back to article As long as there's fibre somewhere along the line, High Court judge reckons it's fine to flog it as 'fibre' broadband

Broadband infrastructure slinger Cityfibre has lost a judicial review against the UK's Advertising Standards Authority after the regulator decided that the term "fibre broadband" could include connections that used a mix of fibre and copper cables. Handing down his judgment today, Mr Justice Murray accepted that "full-fibre …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Common sense defeated once again

    1. Semtex451 Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Once again proving the old adage, 'The Law is an Ass'.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Or in this case suppurating haemorrhoids.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          suppurating haemorrhoids.

          You know what causes that? Not enough fibre.

    2. JetSetJim Silver badge
      FAIL

      > The judge dismissed Cityfibre (and Hyperoptic)'s legal arguments in part because "it would suit their commercial interests if that were the case".

      And in whose commercial interest is it for the judge to rule this way. It should be no issue that there is a commercial interest in a ruling, the ruling should represent what is correct/fair/just, and this sure as shit doesn't. In practice, anyone can now be sold a "fibre broadband" product with wet-string at the consumer end because at some point their traffic is nigh on guaranteed to transit a fibre link.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Judges in the UK are famously impartial. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence to back them up, and I am sure that we shall all look forwards to you posting some evidence that the Judge is bent.

        Should you actually have any such evidence then this would of course lead to the Judge being prosecuted and jailed for corruption, and the case would be reopened. You don't have any evidence of course, because there is none.

        You may be misunderstanding what a Court of Justice exists for, which is to allow for the redress of greviences when the laws of the country are broken. In this case, the law has not been broken in any identifiable manner, the company has suffered no loss and has no legitimate grevience under the laws of England & Wales, but is attempting to demand that the court outlaw the widely known and used term "FTTC" for no other reason than it would benefit their business marketing.

        That sort of thing might work in the USA along with other dubious practices that receive much abuse on this pages, but this is not the USA. Given the overwealmingly negative comments about the US courts posted in here, I don't think anybody actually wants to adopt the US court system either.

        Frankly I think that the company got off lightly just getting the case kicked out. Judges have previously administered severely expensive judicial kickings to companies without a case that are attempting to use the criminal justice system as a hammer to damage their competitors.

        1. JetSetJim Silver badge
          Windows

          I wasn't trying to imply the Justice was bent, merely that commercial interests weigh in on both sides of the argument.

          IANAL, so yes, I have no idea what a Court of Justice is for, or what the requirements for bringing a case to them might be, but I do still hold out hope that truth in advertising will prevail, and FTTC can no longer be conflated with FTTP.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Peter2

          Looks like we've found the thin skinned lawyer!

          Are you seriously arguing that British law isn't interested in the truth as the average person wouldn't know what the truth was? Or that it doesn't matter what the truth is?

        3. DavCrav Silver badge

          "Frankly I think that the company got off lightly just getting the case kicked out. Judges have previously administered severely expensive judicial kickings to companies without a case that are attempting to use the criminal justice system as a hammer to damage their competitors."

          But the company was right, and the Judge was wrong. Fibre does not mean occasionally fibre, it means fibre. A paved road is not a part-paved road.

          The argument is 'it's OK to lie to customers because they wouldn't understand the difference anyway'. Which is a bollocks argument.

        4. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
          Facepalm

          If they were using the term "FTTC" in their advertising, this case wouldn't have made it to court. It's the fact that they're selling FTTC as "fibre broadband" which is the problem.

          We don't want to outlaw the term "FTTC" - quite the opposite actually.

        5. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Virgins, rejoice!

          You may be misunderstanding what a Court of Justice exists for, which is to allow for the redress of greviences when the laws of the country are broken. In this case, the law has not been broken in any identifiable manner, the company has suffered no loss and has no legitimate grevience under the laws of England & Wales, but is attempting to demand that the court outlaw the widely known and used term "FTTC" for no other reason than it would benefit their business marketing.

          I disagree. Like others have pointed out, there's consumer awareness and misleading advertising, ie claims of "super fast fibre", which Virgin has used for well over a decade, even though practically all their consumer connections are copper. And Virgin has regularly defended it's advertising, even though it's misleading and inaccurate. It's a bit like saying my V8 is an electric vehicle because it has a battery.

          It's not about "outlawing" terms like FTTC (or FTTP), but ensuring that they're used correctly, and customers are not mislead.. Which can be challenging enough within the industry, ie whether 'C' means curb, or cabinet. And it's not just business, so since being absorbed by Vodafone, Cityfibre has been increasingly targetting consumers.

        6. Alan Brown Silver badge

          "Judges in the UK are famously impartial."

          The Judge even acknowledged the issue - the problem is that the ASA "has a procedure" and then followed it meticulously.

          What this decision underscores is that the ASA IS NOT A FUCKING REGULATOR - and as such it is not bound by the kinds of rules that a regulator would be - they tend to make it up as they go along.

          At heart is that the challenge wasn't about truth in advertising, it was about the technicalities of the way the ASA came to its decision about truth in advertising - and bear in mind that the ASA is a boys' club, not a regulator - it exists specifically in order to stave off having government intervention, so its rules are written to ensure that everything favours itself and its internal decisions.

          A judicial review against following procedures and rules will fail - even if the procedure happens to be completely WRONG - the challenge would need to be against the rules or the procedures themselves.

          The court system IS NOT and never has been about "justice", it's about "law"(*) - and as long as the ASA kept within the confines of their rules then they couldn't lose this case.

          Of course a few legal rulings upholding obviously boneheaded ASA decisions might well result in it being replaced with a real regulator with proper regulatory oversight, but in the meantime, it acts as a highly effective way of "the industry" running interference between advertisers and Trading Standards.

          In the meantime: The Register and others need to stop referring to the ASA as a "regulator" and give it its _real_ designation of "industry-self-appointed internal watch poodle"

          (*) Remember all the things which have been "legal" in the past - Apartheid, Concentration camps, interment, Jim Crow laws, Enclosure laws, etc.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        But that's quite a likely scenario even with glorious fibre to the home.

        How many people are piping their gigabit FTTH into enterprise class routers and sticking with wired connections? Not many.

        It gets shoved into the cheapest thing an ISP can buy in bulk (and just about meet the need, throughput-wise, provided the wind's blowing in the right direction) and then emitted over some ultra-congested 2.4/5GHz spectrum to a device that could never hope to consume it all anyway.

        Then you have the question of whether all of an ISP's network can support the speeds advertised. It's all well and good being fibre to the home, but FTTH networks have issues of their own (e.g. congestion) that could disappoint users who think "fibre" means "guaranteed performance".

        I agree somewhat with the result, the genie is firmly out of the bottle. I think Cityfibre and friends would do better to put the money into actually building their networks, rather than whining about the way others advertise theirs - the only reason they did this case is because they can claim that their tiny networks are FTTH whereas Openreach's and Virgin's largely isn't..

        Ultimately, if users want speed, they'll look for it whether or not it's advertised as "fibre". Most don't care what it is as long as it works.

        1. JetSetJim Silver badge

          > How many people are piping their gigabit FTTH into enterprise class routers and sticking with wired connections? Not many.

          My router doesn't need to be enterprise class, but my connections are wired (apart from phones and tablets, natch) and I demonstrably get my FTTP speeds (100mbps up and down, other higher rate packages available) at all times on those devices.

