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Friday, 11 November 2011

BT's misleading community flyer and website

Here we go again. BT are putting out misleading info to community groups and the frustrated folk in rural areas who are desperate for broadband. Does it count as an advert, in which case do we report it to the ASA? Or if not, who do we report it to in order to prevent this from being disseminated across communities nationwide without a major rewrite by Westhill and BT?

This blog post can be read at

For those of us who have been in this game since prior to broadband becoming a household word, this is like Groundhog Day. Same old, same old. But if you don't know what BT are capable of, you might fall for this.

Firstly, spot the 'may' in the first sentence. Yep, same as ever. Gives a nice fallback once your community has done everything in its power to hand over money, goodwill, wayleaves, effort etc to BT who will come back with, "We only said superfast broadband 'may' come to you". And note the failure to make any promises or define 'superfast' either because BT have resorted to all the 'up to' malarkey again....

"Working on behalf of the communications industry..." Really? Not on behalf of BT shareholders then? Or even the apparently non-important communities and citizens BT ought to at least be pandering to considering what BT are asking/expecting from us?

The purple section is probably the most offensive. Initially I thought that that little asterisk after "hundreds of Communications Providers" would actually reveal that there will not be much of a choice of communications providers offering BT Infinity or superfast services, but, oh no, apparently this snippet of info about how much choice you will have is deemed too highbrow for the community folk in rural areas. No, let's treat you all as morons and explain what a communications provider is - like the clue is not in the name.

There is no small print pointing out that what OpenRetch are actually asking is "EVERYTHING" from your community - free wayleaves, you ask for the money from Government or your neighbours and hand it to BT, you dig, you get out there and do all BT's community engagement and advertising for free, and then, wahoo, BT will bill you every month for a BT service badged up by one of the CPs (that's someone who even provides TV services to your home in case you didn't know) reselling BT products. Nope, let's gloss over that aspect. Nothing pointing out that BT are not the only ones able to help you solve the problem caused by BT's continuing failure over the years to actually nail, and solve, the problem caused by um that'll be BT. Anyone remember the trigger level campaigns? Yep, we've been here before.....but this time BT want much, much more from YOU.

This is not BT 'working with your community' at all. This is BT getting you to hand them everything on a plate to continue their incumbent monopoly into the future, without any level of commitment from them to actually deliver superfast, or to pay for wayleaves, or to make a deal with the community that, say, 'in return for your commitment, we will make a contribution to your community project, coffers etc...'. Oh no, take, take, take, as ever.

And as for the last bit of this sentence: that is one helluva (unproven) claim to be making.

Aha, but spot the anomaly. Re-read the first line. Only 'most'? But you say we can do all of it, precisely when we want to do it. So, which do you mean? We can do it when we want? Or we can't? Or we may be able to?

If your community gets these fliers, send one copy to the Advertising Standards Agency and one to Ofcom, asking them to look carefully at them and then rap BT's knuckles with a hefty fine for pointing people to a website which makes claims in the first paragraph alone which many in rural areas will find deeply offensive considering BT's failure to deliver on its promises/commitments from 2003-2004 onwards. And for which it was paid handsomely from the public coffers.

Oh no we bloody can't. We can't even 'work occasionally' on the substandard service you are selling and reselling to millions of rural people across this fair nation. There should be a massive asterisk on that paragraph that points people to an explanation that actually this paragraph doesn't apply to at least third of the country as well as many in urban areas.

And Ofcom need to look hard at the page about the providers currently offering superfast on the website. Virgin Media? Rutland Telecom? Be? Oh, you mean "reselling BT's definition of 'superfast'? Well, make that clear then.

(As today has seen editing control by BT on even BBC web pages, I'll just include a screen shot of those two pages so the more bored amongst you can monitor when it changes to fact rather than very poorly worded, ill thought-out and misleading marketing hype)

It will be interesting to see when a new version appears, and whether those communities who have already received this flier will be sent an amended version to ensure that they are not talking to their communities without understanding the reality of what this flier/advert is asking of them. Many communities do not have broadband champions who are up to speed with what choices are available for rural areas, and it would be more than just remiss of BT to attempt to capitalise on that. It's morally outrageous, but in addition, if it doesn't fall under existing laws about private companies misleading the public, I'd be very surprised.


chris said...

Spot on. Reminds me of the BT leaflet our village got last year offering us 'up to 20 meg'. Nobody gets 20 meg off a market 1 exchange, the most you get next door to the damned exchange is 7 meg. In our village most are down to less than half a meg or even still on dial up.

Somerset said...

The different pages of ISPs refer to different home and business providers for BT FTTC.

PhilT said...

The ASA remit covers company web sites now... "Advertisements and other marketing communications by or from companies, organisations or sole traders on their own websites, or in other non-paid-for space online under their control, that are directly connected with the supply or transfer of goods, services, opportunities and gifts, or which consist of direct solicitations of donations as part of their own fund-raising activities".

I wonder which village Chris is referring to :-) Misleading people is not the sole preserve of companies.

PhilT said...

To complain to the ASA you do have to formulate a complaint saying which parts of the material breach which parts of the relevant advertising code. The fact that it doesn't accord with your social / political beliefs is not sufficient grounds for a complaint.

The website at is a bit odd, it's been around a while and Simon at IDnet and other CPs using Openreach FTTC don't know why it only lists a smattering of the available CPs.

Somerset said...

Why don't IDnet etc. ask BT...

Somerset said...

Suggestion elsewhere that other ISPs not shown as they buy from BT Wholesale.

Why do ISPs resell a 'substandard' service?

What's editing control on BBC pages?

PhilT said...

The answer is apparently those taking a service from Openreach direct appear on the "microsite" whereas those going via Wholesale do not.

Hence it's a subset of BT FTTC options.