UK to review advertising of 'fibre' broadband services

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The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is examining the use of the word “fibre” in advertising.

The advertising watchdog said it had “evolving concerns” about the advertising of “fibre” broadband services. Currently the term “fibre” is used in to describe services carried over both part-fibre and full-fibre connections.

In its recently published Digital Strategy, the UK Government made clear its commitment to invest in full-fibre broadband infrastructure (see Policy shift sees the UK start on a full fibre diet).

The government describes a full fibre connection as one “where the broadband line to a consumer or business premise is an unbroken optical fibre line from the exchange, consisting of one or more strands of fibre”. That’s fibre to the premises (FTTP) to you and me.

The government also said it was working with regulators and industry to ensure that advertising for broadband accurately describes the technology used, using terms like “fibre” only when full fibre connections are employed.

The ASA said: “In response to that context and those concerns, we are now scoping a review of how we interpret the Advertising Codes when judging the use of the term ‘fibre’ to describe broadband services. In particular, we will be considering whether the use of that term is likely to cause people to be materially misled.”

This announcement represents a change of heart for the ASA, whose position stems from a 2008 ruling that Virgin Media could use the term “fibre optic” to describe broadband services delivered over its hybrid-fibre coax network.

This debate is by no means unique to the UK. Last year the French government implemented new rules for the use of the word “fibre” in advertising. Adverts using the word “fibre” must now specify how the final connection to the home is made.

The ASA did not say when it expected to finish its work, but would provide an update with more information by the summer.

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