          The main reason CityFibre et al are "whining" is that they try and differentiate themselves from BT, which sells "fibre" that is different to the true fibre they are offering - so folks might say "but I already have fibre" when comparing, even though they don't.

          Whether they need fibre is another question, but hey-ho.

        2. LDS Silver badge

          "How many people are piping their gigabit FTTH into enterprise class routers"

          You don't really need "enterprise class routers" today to take advantage of 1Gb connection. Sure, the cheapest ones may not cope, but there are a lot of good SOHO devices that will take advantage of it especially since there aren't hundred or thousands of users behind (which is really what "enterprise class" devices are designed to handle).

          For the matter the EU regulation 015/2120 bars ISP forcing their own equipment onto customers (sure, once UK is out it can let them do it) - so those willingly to install better equipment must be free to do it.

          And while it is true that FTTH won't solve any problem, at least it's speed decay is measured in kilometres, not in tens of metres. For customers who are not very close to a cabinet - usually not more than 100-200 metres, it is not a small difference (more even so if the cables are old), as they can get speeds far lower than advertised - and crosstalk can slow down the line as well, if vectoring is not available. Congestion can be an issue regardless of cable time - unless you mean that more people with lower speeds may be useful to avoid your links becoming congested...

          1. Down not across Silver badge

            Re: "How many people are piping their gigabit FTTH into enterprise class routers"

            For the matter the EU regulation 015/2120 bars ISP forcing their own equipment onto customers (sure, once UK is out it can let them do it) - so those willingly to install better equipment must be free to do it.

            Hmm, ok I had to look that up.

            2015/2120 does say:

            (5)

            When accessing the internet, end-users should be free to choose between various types of terminal equipment as defined in Commission Directive 2008/63/EC (4). Providers of internet access services should not impose restrictions on the use of terminal equipment connecting to the network in addition to those imposed by manufacturers or distributors of terminal equipment in accordance with Union law.

            And 2008.63 says:

            (5)

            The special or exclusive rights relating to terminal equipment are exercised in such a way as, in practice, to disadvantage equipment from other Member States, notably by preventing users from freely choosing the equipment that best suits their needs in terms of price and quality, regardless of its origin. The exercise of these rights is therefore not compatible with Article 31 of the Treaty in all the Member States.

            (6)

            The provision of installation and maintenance services is a key factor in the purchasing or rental of terminal equipment. The retention of exclusive rights in this field would be tantamount to retention of exclusive marketing rights. Such rights must therefore also be abolished if the abolition of exclusive importing and marketing rights is to have any practical effect.

            IANAL, but that suggests that I should be able to tell VM to shove their buggy SH3 and be allowed to buy my own DOCSIS3 modem and they would have to provide service (sans maintenance of course since they wouldn't own the kit).

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: "How many people are piping their gigabit FTTH into enterprise class routers"

            "For the matter the EU regulation 015/2120 bars ISP forcing their own equipment onto customers"

            But that doesn't stop them bloody well trying - I've found a surprising number of ISPs who _will not_ provide "router free" connections

        3. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Where's Bill Hicks? I blame marketing

          How many people are piping their gigabit FTTH into enterprise class routers and sticking with wired connections? Not many.

          Many enterprise users aren't even doing that. Terminating devices typicall connect a LAN to a WAN. Which often means one port in, one port out. Which generally means you can happily terminat circuits with a switch. Which is cheaper and faster, hence why traditional router vendors have often discouraged that kind of heresy. Often by arbitarily limiting the features included in switch code. If you're only using 2 ports, you pretty much never need a router.

    3. LDS Silver badge
      Facepalm

      "I'm a judge, and I can't understand the difference, so nobody can"

      But I think there's a reason why English judges still wear a seventeen-century wig...

      Here the comm authority itself has ruled that FTTC can't be advertised as "fibre" - as many customers know the difference.

      1. macjules Silver badge

        Re: "I'm a judge, and I can't understand the difference, so nobody can"

        "Isn't fibre something I have with my breakfast?"

        Surprised he didn't say, "Why do the general public need broadband at all? Surely one's servants should be happy with 56k modem access?"

        1. HildyJ

          Re: "I'm a judge, and I can't understand the difference, so nobody can"

          You need to put it in terms he understands. "If Stilton is made with 25% American cheese, can it still be marketed as Stilton? You wouldn't be fooled but the peasants won't know the difference so what's the harm?"

          1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

            Re: "I'm a judge, and I can't understand the difference, so nobody can"

            Thank you for that analogy.

            Here's some filet mignon. It's made with 50% unidentifiable meat-like stuff, but since the other 50% is actual beef then it's the same thing, right?

            No, and neither is FTTC vs FTTP. You pay for filet mignon / fibre to the home & would be righteously pissed if you found out after the fact that what you were given wasn't 100% filet mignon / fibre to the home.

            "But people are smart enough to know the difference."

            Could you tell the difference between fake & real filet mignon simply by looking at it? They're both advertised the same, the only difference is one is cheaper than the other (as far as the ads are concerned). Unless the cheaper ad expressly states "This shite isn't 100% beef" then the consumer will have no way of knowing that they weren't buying what they thought they were.

            1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

              Re: "I'm a judge, and I can't understand the difference, so nobody can"

              and because the broadband services in question come with a minimum 18-month contract, you must eat your fake filet mignon every day for those 18 months.

          2. BrownishMonstr

            Re: "I'm a judge, and I can't understand the difference, so nobody can"

            Damn you beat me to a good analogy. I was going to say something along the line of a house being connected to the water main, just the last mile has to be transported in a wheel Barrow.

            1. Nick Kew Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: "I'm a judge, and I can't understand the difference, so nobody can"

              Barrow? What's wrong with the human body for carrying water? In one end, out the other. And with the advantage that you can use enhanced versions, such as this pint --->

              I'll get me coat.

          3. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: "I'm a judge, and I can't understand the difference, so nobody can"

            >You need to put it in terms he understands.

            Also in terms he can refer to case law: "If your minced beef contains a significant amount of horse meat (varying proportion depending on what the producer can get away with)... is it still minced beef; given most people can't tell the difference - the difference only being detected when a Lab discovered horse and in some samples DNA from other animals".

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "I'm a judge, and I can't understand the difference, so nobody can"

          56k... luxury!!

          We 'ad teletypes wit' 110baud acoustic couplers... some folks even 'ad those fancy glass ones running 1200/75

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: "I'm a judge, and I can't understand the difference, so nobody can"

            "We 'ad teletypes wit' 110baud acoustic couplers... "

            Sheer luxury. Some of us had to make do with 45.5 baud and Baudot code.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Utterly Shameful decision.

      Call it what it is, manipulation of the truth, lobbying and deceit at work by those with large investments in legacy 'up to' distance dependent copper, all with the backing of both the CMA and ASA regulators.

      Utterly Shameful decision.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Utterly Shameful decision.

        This case was brought by companies with their own vested interests, their extremely tiny networks being entirely FTTP and would therefore gain an advantage if they'd have been able to stop others calling theirs "fibre".

        Ultimately it still gets turned back into copper at some point - and if an FTTC connection can deliver what users want, what's the difference compared to an FTTP connection operating at the same speed?

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: Utterly Shameful decision.

          "what's the difference compared to an FTTP connection operating at the same speed?"

          The difference is truth and honesty about the tech being used. If the end user doesn't care (and I agree that if the end speed is the same, then this doesn't matter to them), then it would be sufficient to not mention fiber at all and instead advertising actual speeds.

