CityFibre challenge Advertising Standards Authority over ‘Fake Fibre’ Ruling

CityFibre challenge Advertising Standards Authority over ‘Fake Fibre’ Ruling

5 March 2018

Greg Mesch 2020

CityFibre argues consumers are being actively misled that copper-based broadband is ‘fibre’

CityFibre, the UK’s leading builder of full fibre infrastructure, has filed for a judicial review of the Advertising Standards Authority’s (‘ASA’) ruling approving the continued use of the term ‘fibre’ to describe services delivered over copper-based networks. CityFibre argues that the ASA’s research and logic that lead to the decision was fundamentally flawed and that the ASA has not only permitted, but also encouraged Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to continue to mislead consumers.

Under pressure from parliament, industry and Government, which called for terms like ‘fibre’ to be used only when referring to ‘full fibre services’ in last year’s Digital Strategy, the ASA reviewed the use of the term ‘fibre’ last year but ruled in November that no change was required.

The ASA’s conclusion that consumers are not misled by the term ‘fibre’, directly contradicted independent research commissioned by full fibre operators, which found that while consumers are often confused by broadband jargon, they understood that end-to-end fibre connections represented a step-change in the quality of their broadband – in speed, reliability and consistency – and felt misled when products delivered over copper phone wires are advertised as ‘fibre’.

The UK Government has increasingly argued that major private investment in full fibre networks, recognised as the ‘gold-standard’ of digital infrastructure, is critical to the UK’s economic future. It has called for ‘national coverage’ in the shortest possible time as a national priority. In response, CityFibre and other full fibre infrastructure builders, now have roll-outs underway while Openreach and TalkTalk have also announced scale rollout ambitions. By 2025 consumers in at least 10 million homes and businesses will have a choice between next generation full fibre networks and legacy, copper-based networks.

The majority of broadband services delivered over BT Openreach or Virgin’s infrastructure, are reliant on all-copper or part-copper-part-fibre networks. The presence of copper in any part of the network results in slower download speeds, even poorer upload speeds and far less reliable services than the new generation of future-proof full fibre networks. Full fibre services are capable of Gigabit speeds (1000 Mbps) both downloading and uploading, and are far more reliable.

Commenting on the decision Greg Mesch, Chief Executive at CityFibre said: “You could hardly expect an automotive manufacturer to get away with advertising an ‘electric car’ when the most electric part of the car was its windows. The time has come to do away with ‘fake fibre’. The ASA’s short-sighted decision to allow yesterday’s copper-based infrastructure to masquerade as the future-proof full fibre networks of tomorrow is a clear failure in its duty. It has failed to ensure honest and truthful broadband advertising, it has failed to enable consumers to make informed choices and it has failed to support a national infrastructure project critical to our success in a digital age.

“UK operators such as CityFibre are busy building the gigabit capable networks that UK consumers and businesses will need for the future. Without clear and transparent advertising to guide their purchasing decisions, millions of consumers will be conned into staying on inferior, copper-based broadband services. The first step to righting this consumer wrong is for the ASA to reverse its decision, which perpetuates the ‘fake fibre’ lie”.

As a result of the ASA’s lax advertising rules, the rapidly increasing number of consumers with access to full fibre risk being unable to make an informed purchasing decision between these radically different technologies. ISPs could for example, advertise services over a copper-based network as ‘ultrafast fibre broadband’, actively misleading the consumer into believing they were purchasing the most advanced fibre service available.

Maximising consumer take-up is critical to supporting the investment case for full fibre deployments, and to unlocking the huge potential to benefit consumers, businesses and the UK economy. The common practice for consumer ISPs to exploit the term ‘fibre’ to advertise services delivered over copper-based networks is not only misleading the consumer but also unhelpful to the investment in full fibre that the government has recognised is required.


About CityFibre:

CityFibre is the UK's leading alternative provider of wholesale full-fibre network infrastructure. With dense duct and fibre footprints in over 40 cities throughout the UK, it provides a portfolio of active and dark fibre services to its customers which include service integrators, enterprise and consumer service providers, local authorities and mobile operators. CityFibre has begun a roll-out of Fibre-to-the-Premises in a strategic partnership with Vodafone, targeting 5 million homes and businesses by 2025. CityFibre is based in London, United Kingdom, and its shares trade on the AIM Market of the London Stock Exchange (AIM: CITY).

For more information please contact:

CityFibre Media Relations

Dyan Owen at Weber Shandwick

0141 343 3254 /