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.