          But the fact is that the companies know that "fiber" implies high speed, whether its there or not, and so they want to be able to use the term even where it's not appropriate. The court's ruling is just allowing this deception. Does it matter in the end? To those of us who would like the term "fiber" to actually mean anything, yes it matters.

          What the court actually effectively ruled is that "fiber" is now a marketing term devoid of any real meaning.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Utterly Shameful decision.

            "But the fact is that the companies know that "fiber" implies high speed, whether its there or not,"

            But what is "high speed"? It's a constantly moving goalpost and a rather subjective one.

            "What the court actually effectively ruled is that "fiber" is now a marketing term devoid of any real meaning."

            It never really had any defined meaning. All services are, fundamentally, hybrid fibre/coaxial if you distill it down - whether the fibre ends in a green cabinet up the road or in a box on the side of the house, there's still a copper element (the ONT and router being separate boxes connected via ethernet), and more often than not the final hop is done wirelessly.

            You could argue that it's about speed, but how will that work when Openreach, Hyperoptic, Gigaclear and co have pedestrian speeds as options? BT will gladly sell you 40Mbit FTTH or FTTC, Gigaclear 30Mbps FTTH.

            What's "deceptive" about it if ISP X's 80Mbit FTTC service works as well as ISP Y's 80Mbit FTTH?

            ISPs should just sell the speeds they wish to sell and let the user decide, rather than worrying about what their competitors are allowed to call their services. If the demand is there for Cityfibre's/Gigaclear/Hyperoptic's FTTH they'll have no problems taking customers from anyone else's FTTC or ADSL.

            1. Lusty Silver badge

              Re: Utterly Shameful decision.

              It's possible that 30Mbps is all the average home needs. At that point latency is the biggest issue for things like gaming. FTTP is then better than FTTC but with no reasonable marketing terms available because they've already been used elsewhere to wrongly describe something else. Quoting ever higher bandwidths is a pointless exercise when Netflix works fine with 2Mbps

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Utterly Shameful decision.

                But if FTTC can deliver similar latency to FTTP (and yes, it certainly can) - what's the practical difference that allows one equivalent-speed service to be advertised as "fibre" in the eyes of the purists on here?

                FTTP is not a guarantee of lower latency or a guarantee of performance of any sort - if you're looking for that, leased lines are still king.

                1. doublelayer Silver badge

                  Re: Utterly Shameful decision.

                  It's quite pointless to use fiber as a marketing term, because it doesn't guarantee faster speeds or lower latency. Still, they use it to imply that their network is better, and they do this in a misleading way. Consider a parallel. Titanium is a great metal for many reasons, and things are made of it at times to get the benefits of the element. If customers come to view titanium as an advantage in things constructed of metal, they might decide to buy things made of it and advertised as being constructed of titanium. Would it be acceptable for a company to take its existing not built with titanium things, glue a piece of titanium one centimeter square to it, and advertise it as built of titanium? Maybe the consumer does not need titanium, but they decided that they wanted it. They will buy the metal item with the assumption that the metal in it is titanium. If they rely on this for some reason, they will be disappointed. The term has a specific meaning. If they were being honest, the network providers would drop the specific technology being used from the adverts and simply give statistics for bandwidth *and* latency. Anyone who cares about specifically getting fiber to deliver that could identify that element, but it would not be used as a piece of marketing nonsense.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Utterly Shameful decision.

                    This titanium analogy fails. You even got close to the reason it fails: it's a matter of interface abstraction. The properties of titanium (or steel or whatever alloy is used) are observable to the owner of the object, so they constitute at least an implicit part of that object's interface. As a side note, this is why the best suppliers normally specify things like operating temperature range, chemical resistance, mass, dimensions, tolerances, and so forth rather than allowing the user to rely on assumed properties of the materials with which it was made. This gives them the flexibility to change its composition without notice so long as they meet or exceed the published specifications. It also makes it possible for the customer to evaluate marketing claims in their proper context; if the object is advertised as "made with titanium!" but has the density of steel, you can safely conclude that substantial parts of it are composed of some other material. And customers who really do care about these implementation details because they rely on attributes that can't otherwise be captured by a spec sheet are free to specify the implementation explicitly in a bespoke (and surely expensive) contract.

                    In any case, the technology/ies used to implement a data link are not observable; the details of the implementation have been abstracted away by the interface, which is invariably either an Ethernet port or a wi-fi base station. Beyond that interface, the only visible properties of a data link between two defined endpoints are latency and throughput[*]. There is no way for anyone to distinguish among the various technologies or combinations thereof used to transport the bits based solely on its observable properties. Therefore there is no way for the customer to rely on some unwarranted but assumed property of that technology as he might if he believed his fork to be 100% titanium.

                    This is also why the filet mignon analogy fails. One consumes a steak's interfaces by consuming the steak. It has many observable properties such as taste, smell, colour, texture, and nutritional value that will be observably different (even if not to every customer) in an imitation. There is no way for a butcher to abstract away those attributes into a sterile interface beyond which the steak and its imitation are indistinguishable.

                    The ruthlessly simplified interface presented by a digital data link obviates these analogies with more familiar objects. In fact, it's quite difficult to come up with any other purchase with as few observable attributes. The best that comes to mind, not surprisingly, is another transportation service: rubbish hauling. The only observable attributes it has are when the bins are picked up and whether all of their contents are properly removed from the site. In this analogy, people are arguing over whether a rubbish hauler that makes pickups only by night is allowed to market their service as using red lorries when in fact most of them appear a bit brown-ish. You can't see the lorries anyway because it's dark, and even if you could it would have no effect on the value of the service, yet for some incomprehensible reason people seem to have a preference for rubbish haulers using red lorries.

                    I think we agree that using "fibre" to market a data link is just as foolish as using the colour of one's lorries to market a rubbish hauling service, and that the solution to all of this in both cases is to simply stop doing that. The only way to achieve that is for customers to stop responding to this kind of marketing (or perhaps to respond negatively). Good luck with that. The fact that a number of technically minded people have correctly identified this and then gone on to draw analogies that fail to consider it is not altogether encouraging.

                    [*] And sometimes the MTU, which is irrelevant here as this attribute also cannot be used to distinguish implementation technologies with any accuracy. Nevertheless, it is at least conceivable that someone might care about it, in which case once again the solution is to ensure that the required minimum is specified in the contract regardless of implementation details.

                    1. Semtex451 Silver badge

                      Re: Utterly Shameful decision.

                      Your well written and cogent argument only succeeds in explaining why 'fibre' should not be used in marketing. The ASA is there to protect consumers otherwise left to 'caveat emptor' and they and the law have failed all consumers that believe the word fibre has meaning.

                      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                        Re: Utterly Shameful decision.

                        "The ASA is there to protect consumers "

                        WRONG!!!!

                        The ASA is there to protect marketers - from the government.

                    2. doublelayer Silver badge

                      Re: Utterly Shameful decision.

                      Let's take it another way. We'll start with a question about the situation, and because I like them, we'll continue on to another analogy.

                      Does fiber differ from copper? Fiber in this case being FTTH? The answer is yes. It doesn't have to, as you've said, but it does. Fiber connections from most places are both faster and lower-latency than copper lines. Without the real specifications which they will not give you, this may be the only method for users to ensure higher speeds. Yes, it is possible that the fiber connection will be terrible too, but if you have it, you know that you have higher-spec equipment and the infrastructure that serves that connection was updated recently. You don't get that guaranteed with copper. With this environment of restrictions, you can only get a small amount of information.

