Research conducted by CityFibre suggests that UK broadband consumers are grossly underinformed and may have been misled about their broadband services.
In a letter published yesterday, the network infrastructure provider says broadband providers should stop misleading customers by advertising services as “fibre” despite using copper wiring.
CityFibre, who commissioned the 3,400-broadband customer survey from Censuswide, says it will take the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) to court to dispute its conclusion that “fibre” is not a misleading term.
Greg Mesch, CEO of CityFibre, said that “years of misleading advertising of broadband speeds” has left consumers confused about what the products they are paying for. The continued practice of advertising for “fibre” broadband by some of the UK’s largest internet providers has, according to Mesch, undermined trust in the industry.
He added: “We are calling on all broadband providers to stop using the word “fibre” unless it is describing a full fibre connection. Rather than waiting for the backwards-looking ASA to be forced to act, the industry should stand as one and pave the way for a new generation of connected homes, businesses, towns and cities across the UK.”
CityFibre’s research suggests that almost one-quarter of consumers believe they already have full fibre cables running into their home (fibre-to-the-premises) despite these services being available to only 3% of UK properties.
Additionally, 45% of consumers believe that services currently advertised as fibre delivered high standards of connectivity. According to CityFibre, this highlights how a “confusing status-quo” has made broadband for customers.
Consumers who were adequately informed on the difference between hybrid copper-fibre connections and full fibre highlighted concerns over advertising methods. Two-thirds thought that advertising rules should be changed to ensure that hybrid services could no longer be called “fibre”.
Two of the UK’s largest infrastructure providers, BT Openreach and Virgin Media, have advertised and sold “fibre” connections for several years – despite relying on copper cables to reach the home. This practice, CityFibre claims, has now become the industry norm and will continue to both harm consumer trust, and leave millions of households paying for sub-standard services.
While two-thirds said their broadband provider had advertised their products as “fibre” only one in six thought this connection would include copper cables. Maintaining a culture of misinformation could damage more than just consumer confidence, however, as the both the UK Government and devolved powers continue to invest heavily in digital infrastructure.
CityFibre claimed that the confusion could damage the industry’s ability to reach the Chancellor’s target of national full-fibre coverage by 2033. Any delay or hindrance to full fibre rollouts will stifle the UK’s ability to compete in a global digital economy.