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Saturday, 7 August 2010

Honesty in Broadband?

lights in tunnel
It's been a long time coming. And it's still not actually here because Ofcom, whose mandate is consumer protection and representation, are too busy being courted by the telcos, media companies and so on, to actually fulfill the mandate. (Or put me right, guys)

This blog post can be read at

This time a complaint has been upheld by the ASA against BT, which is a novelty because they failed to uphold Virgin's 'creative' claims previously about their fibre optic network. But you have to ask how this sort of practice got past Ofcom and into ASA territory anyway......

ThinkBroadband actually put the reality of BT's claims really neatly in their write-up of the case and it's worth reading, as well as the previous link.

BT claimed that consumers would know that the word "instant" didn't actually mean instantly, particularly in the context of broadband and the Internet.

Ho hum. Let's ask ourselves why UK broadband consumers would now be quite so confused about speeds, instantaneous access, always on, download and upload speeds could lay no blame whatsoever on the mis-marketing of services by the incumbent and their pals for the last 7+ years, could one?

And as for the comment about custard....The truth of the matter is once we get into degrees of 'how long' etc, Bird's custard *is* instantaneous compared to making "real" custard which anyone who has tried to do it will know takes hours/days/weeks/years (depending on your culinary capabilities!)- a bit like down/uploading a film/file/podcast on a substandard "up to" (rural) broadband connection. The important point is that it tastes about as much like the real thing as BT's Infinity broadband looks like a big fat two way pipe with HD TV movies downloaded 'instantaneously' wherever you are, but at least you don't need to be a geek to know which is real custard/potato etc.

I think it's time for a bar based on, um, let's say the Korean experience. (Or Hong Kong, Japan, Sweden etc). NOT the paucity of provision which the UK is becoming famed for, courtesy of the incumbent and the corporate telco players.

If a film will download or upload on your network to anyone wishing to be your customer at the same speed as this Utopia (now FTTH Council EU) demonstrator then you can say you have that service available.

You can even say you have "or more". But pretending that *anyone* who phones up asking for this level of connectivity has a cat in hell's chance of getting it is ridiculous, especially without proof. There are ways to guestimate (or even be accurate) about what can be delivered over any length of copper in this country, based on the evidence from around 20million lines and a not insubstantial R&D crew in Ipswich who really seem to know their stuff.

Take your call centre people away from their scripts, and instead of forcing Ofcom to regulate your mis-selling and complaints about you, sell what you really have to offer to each household or business who rings you up. Then, and only then, we might see market forces at work. Not because of hype, but because of TRUTH.

I drove through a deeply rural area of Yorkshire tonight and stopped to do one of my ever-increasing wireless scans of what was available, knowing that the copper in that area is utterly useless for ADSL. A local company name cropped up on my scan who have delivered a working, more than satisfactory, wireless network for less than BT wanted to connect a SINGLE home in the area to ADSL. This is the competitive market place. Those people are now so content with their network (I stopped because several of them have been in touch to tell me so) that if and when BT get close to 'seeing the light', there will be a very seriously uphill struggle for BT to regain market share. We are now seeing this across the country, and not just with wireless networks.

We need honesty because there are services now being delivered eg by Rutland Telecom and friends which are going to shortly show hard, irrefutable evidence that they really can deliver what some claim to be able to (and can't). This hard evidence is already available to real users, who will invite visitors into their homes to try it for themselves, who will then go home and dig where they live. Leaving companies who make spurious claims to fend for themselves.

Playing on the ignorance of the nation, a methodology which has been carefully cultivated, nurtured and fertilised the entire time I have been in this game, by marketers and ad agencies whose clients are invariably telcos with shareholder interest, cannot continue because "the truth will out".


Cyberdoyle said...

Aye, the truth will out. But with no help from ASA or OFCOM unless they stop pussyfooting round and actually do what they are paid to do, which strangely enough is to help the people. The power of the telcos and the old boys network seems to have got in the way of that, but their time is coming, the bonfires await any useless quango.

chris said...

I complained to ASA about the £5 a month 'fibre broadband' offered by virgin.
ASA responded to say that they had previously investigated and upheld virgin's claim that the bulk of the delivery was via fibre. I got 10 printed pages of junk through snail mail to back it up. I was totally disgusted that an agency supposed to be safeguarding customers was so easily fooled. If it isn't fibre to the home then it isn't a fibre network.

GuyJ said...

There is a growing band of alternative broadband providers in the UK who are quietly getting on with delivering service to local communities that have been abandoned as not profitable enough by BT.

Examples that critically take the Community Interest approach:

Great Asby Broadband in Cumbria

Wennet in Lancashire

South West Internet in Dorset, Devon and Somerset and soon Cornwall

NextGenUs in Yorkshire and soon Lincolnshire and Cumbria

What local communities need to be very careful about is falling prey to carpet-baggers who misuse the genuine pain of current broadband unavailability to exploit the customer.