                      Now the analogy. I have a wonderful intel processor to sell you. It fits into this motherboard, runs at a certain clock speed and has a good benchmark rating, and it runs at a specific power rating. I did not lie about any of this. Well, actually, I did lie about one thing. It's not an intel chip. It's a MIPS chip. If you're writing code for it, it will function just as I said it would. However, if you bought it to run X86 machine code on it, well that won't work so well.

                      I hear you protesting already. "The ISA is one of those features you have to match when it's a processor." I'd argue that this is analogous to the internet providers not telling you important details, but let's just accept this. So it's no longer a MIPS chip. It runs the X86-64 architecture with all the same extensions. Are we done? No, we're not. It still isn't an Intel chip. The specs may be the same, but there are still differences. Intel warranties their chips for some period of time. We at definitelymakeintelchips.com have a warranty on our chips for the same length of time. Another matched parameter. However, ours are built as cheaply as we can to pass that time, and because we employ the people who came up with planned obsolescence, our architecture that implements X86-64, which does not affect you at all because all your instructions run at the speed we told you, happens to have security vulnerabilities that Intel doesn't have. They weren't known to be there; we didn't refrain from telling you. We just hired the cheapest team we could find and the vulns will come out when your warranty is over.

                      Finally, a point of honesty. Even if our chips are just as good in every way as Intel chips, it's not fair to sell them as Intel. Of course, in this example, Intel could sue us for trademark infringement, but the same applies to other terms with definite meanings. "Intel" means "designed and manufactured under the direction of Intel or someone they gave the name to", "titanium" means "the element titanium", and "fiber" means "fiberoptic cable". If the ad says "Our fiber home internet connection", they're clearly implying that the connection that is connected to your home is a fiberoptic cable. If it's not, they're being misleading.

                    3. Lusty Silver badge

                      Red Lorries

                      This is a terrible analogy. On the surface it seems reasonable but you're ignoring a lot of the issues with copper. A better analogy would be two companies, one using brand new lorries and one using knackered old lorries. In the first instance they guarantee to be able to consistently take ALL of your rubbish every day at a specific time. In the second, they probably can on the first day, but as time goes on they start dropping some rubbish in the street because the lorry is missing some bits. They also start getting later and later until you phone them and they fix the service for a few weeks before getting worse again.

                      Copper lines degrade over time and need to be reset because they gradually negotiate lower speeds to compensate for crappy copper lines and interference. This is observable by checking your speed at the router after a reset and then checking again a while later, it's designed into the system for reliability and is also the reason for the modem song and dance when you used to use dial up. Fibre to the home doesn't suffer from this at all so the bandwidth and latency you buy is the bandwidth and latency you receive whether it's higher/lower/faster/slower than copper.

                2. Alan Brown Silver badge

                  Re: Utterly Shameful decision.

                  "But if FTTC can deliver similar latency to FTTP (and yes, it certainly can) - "

                  Only if your FTTP has _really_ shitty latency and your upstream is _really_ badly overloaded

                  256QAM has 9 bits per symbol (8 if you use trellis coding, but 9 for encoding purposes) - that means your BAUD rate is 1/9 the BIT rate - and latency is determined by the baud rate.

                  xDSL is effectively a shitload of 2400 baud 64/128/256 QAM acoustic modems running side by side at different carrier frequencies spaced at 3.5kHz intervals ranging from just over 64kHz up to 33MHz. You simply aren't going to get better latency than that (in fact the best latency is about 140ms)

                  xDSL also have a _very_ limited reach and is subject to crosschannel interference which limits the number you can have on one set of cable pairs, whereas I can run 10GB/s 80km on a single fibre and if I use DWDM can easily put 1TB/s down the same fibre. The tranceivers to do that are only about £250 a pair and for typical GPON shortrange 1GB/s use are more like £3-6

            2. JohnFen Silver badge

              Re: Utterly Shameful decision.

              "It never really had any defined meaning."

              Perhaps not in the UK, but in the US it does. "Fiber" service means that fiber is being used between your street and the ISP. It doesn't necessarily mean that you have fiber running into your house, that's true, but it's coming close.

              "What's "deceptive" about it if ISP X's 80Mbit FTTC service works as well as ISP Y's 80Mbit FTTH?"

              Because the description "fiber" refers to a specific technology, not how well the service works. It doesn't matter if a non-fiber solution works as well as a fiber one, it's still incorrect to refer to the non-fiber as "fiber". Companies that want to sell an advantage in terms of speed should market based on speed, not incorrectly cite a specific technology to imply speed.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Utterly Shameful decision.

                We aren't the US, but could you point me towards the relevant American legislation that forces their ISPs to only market FTTH services as "fiber"?

                You're making your own assumptions as to what "a fibre service" is, when in reality there is no real definition. Nothing "incorrect" about it, as the court has ruled today.

                ISPs are either marketing on speed anyway, or using similarly vague and ill-defined terms like "ultrafast". Cityfibre and co are trying to fight an increasingly meaningless battle here. Users aren't going to select one ISP over another simply because one is allowed to call themselves "fibre". They're more interested in speed or price.

            3. Down not across Silver badge

              Re: Utterly Shameful decision.

              What's "deceptive" about it if ISP X's 80Mbit FTTC service works as well as ISP Y's 80Mbit FTTH?

              Because if you're thinking you're buying FTTH (which "fibre" suggests), you're not getting what you think you are paying for.

              Not to mention the not-insignificant copper portion of FTTC is susceptible to cross-talk and all kinds of interference, unlike FTTH's fibre. Just look at any xDSL modem, and you see variation in signal quality, sync speed over time.

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Utterly Shameful decision.

            "What the court actually effectively ruled is that "fiber" is now a marketing term devoid of any real meaning."

            That happened when people shortened it to "fibre" ages ago. After all, my Ethernet fly-lead is copper fibres twisted into a wire, then a few more added in and all wrapped up in some plastic.

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Re: Utterly Shameful decision.

              I too await the day that the marketing peeps start advertising a service as "fiberoptic".

        2. John Sager

          Re: Utterly Shameful decision.

          The difference is also of performance. I have FTTC out in the sticks, 200m from the cabinet, and I've had lots of performance issues with the copper bit until recently - line rate slowly drops with a resync more or less every day. The wires end is always going to be something of a mess so there is a practical need to differentiate in the interests of accuracy.

          Thankfully something happened to mine in the middle of the night a couple of months ago - vectoring switched on? - and it's now solid as a rock with 7dB s/n margin & only minor variations in line rate as others nearby switch their routers off at night.

        3. teebie

          Re: Utterly Shameful decision.

          "This case was brought by companies with their own vested interests,"

          Any case is brought by parties with their own vested interests. It doesn't mean the other party isn't wrong.

    5. gnarlymarley

      Technically, you have a router in your house that offers either wireless or ethernet, or your fiber ethernet card converts it to copper on the computer bus. So, I would have to say it gets converted somewhere.

      The problem I have with this statement is centurylink brought in fiber to my neighborhood and it seems that they are now offering a new "copper" connection to the fiber at 12Mbps. (Interesting that their upper limit is 20Mbps.) This "copper" connection is not 100Mbps or even 1Gbps as it is with actual full fiber installations.

