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Ireland Doing What the UK ASA Failed to do – BAN “Fake Fibre” Ads

Wednesday, July 24th, 2019 (12:37 pm) - Score 1,792
virgin media coaxial copper cable advertised as fibre optic

The Advertising Standards Authority‘s decision to allow slower “part fibre” (hybrid fibre) broadband ISPs to use “fibre” terminology in their broadband adverts is starting to look increasingly silly, particularly now that Ireland has joined a number of other countries by moving to ban such promotions.

According to the Irish Times, the ASA for Ireland (ASAI) plans to impose stricter guidance that will stop providers promising “fibre” in their broadband adverts if the connection(s) still relies on old copper or aluminium lines (FTTC / VDSL, Hybrid Fibre Coax etc.).

Most “full fibre” (FTTP / FTTH) ISPs can deliver significantly faster speeds (multi-Gigabit or even Terabit speeds) than metallic cables and are generally much more reliable, particularly over long distances. Experiences do vary, depending upon the network setup and length of the line, but generally there’s a huge difference (Will the real fibre optic service please stand up?).

The rising availability of FTTP networks across Europe has created more interest in solving this issue, although so far the United Kingdom’s own advertising watchdog (ASA) has successfully resisted attempts to change their stance. Meanwhile other countries, such as France and now Ireland, have slowly been taking action to prevent hybrid fibre services from using fibre terminology in their adverts.

Back in 2017 the ASA did finally agree, after a lot of pressure, to review the situation but in the end they only recommended minor tweaks (here). In its conclusion the ASA claimed that “fibre” simply was not a priority identified by consumers when choosing a package; that consumers did not notice “fibre” claims in ads and that they saw it as a shorthand buzzword to describe modern fast broadband.

Overall consumers told the ASA that they did not believe they would change their previous decisions, even after the differences between those and broadband services that use fibre optic cables all the way to the home were explained to them. Naturally many FTTP ISPs continue to disagree with this stance and not even Cityfibre’s failed court challenge could get them to budge (here).

Admittedly unpicking something that has long since become established in the consumer subconscious, where the meaning of “fibre” has been diluted over a decade of use (or misuse) by slower hybrid (part fibre) services, would be tricky. Nevertheless it’s clear that other countries are changing their stance and while this won’t directly change the ASA’s position, it does add extra pressure.

We can’t help but wonder if Boris Johnson’s (Prime Minister) plans to turbo charge the UK FTTP rollout (here) might also have an impact.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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10 Responses
  1. Avatar Archie

    So what does this mean for Virgin’s FTTP, does that constitute full fibre in spite of being RFOG?

    • Right now it doesn’t mean anything, it’s just some contrast to the debate over this side of the sea. But I imagine a similar sort of change over here might well impact Virgin’s HFC network but their FTTP/RFoG is very much full fibre in the local access network (the customer’s realm is another matter, lest you forget that even FTTP ISPs connect from ONTs to routers via traditional copper LAN cables).

  2. Avatar Jamie

    Well lets be frank it wouldn’t be the first time the UK is slow to adapt to change.

  3. Avatar Gary

    Just because something has been accepted as normal is a very poor reason to let it remain that way.

    Have a think about things society used to accept/say as normal or ok that we now regard as unacceptable. Their own comment that people regard fibre as a buzzword for fast should have been enough for them to see that change was needed. If people don’t understand then educate them don’t dumb down and misuse/abuse technical terms.

    There’s only really one reason that companies want to refer to their product as fibre when it isn’t, to deceive their customers.

  4. Avatar Steve

    I don’t really care what they call it personally. Copper, coax, hybrid, fibre, 4G, 5G… I look at the speeds, they can call it whatever they want as long as the minimum speed guarantee is as high as possible for my area!

    • Avatar Gary

      @Steve Well you’re part of the problem then.

      I don’t care HOW a product is delivered either. As you say, what matters is what it achieves. Like you I’d take any method that gave me the performance I’d like to have.

      But Like any service I buy I expect the provider to advertise that service/product honestly and accurately, anything less is deception.

  5. Avatar Sebastian

    Italy has done that as well and further: they set up a system of colors, where red means ADSL/fibre to the exchange, yellow anything in the middle, green is FTTH/P. And ISPs must put those in their advertisement, although pricing really is kinda flat, you get whatever max speed allowed for the medium you have available, regardless of the € you pay.
    So people pay 25/30€ a month regardless if you have only 20Mb ADSL or 1Gb full-fibre.

    • Avatar Gary

      The UK does like to tier pricing tho don’t we, regardless of any difference in cost to provide.

    • Avatar CarlT

      I would bet Italy doesn’t require providers to advertise average speeds and is okay with ‘up to’.

  6. Avatar chris conder

    The ASA should be ashamed of themselves. Total disgrace and part of the digitalbritain superfarce. It isn’t fibre broadband if it comes down a phone line.

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