Two thirds of people 'misled' by fibre broadband advertising

Is the way ‘fibre broadband’ is sold too confusing? Do you understand it?

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You don't get many fibre broadband adverts featuring the words, 'frustrating', 'sluggish' and 'endless buffering'. So when some of those who sign up for a deal promising super fast speeds end up with the same old problems, it's no surprise they feel misled.

We have come to realise that traditional broadband, delivered through copper wires, has its limitations. The speed will depend on all sorts of things - including the distance from the phone exchange, or the number of people using the service in the area - so we are often left hanging on in frustration as TV streaming pauses or web pages fail to load.

It's why so many people have bitten the bullet and signed up for 'fibre broadband', including services from BT's Openreach network. The ideas is that these services are delivered through fibre optic cabling - so speeds are not as affected and stay faster and more reliable.

Not all the way

However, what two thirds of people are unaware of - according to broadband, TV and phone comparator Cable.co.uk - is that Openreach is delivered to the nearest telephone cabinet by fibre optic cable, but it then travels from the cabinet to your home along standard copper telephone line.

If you are some distance from your telephone cabinet, there's a good chance you won't be getting a service that's as fast as you were expecting. In fact, anyone more than 1km from their cabinet will be getting less than half the speed of someone living right beside it.

The Cable.co.uk study found that 68% of people thought the fibre-optic cable came direct to their property, and when asked to guess how it covered the rest of the distance, only 9% thought it came through the standard copper wire. One in five people admitted they had no idea how broadband reached them.

Misleading?

Cable.co.uk says that the lack of clarity is an indication that the way the term 'fibre broadband' has been used is misleading. It highlights that in France, from 1 June, adverts for fibre broadband services need to feature upload and download speeds, and state if a service doesn't use fibre all the way into a property.

Unfortunately, the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK disagrees. It ruled in November 2014 that using the word 'fibre' wasn't misleading. It looked into the way that BT Infinity was advertised at the time, and said people would be more interested in the faster speeds offered by Openreach when compared to standard broadband - and less worried about comparing it to the faster speeds they would get from a service delivering fibre optic cables direct to the property.

They said, therefore, that it wasn't misleading to call something fibre optic, if the majority of the journey was made using this kind of cable.

Cable.co.uk telecoms expert Dan Howdle disagrees. He says it's time to revisit both how the term is used, and the decision not to install fibre optic cable all the way to people's houses. He points out that the decision only to lay cable as far as the cabinet was made 10 years ago - when nobody had any idea how popular TV streaming would become.

What can you do?

The only way to know what speed you are getting (compared to the speed you are paying for) is to check it. At the end of March, Ofcom rolled out a mobile and broadband checker. You can enter your postcode and check mobile coverage, the availability of superfast broadband and average download speeds - all in one place.

You can also investigate whether your existing broadband service is underperforming, by comparing your connection speed against the average for neighbouring properties. This could provide useful evidence when contacting a provider with a service problem.

Sharon White, Ofcom Chief Executive, said: "This interactive map is part of our work to arm people and businesses with high-quality, accessible information, helping them make informed decisions about their communications services."

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