  2. Vulture@C64

    So can ADSL be sold now as fibre broadband as there is fibre in the exchange delivering the service in the first place, then just a length of copper to connect to the consumer's home ?

    If the law assumes the consumer is too thick to know the difference between important terms like fibre and copper and the implications this has for not just bandwidth but latency and jitter, then the consumer will remain uninformed and thick for years to come. What a way for the law to treat people !

    1. TonyHoyle

      56k Dialup can now be sold as fibre broadband, So can my mobile phone contract.

      It's hard to get any kind of connectivity without fibre being involved somewhere.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "56k Dialup can now be sold as fibre broadband, So can my mobile phone contract.

        It's hard to get any kind of connectivity without fibre being involved somewhere.""

        In the Judgement, linked from the article, the judge makes it abundantly clear that the "part fibre" referred to in the complaint and his decision is FTTC and Cable, ie the only copper is from the street cabinet to the home. He was careful to define all the terms in the Judgement.

        Sadly, the article doesn't make this clear so it seems many people are kneejerking based on the headline.

      2. Nick Kew Silver badge

        56k? Luxury!

        When I got my first modem to connect from home, it was the standard asymmetric 1Kb down (a few bytes up), or an alternative symmetric mode of 256 bytes both up and down. Couldn't afford business-grade high speed connection of 2k.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      " and the implications this has for not just bandwidth but latency and jitter"

      Unless you're on the end of an horrifically bad bit of copper, with error correction and interleaving working overtime to maintain stability, this is not really an issue. VDSL can be every bit as good as an FTTH network - you're more likely to see latency and jitter introduced elsewhere, such as when people insist on using wifi or homeplugs or some other non-optimal connection within the home.

      I happen to have access to Openreach FTTH and FTTC lines on the same ISP, same town. The only real difference is when you do a speed test or download a large file, as the FTTH is provisioned at 330Mbit. If you wanted to eke out a difference, sometimes the latency on FTTH is a whopping 1ms lower, but that could just a measuring error. If the FTTH lines were running at 80Mbit, as someone may well do to save money, you just wouldn't see a difference.

      Ultimately, unless you're attempting to be a high frequency trader from home, it just doesn't matter. It certainly isn't going to make a blind bit of difference to your video call or your online gaming or RDP session.

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge

        Unless you're on the end of an horrifically bad bit of copper, with error correction and interleaving working overtime to maintain stability, this is not really an issue.

        Bobbins. My old man, who lives in deepest rural Suffolk has an entirely typical rural BT line (aka, its quite long). He made the jump to "fibre", he gets pings of ~35ms and download speeds of ~25 Mbps, and can't understand why it doesn't match up to my Gbit FTTP in London, where I get pings of 0.1ms and gigabit downloads and uploads.

        OK, he also doesn't fully understand pings, but he certainly understands "why does it keep hanging and take ages to load the pages at home, but when I'm at yours it just comes up immediately".

        See, the argument is why BT get to call what he has "fibre", when it is not.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          35ms latency is not going to be the reason why webpages "take ages to load". If you were talking about satellite-level latencies, hundreds or thousands of milliseconds, then sure, it matters.

          As for your comparison, it's not particularly meaningful - I'm going to assume you're on something like Hyperoptic and your old man is on something that is delivered over Openreach. Not a direct comparison as the network architectures would be completely different even if he was on FTTH. Mine eliminated as few variables as possible - the access network and provisioned speed being the only real difference. Though I'd also question 0.1ms - having used Hyperoptic in zone 1 the latency was never sub 1ms

          I thought I was very clear that I wasn't talking about speed (not that FTTC/FTTP should make a difference when running at the same speed).

          As it happens I am probably not a million miles away from your old man. 5-6ms to London and to the internet. 6ms here on FTTC, 5ms sometimes on FTTH.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "My old man, who lives in deepest rural Suffolk has an entirely typical rural BT line (aka, its quite long). He made the jump to "fibre", he gets pings of ~35ms and download speeds of ~25 Mbps, and can't understand why it doesn't match up to my Gbit FTTP in London, where I get pings of 0.1ms and gigabit downloads and uploads."

          You might have a point in that instance, if CityFibre were competing in the rural market. But they aren't, so the complaint wasn't about comparing long lines in the countryside with dense city networks.

        3. LDS Silver badge

          "he gets pings of ~35ms and download speeds of ~25 Mbps"

          Frankly, it just means that BT is giving him crappy service by slowing down the network stream somewhere - as probably some intermediate node can't handle the traffic. I've seen companies re-using outdated equipment on less "privileged" nodes when more "privileged" ones are updated, to contain costs.

          The huge difference is one fibre cable is laid out (and it is the correct type of cable, I hope), it doesn't need to be redeployed to achieve higher speeds. And with copper it could get even less than 25Mb - and just because the copper technology can't sustain them at longer distances.

          Still, pings are a matter of what you ping - and what route the packet takes.

      2. LDS Silver badge

        "VDSL can be every bit as good as an FTTH network"

        No. And for three reasons:

        1) It can be *today* as good only if you are typically less than 500m away from the cabinet (and the ISP doesn't offer the full 1Gb speed already available). Less than 200 is better. Fibre can work at the same speed for kilometres.

        2) Fibre means that the company will bring to you a brand new cable which doesn't suffer interferences. VDSL means you have to relay on your old copper cable, which can be tens of years old, and may suffer of crosstalk as many other users are added to the cabinet.

        3) Upgrade path - even if you get only 100Mb on a fiber connection today - as some ISPs are not ready to cope with higher traffic, and passive technologies like GPON have some compromise, the cable is able to handle far higher speeds.

        Latency and other parameters depends more on the distance, quality of equipment, and protocols.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "VDSL can be every bit as good as an FTTH network"

          @LDS

          https://aliant.bell.ca/Bell_Internet/Products/Gigabit-Fibe-Aliant

          Speed and usage

          Total download speed† 1 Gbps2

          Upload speed 940 Mbps3

          Included monthly usage Unlimited

          †Today, the average maximum speed most wireless devices can enjoy is between 150 and 300 Mbps. With Gigabit Fibe, you’ll ensure more of your devices can perform at their best, at the same time.

          Home Wi-Fi

          Home Hub 3000 with wireless AC technology included.4

          The above is what I have at home and is FTTH or FTTP. Any network that does not provide Fibre to the Home or Fibre to the Premise should not be able to advertise as a Fibre network because any Telco/ISP is going to have fibre somewhere and that then just causes confusion for the customer. This network is 100% fibre to the home.

          The rollout for this started about 8 years ago and Bell Aliant now has the ability to get a 100% Fibre connection to approx 90% of the population of Atlantic Canada. Most of our devices use WiFI to connect to the HomeHub 3000, so I suspect little chance of getting a Gigabit to those, but we can have a huge number of people using our Wifi without any issue. One of my sons has an expensive gaming rig hard wired to the Home Hub 3000, another has an XBox hard wired, and the the PVR is also hard wired to the Home Hub 3000. I was very happy with my previous offer, I think it was 150 Mbps symmetrical but for $10 Can. more per month I thought that the Gigabit offering was worthwhile.

  3. Xenu

    ugh so because most people "don't understand" it's ok to mislead / lie to them.

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      ...because most people "don't understand" it's ok to mislead / lie to them.

      You have just summarised the ethos of marketeers throughout time.

      Unfortunately.

  4. Flak

    How broadband services are sold today

    ADSL services used to be sold as '8Mbps services'.

