ethernet, and even bond FTTC with ADSL as you then get cross-technology resilience in case an entire platform or circuit type suffers a local failure.

    I’ve always thought these adverts on upgraded cabinets are skirting the edges of what’s appropriate.

    In my view this is one bit of BT helping another bit of BT get more business. Lots of consumers, certainly, and probably plenty of business users still, see this and think they can only get it from BT the ISP, or that the service will be inferior from other ISPs.

    • JNeuhoff

      Good points.

      Fibre broadband is already available to almost everyone in the UK, in form of FTTE (Fibre To The Exchange), ASA wouldn’t mind :)

  6. colin

    For Mr and Mrs Joe Public who just want fast broadband (15-25Mb)and they don’t care if this comes into the house via a piece of string.

    The telcoms and ISP’s should and don’t need to mention Fibre or copper just the best service they can deliver.

    • Completely agree Colin.

      Consumers and businesses alike want an internet connection that will “just work” and rightly give them what they personally need.

      Bandwidth isn’t everything, and naming/branding certainly doesn’t matter all.

    • Tell that to Coca Cola :).

    • CrazyLazy

      I doubt a certain individual could taste the difference. (Opps that is Pepsi’s saying ;) ).

    • DTMark

      Well, yes. However “fibre” sets a false expectation, does it not – that the presence of said “fibre” is a key determining factor in the performance achieved, whereas in fact copper or aluminium is the key determining factor.

      I said so at the time and still these posters make me giggle. Shortly there will be a cabinet about 750m from our house proudly declaring “fibre broadband is here!” and it’s absolutely correct. It is, or will be.

      Sadly nobody lives in the cabinet so the “fibre” might as well be a hundred miles away from here or more. Given it’s copper/aluminium to the premises the two dozen houses or so nearest to it will be able to get a fair to good service though.

      Enough of the VSL roll-out. When is the superfast broadband programme set to begin?

  7. dragoneast

    People and their councillors have long got worked up over these signs/ads on or near the highway. I think it actually makes little difference to the law what you call them – the main restrictions are on size/location/consents. As for the content, does anyone take any notice? I certainly don’t. Just think “more b***** rubbish eyesores”.

  8. Perhaps it should read. ‘Mostly publicly funded fibre delivered to this overpriced metal box. Level of public subsidy remains a mystery. Much improved broadband for most of those within 1km of this metal box.’ ‘Fibre to you your home available on request and at your own expense’

    The council will complain about the presence of the advert not what it says. Correcting the content needs a separate complaint.

    Superfast is also misleading as we are describing an increased volume at the existing rate of flow. Every Openreach van is mislabelled. Why has Michael Gove not noticed?

    • @Crazy@MikeW there must be a way to celebrate the engineering achievement (fibre delivered to this point – salute the engineers and engineering), celebrate the fact the components are cheap (but not disclosed), and point to the potential.

      I think the government would have spent a great deal more with Openreach if BT Group choose not to go for the shot term fees in the form of project management fees, change requests, planning, cost allocations for backhaul etc, etc.

  9. four_eyes

    TYPICAL !!!! the council after money as usual the pricks

  10. CrazyLazy

    “Perhaps it should read. ‘Mostly publicly funded fibre delivered to this overpriced metal box. Level of public subsidy remains a mystery. Much improved broadband for most of those within 1km of this metal box.’ ‘Fibre to you your home available on request and at your own expense’”

    Almost spat coffee all over the place as i read that and the hilarious truth about their product.

    • TheFacts

      ‘at your own expense’. And why not?

    • CrazyLazy

      Because if it is “publicly” funded it is already at my expense. Unfortunately for you unlike others i am not going to argue with you or your antagonistic stupidity you contribute on here.

      So go ahead right ahead paint BT in a even more negative light by insisting on the last word as you do in every story.

    • MikeW

      I liked the comment too – one for one of Jasper Carrott’s old show. Certainly closer to the truth, but not fully.

      The “adverts” are either on commercial cabinets, in which case they aren’t publicly funded, or they are on the BDUK cabinets, in which case the “adverts” actually belong to the council running that particular project.

  11. Tron

    Well I live in north london and our area from the looks of it wont be getting bt fibre at all. Virgin are in the area but they can jump off a cliff for all I care. Have to stick with 4 megs for future

  12. Phil

    How about fibre to the space? BT 1Gb Fibre in the space satellite to cover 100% of UK to have superfast broadband for 100% property/business to have download speed of 150Meg and upload speed of 75Meg Unlimited from their mini satellite dish from bt wholesale.

    Then there would be no more copper/fibre theft.

  13. MikeW

    This is an ironic position for a council to take. If they can stimulate demand to more than a 20% takeup, they gain by getting BDUK clawback and probably getting a higher percentage of coverage. These stickers must surely represent an efficient way of starting that demand, by prickling local conscience.

    It’ll be interesting to see the actual legal arguments, to find out what it is they object to about these ads

    • FibreFred

      Indeed I’m sure they do. Our cab has no sticker and there have been no leaflets posted from Sky, BT, TalkTalk offering the service. I bet most people around here haven’t a clue they can get it

  14. PhilT

    There is a very long list of cases where you can advertise without planning permission, I wouldn’t be surprised if this falls under one of them.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsvalentine/10463043303/ for examnple has the logo of the local planning authority on it !!

  15. TheFacts

    So signs on roundabouts saying ‘Sponsored by xxxxx’ are OK? I often hold up traffic writing down the name of the company…

  16. FibreFred

    Interesting.

    It looks like BT have already been in court over this in Bridgend earlier in the year but it was for one cabinet only and the judge ruled in the favour of the council and fined BT. So it looks like they are back for more even though they received less than 10% of their costs for the case last time around.

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