CityFibre’s ‘Fake Fibre’ Legal Challenge Dismissed

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CityFibre CEO, Greg Mesch, said he was disappointed in the judgement and that the firm is considering an appeal of the ruling.

CityFibre’s legal challenge of the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) decision on the use of the term ‘fibre’ in broadband advertising has been dismissed.

The High Court of Justice ruled in favour of the ASA and dismissed CityFibre’s argument that enabling internet service providers to describe fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) was misleading. The network infrastructure firm insisted this terminology could be confusing to consumers when deciding on broadband services.

Fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), which sees fibre cabling run directly into a customers property, offers considerably faster connection speeds while FTTC uses copper wiring reliant on a fibre backhaul.

In 2017, the ASA allowed for the use of the term ‘fibre’ in broadband advertising based on the belief that the FTTP/FTTC distinction was not a priority for consumers. The authority said that people believed the term to be a buzzword used to generalise high-speed broadband services.

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A study conducted by the ASA in November 2017 appeared to confirm the authority’s stance. However, CityFibre contested the research findings and subsequently carried out its own study several months later. CityFibre CEO, Greg Mesch, called upon service providers, such as BT and Sky, to reconsider the practice of selling FTTC services to consumers – branding FTTC as “fake fibre”.

CityFibre was granted permission to challenge the authority’s decision following a judicial review in June last year.

In a statement, Mesch said he was disappointed at the judgement and underlined the need for Britain to follow the lead of international counterparts in establishing clear-cut advertising for consumers.

“We are disappointed by today’s result because we continue to believe it is not right for consumers to be misled into thinking copper-reliant connections are ‘fibre’ broadband,” said Mesch. “The decision is particularly disappointing in light of the recent progress made in other countries which have restricted misleading advertising and established clear rules to distinguish full fibre from inferior copper-based services.”

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Mesch added that CityFibre is currently considering an appeal of the judgement and that the company is encouraged by recent efforts by both the UK Government and DCMS to ensure greater clarity over broadband advertising.

“Full fibre infrastructure is being deployed at pace in the UK and will soon be within reach of millions of consumers. We welcome Government’s recognition of the need for clarity in broadband advertising to ensure consumers can make an informed choice,” he said. “We are also encouraged by DCMS’s focus on this critical issue in its proposed Statement of Strategic Priorities.

“The technical benefits of full fibre infrastructure are unquestioned and we will continue to work closely with DCMS, Ofcom and the ASA to ensure consumers are able to distinguish full fibre networks from copper-based alternatives.”

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18th October 2019

DIGIT Tech News Roundup: 18th of October 2019