    Then someone (rightly) complained and this was changed to 'up to 24Mbps services' for ADSL 2+.

    Now, after further complaints, FTTC services are positioned based on 'average speed' for FTTC services (according to uSwitch: based on the speed available to 50% of customers with this product during peak time (between 8pm and 10pm).

    Interestingly, they are all silent on the upload speed.

    The battlefield is - or should be - speed rather than technology and CityFibre and other full fibre providers will win that argument comfortably.

    Personally I would have liked CityFibre to have won this argument - a purist view, but:

    - the company has won the moral high ground on this

    - it has won the sympathy of all those who have ever been duped by the 'overpromise and underdeliver' service providers

    - it has won good publicity out of all of this

    - it has educated the public (at least those who care about these things)

    - it has positioned those who are offering their FTTC services as 'fibre broadband' as being economical with the truth.

    So, 1Gbps access speed full fibre broadband, anyone?

    Sign me up!

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: How broadband services are sold today

      ...it has educated the public (at least those who care about these things)

      I admire your optimism, but do not share it. As far as I can tell "most people" would rather swallow marketing hype than sip an engineering truth.

      1. Semtex451 Silver badge

        Re: How broadband services are sold today

        It is these people the ASA are there to protect

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How broadband services are sold today

      "Now, after further complaints, FTTC services are positioned based on 'average speed' for FTTC services (according to uSwitch: based on the speed available to 50% of customers with this product during peak time (between 8pm and 10pm)."

      But that isn't really an FTTC vs FTTP issue - FTTC backhaul links (usually some form of active Ethernet) and FTTP PON segments can both suffer from congestion. If you've got a good FTTC connection and an FTTP line provisioned to the same speed, barring congestion, they shouldn't really differ in peak time performance.

      " it has won the sympathy of all those who have ever been duped by the 'overpromise and underdeliver' service providers"

      So you mean CityFibre and Gigaclear themselves, then? Both companies have had issues with some of their rollouts.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    By this argument a 28.8 dial-up is also “fibre”.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not if you read the judgement rather than just type a knee jerk response, no.

  6. Joe Montana

    Long time

    Seems i've had fibre broadband for a long time... Back when i had 14.4kbps dialup, the isp had fibre uplinks...

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Long time

      But it was only when 56k got standardised (OK, 2 different standards, but still) that the fibre got as far as your local telephone exchange.

      That seems to be the premise of the argument - fibre being in your vicinity.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Long time

        It does sound like that. I say as long there's a fibre link somewhere in the world that your data stream, not necessarily the present one but any and at any time in the future, might traverse then lets call it Fibre. So, since we all have fibre then lets call it all Gigabit Fibre. Gigabit seems to be the standard high speed that is economically achievable so we should say everyone has that. Obviously, if your not getting Gbps then your holding it wrong ;)

  7. JohnFen Silver badge

    So legally speaking

    So, legally speaking "fiber broadband" has been declared a term without meaning and is now purely marketing BS. I am increasingly dismayed about how many technical-sounding terms are really nothing more than marketing buzzwords.

    1. Oliver Mayes

      Re: So legally speaking

      That battle was lost when marketeers defined a gigabyte as 1000 megabytes.

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Re: So legally speaking

      pro-vitamin shampoo anyone?

      And as for marketing, they'll stick a label on it and sell you any old crap if there's a buck behind it.

      Radium & Thorium was all the rage once. Radioactive water? Cures arthritis; guaranteed non-harmful. Radioactive chocolate, toothpaste, eyeliner...

      just stick it up your arse.

  8. Scott 1

    My cable internet service is fiber to the local box (which I believe is in my front yard, but is less than 1/2 mile down the street at the farthest) and coaxial cable from there to my house. No matter how fast and reliable it is, I don't think my cable internet service provider has the balls to try to claim that it's fiber internet. At times, I've heard it referred to as a HFC (hybrid fiber and coax) network, which I think is fair.

    Note that there is actual fiber to the house internet available in my neighborhood, but ironically it has higher latency, not much better download speeds (but 10x better upload), monthly caps, and a much higher monthly service cost than the cable service.

    1. Keith Oborn

      Hmm: in the UK (I guess you are not) the cable provider - for whom I worked for many years - has used the term "fibre" for a long time.

      Amusingly, when ADSL was young, they advertised that their product was better than the competition's "copper". BT complained. They lost because <cable provider> pointed out that the coax cable was steel sheathed, so not "copper".

      As evidenced recently by Boeing, when marketing enters engineering, truth and performance leave immediately.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BT's new 'upto' Fibre Product - Two baked bean tins and a wet piece of string.

    "Plenty fibre in those obfucated beans"

    FFS. What happens when the technically illiterate get to make important decisions regards ASA & technology.

    So a wet piece of string connected to a baked bean tin is now for marketing terms, "full fibre Broadband", as long as there is an optical to wet string transcoder.

    This stinks as much as the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) dubious decision finding that EE and BT operated in distinct markets, and there was no 'crossover' in each of their markets, so allowed the merger of the two organisations to go ahead.

    Hindsight has shown this to be anything but.

    EE Ultrafast Fibre Broadband anyone? (BT's copper carcass 'upto' pointless g.fast which has a max range of 300m max from the exchange, copper aka. BT's wet piece of obfuscated string permitting).

    Compare that to distance full fibre can travel before degrading, they are not the same product, not in anyway shape or form.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: BT's new 'upto' Fibre Product - Two baked bean tins and a wet piece of string.

      corrected. "Plenty fibre in those obfuscated beans"

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: BT's new 'upto' Fibre Product - Two baked bean tins and a wet piece of string.

        Is the carrier wave operating at 12.5 kiloHeinz?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: BT's new 'upto' Fibre Product - Two baked bean tins and a wet piece of string.

      EE and BT didn't really overlap. EE was also a wired ISP, yes, but ultimately it was an entirely BT delivered service - Orange outsourced its design and operation to BT a very long time ago, choosing to abandon their LLU efforts in favour of a BT Wholesale solution.

      BT had a tiny mobile presence, an MVNO operating on Vodafone, mostly as a convenience for customers taking one of their traditional services.

      G.fast is not deployed from exchanges, it's deployed from green cabinets, with Openreach having tested a pit/pole version in the past.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: BT's new 'up to' Fibre Product - Two baked bean tins and a wet piece of string.

        You're missing the point, the two products mobile/fibre are very much linked at the hip, under the BT/EE Merger, when they shouldn't be.

        BT full fibre speeds/future speeds will be now artificially restricted into "tiered products" when there is no reason for that other than the backhaul/switch cost, but now done so to prevent their EE mobile "per MB" products from becoming effectively obsolete overnight.

        BT's full fibre will be held back. BT will sit on their hands and offer a structured tier of products of comparable Fibre/Mobile products within a similar range of speed offerings (no big disparities between their speeds) "to create an artifical competitiveness between the two products", that's how they wlll market things. Hence mobile/fibre do operate in the same markets, and are very much linked regards the two types of product.

        Fibre is effectively held back by it's less more expensive (per MB) slower slibling. There is very much overlap between the two types of fixed line / mobile products, there always was.

        The backhaul of each 5G small Cell in the future will also be equivalent of a fixed line fibre connection to the premises today, to say that isn't the same market is ludicrous.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: BT's new 'up to' Fibre Product - Two baked bean tins and a wet piece of string.

          Openreach are not going to be restricted in where and when they deploy "ultrafast", FTTP or G.fast, just because their parent company has a subsidiary that can deliver a fraction of the speed over 4G (or probably even 5G) at a higher cost.

          EE has grand 5G plans, Openreach has pretty aspirational FTTP plans (scaling down G.fast intentions in favour of it).

          BT retail can choose to sell what it likes - and they'll sell you hundreds of Mbps if you can get G.fast or FTTP, but Openreach will sell to its customers (i.e. all ISPs) what they want. That includes xGbps services.

          Your conspiracy theory doesn't make sense - you can get anyone's FTTC for less than EE want for their cheapest "home broadband replacement" service. They simply don't compete on price or performance. The only people buying it are those who have no other option, well, it's miles better than satellite anyway

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: BT's new 'up to' Fibre Product - Two baked bean tins and a wet piece of string.

            "Openreach are not going to be restricted"

            Oh yes they are. They DO NOT own the infrastructure, ARE NOT a separate company and are beholden to decisions made by BT head office.

            This ongoing and well -documented market abuse is exactly why New Zealand took the step of forcing the lines and dialtone sides to be completely split up when Telecom NZ attempted to sell the BT model as a way of staving off regulatory intervention.

            The result was a change in the market there (in terms of opening up) which would make your head spin when compared to the market here - The day I see Openreach freely selling duct space and maintenance contracts to Virgin and _actively_ selling/supporting services to 3rd parties - as now happens in New Zealand - is when I'll believe that the UK has a truely open market.

    3. oiseau Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: BT's new 'upto' Fibre Product - Two baked bean tins and a wet piece of string.

      ... when the technically illiterate get to make important decisions regards ASA & technology.

      Indeed ...

      I've seen this type of thing happen in my profession, many times.

      Even when there are (don't know if it is the case here) expert witnesses who really know what they are talking about or even a very good lawyer defending the case. ie: basically pointing out to the judge what is otherwise basic common sense.

      I've been in more than one spot where a judge would simply not understand (or want to take the time to understand) any of it, no matter how simple, detailed or just basic common sense the explanation put forth was.

      O.

  10. Rich 2

    Does it matter?

    I couldn't give a monkeys what medium is used to provide my broadband as long as it provides the speed and reliability it's advertised as.

    I'd be happy with wet string and yoghurt pots if it ran at 300mbit and didn't break down every 10 minutes

    1. Jim Mitchell
      Thumb Up

      Re: Does it matter?

      I've had both FTTP and HFC connections to my residence. Honestly, I couldn't tell any difference in performance, either latency or bandwidth.

      It doesn't matter what technology is used to deliver service, what matters is the quality of service provided.

    2. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

      Re: Does it matter?

      Also doesn't matter what they use if their upstream is shite. I was with a local broadband provider that strung 1 Gbit to everyone, problem was that they had 10,000 customers but only a handful of 10 Gbit links out to the rest of the internet. I could connect to my neighbor or the ISP's servers at full bandwidth, but averaged 8 Mb to everything else.

  11. chivo243 Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Good bye Judge, hello Ouija Board?

    Wait, he knows which is right, but tries to dummy shit down so John Q Public will swallow the lie hook line and sinker?

    There is some back scratching going on....

  12. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Stop

    Don't panic yet, more clarification needed ...

    Maybe I'm an oddball here, but I don't believe a word in adverts or marketing. They can call their service Gerald for all I care.

    What I do care about, is a requirement to be honest when answering a direct question upon which I will base my decision to buy (or not).

    So the important question for me, is should I ask an ISP if their service is exclusively fibre from my house to the cabinet, and they reply "yes" and I then discover it isn't, that I have grounds to either sue. or leave the contract without penalty.

    All else is frippery.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't panic yet, more clarification needed ...

      Really? The important questions for me are:

      1. What minimum error-free throughput does your contract guarantee me at the 95% and 99.99% service levels?

      2. What maximum error-free latency does your contract guarantee me at the 95% and 99.99% service levels?

      3. What are the penalties for nonperformance?

      The more fundamental question here is why people respond positively to claims that a service is "fibre". It simply doesn't matter, whether it's FTTP, FTTC, or FTTCO. Just like the hundreds of other meaningless marketing words like "super", "ultra", "blazing", "top quality", "groundbreaking", "innovative", etc. These words are inherently meaningless when it comes to the actual product or service you get and no amount of effort by the ASA is going to change that. Just add "fibre" to the list and move on. It never mattered anyway.

      If you want to take the ASA to task, go after ISPs that advertise throughput levels (often with deliberately deceptive language such as "up to") but don't incorporate them into a contractual SLA with penalties for nonperformance. They're also allowed to advertise throughput numbers without latency figures, and to do so on the basis of meeting extremely weak standards (50% of customers getting the published performance over an 8% sampling time, with no guarantees whatsoever for the other 50%, nor the other 92% of the time) that would be laughed out of any SLA negotiation. And they're allowed to advertise it, sell it, then stop providing it; they are no longer held to even those very weak standards once they cease the advertising campaign because nothing that was promised is in the contract. Go fix all of that instead of fighting over this trivia.

  13. chivo243 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    As long as there's fibre somewhere along the line

    Well, I see a great opportunity here... just plunk a few meters of fibre somewhere in most runs... profit?!

  14. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I had predicted that Cityfibre would loose this case as the industry has used the terms FTTP and FTTC both use the word fibre to describe the connection, so describing them as fibre broadband would seem to be a shorten way of identifying them.

    Perhaps if Cityfibre has used the money they spent on lawyer to fight this case on a marketing campaign to explain the difference between the two technologies. They might have educated more people and gained more customers. Do differentiate their service from FTTC they could brand it as 'full fibre broadband'.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      On the other hand they now have some new ad options:

      "Apparently you don't care about the speed of your broadband connection[*]

      [*] according to the ASA"

      or:

      "If you're one of the few people who care[*] what you get for your monthly broadband...

      [*] its official - most of you don't"

    2. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

      "and gained more customers."

      Well, that assumes you don't live an area where there is an effective duopoly when it comes to internet connections where the two companies have come to the conclusion that they can make more profit if they just continue the unspoken gentleman's agreement that if they don't try and compete their competitor won't, allowing both to remain total shit and not have to spend money on improvements.

  15. AndrueC Silver badge
    Facepalm

    To summarise: People are stupid so you might as well say what you want.

    Remind me again - why do we bother with an education system?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I agree about the education that the "youf(?)" are receiving. I'm in my 50s and my eldest is 14, started that a bit late. The books they are assigned in school don't push them to learn and the maths seems far more simplistic. I find this worrisome, but we'll see what high school brings. My hope is that he finds grade 9 very difficult because he's finally being pushed.

  16. A.P. Veening

    Improved judgement

    With this verdict the judge has shown his judgement should be improved. I heartily recommend a close up inspection of some hemp fiber.

  17. Tebbers

    By this judge's reasoning a 56k connection is fibre too as there's a fibre backbone involved at some point.

  18. Tom 7 Silver badge

    BT fibre is shit

    1.376 Mbps is all I'm getting.

  19. Werner Heisenberg
    Joke

    My awesome new business plan

    Resell the cheapest ADSL connection on the market as "Ultra High-Speed Fibre-to-the-Premises". After all, I'm not saying it's to the user's premises. With a judgement like this, I'm sure it'll be fine.

    Ridiculous verdict, I hope they appeal.

  20. Jamie Jones Silver badge

    Part vs full

    A good old POTS modem could be called 'fibre' by this logic.

    I wonder if the Judge would be happy with just part of his paycheck?

  21. DougS Silver badge
    WTF?

    Why in the world do you care if the connection is fiber or copper?

    If you are getting a gigabit, or whatever it is you are supposed to be getting, what makes fiber all the way to the home superior to fiber most of the way to the home finishing with copper? Honestly I could see the average person being upset because there's an unfounded perception that "fiber" is better, but I would think El Reg's technically knowledgeable crowd would know there's no basis for that perception!

    1. LDS Silver badge

      "If you are getting a gigabit"

      One issue is you can't actually get a gigabit on copper - unless it's an Ethernet cable. xDSL technologies now have an upper limit that is well below 1Gb. While even the fibre that is being deployed now can support speeds higher than 1Gb.

      As a customer I believe you are also interested not only in the speed you are getting now - but what you will be able to get in the next 12-24-36 months - especially if your contract locks in for a given period.

      Moreover you would probably like to know the real speed you can get at your router - not what you're "supposed" - "up to 300Mps" means little if you can get only 20 because it's copper and you're too far from the cabinet - while fibre will bring you the whole full speed.

      While this is rarely an issue in densely populated areas where many people are packed in the same building and thereby cabinets are usually quite close, it can become an issue in less densely populated ones - it doesn't need to be a rural area - it can just be a residential area made of detached houses - where the nearest cabinet can be several hundred metres away.

      There's a reason why all new deployments are full fibre - POTS copper will become soon a dead end, and the copper cabling required for actual and future high speeds would be more expensive and difficult to deploy than fibre - and still, with a shorter range.

      In other European countries those differences have to be made clear - after all, when you buy something you plan for the foreseeable future, or just buy what will be obsolete soon?

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: "If you are getting a gigabit"

        G.fast can provide a gigabit over phone wiring - the distance is limited but running fiber a couple blocks away from you is a lot cheaper than trenching it to the side of your house.

        Coaxial cable can do 10 gigabits symmetric with the latest DOCSIS standard. Surely that's fast enough for anyone!

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: "If you are getting a gigabit"

          "G.fast can provide a gigabit over phone wiring"

          On a good day

          Downhill

          With a tail wind.

          And a bulletnosed driver.

          More to the point. G.fast is the embodiment of the rather pointed fact that the equipment at each end of such copper links ends up costing FAR more than that needed for fibre - AND the fibre in between.

          The reason telcos like xDSL is simple:

          If they lay new fibre it's an infrastructure project and they have to make the cost of the fibre back over 10-20 years.

          If they whack in xDSL equipment they can charge for it up front.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Correceted

    In a statement after the court made its ruling, the ASA said: "The process we followed to test if the average consumer is being misled by the use of the term 'Rape' to describe part-Rape , is the one we have used to protect UK consumers from misleading advertising for many years and we are pleased that the court has supported our approach after a hard fought legal process."

  23. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    The point is that there is a significant difference in FTTP vs FTTC in terms of technology, future-proofing and reliability. Whole countries have infrastructure projects to improve the broadband by using fibre. It's not all about speed. But now the average consumer will see no difference between ”fibre” and ”fibre”!

  24. Knoydart
    Holmes

    New Zealand says otherwise

    Here in NZ, the competition regulator (after a number of public complaints of mis-selling) has opened a case against the local organ of Vodafone. Basically they went down the line of their HFC product being rebranded "fibreX" to compete against FTTP (UFB is the local product name). So maybe the UK courts should have a look at the land of long white cloud instead?

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: New Zealand says otherwise

      In Italy AgCom - the communication authority, already stated that only FTTH/FTTB can be advertised as "fibre". FTTC must be advertised as "fibre-copper", and ADSL as "copper". There are also the category fibre-radio for FWA.

      It's good the decision came from a technical authority who understood the matter, not one tasked with advertising oversight, as in UK case - and which didn't imply customers are morons because they look at ads.

      1. Semtex451 Silver badge

        Re: New Zealand says otherwise

        @ LDS you make an excellent point. The question should never have been placed before either the ASA nor the courts. OFCOM ought to have directed suppliers exactly as AgCom have.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: New Zealand says otherwise

          >OFCOM ought to have directed suppliers exactly as AgCom have.

          You are assuming that those in charge at OFCOM eg. Sharon White, understand the difference...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: New Zealand says otherwise

            Maybe they should always be referred to as "the so-called regulator, OFCOM".

  25. JoMe

    And thus the problem

    Judges are intricately familiar with the law - and how it applies to claims. The problem is that, when they are faced with technology, most (being older, more mechanically minded) have no freaking clue what's going on. This decision is correct when it applies to mechanical process, but fiber delivery means something specific in terms of technology: it means you need a certain type of receiver, you can expect a certain quality of connectivity; in general it means your service will be at a level. Now mix in copper, and you don't get "better than copper, but less than fiber", you get copper delivery with all the downsides that it represents. This is the problem that this judge clearly has no clue how to understand, therefore cannot address the case appropriately.

    1. TRT Silver badge
    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And thus the problem

      > Now mix in copper, and you don't get "better than copper, but less than fiber", you get copper delivery with all the downsides that it represents.

      What nonsense.

      First, we don't have optical switchgear. Every "fibre" connection goes through copper at many points in its path, regardless of whether it's FTTP or something else. Those transceivers that terminate every single "fibre" connection in the world outside a handful of laboratories? Yeah, their connectors are copper. So are all the traces on the interface cards and system boards, the pins and wires in the switchgear's CPUs and DRAM and everything else inside the box, not to mention the (invariably UTP) connection between the provider's endpoint and the APs or Ethernet switches within the premises. So if your argument were correct, there would simply be no reason ever to use fibre at all.

      Second, whether copper has "downsides" depends entirely on how it's being used and in what kind of a system. There is no downside to using UTP between a gigabit switch and a gigabit host in the same room. There is no downside to using dry copper pairs between the street and the premises when you're talking about distances of a couple hundred meters and frequencies of a few MHz. These are perfectly reliable technologies that perform as well as fibre in these applications at much lower cost. If there is any downside to using copper, it is that eventually there may be demand for speeds that it can't provide over distances of more than 50-100m, which means the owner of that copper will have to replace it with something else at considerable cost. But that has nothing to do with the service the customer is getting today, which inevitably relies on both copper and fibre no matter how it's described.

      Your point that the judge failed to understand any of this is impossible to evaluate because we simply don't know what he understands. It's possible to draw the right conclusions for the wrong reasons and vice versa. What judges actually do is apply the law as it is written. If the people feel so strongly that one type of copper-fibre hybrid datalink service should be allowed to be marketed as "fibre" and another type of copper-fibre hybrid datalink service should not, then they must demand a law to that effect. Otherwise the judges will apply the existing law, whether or not anyone believes it reflects common sense or a deeply nuanced understanding of technical matters that law does not even pretend to address.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And thus the problem

        This is not about the backbone, this is about the "last mile".

        Whether your bits travel over copper in the backbone is irrelevant, whether they travel over copper for teh last mile is relevant.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And thus the problem

          > Whether your bits travel over copper in the backbone is irrelevant, whether they travel over copper for teh last mile is relevant.

          It's almost exactly the opposite. The reason that fibre has almost completely replaced copper on all long-haul links is that for long distance and high throughput applications it's cheaper, offers lower latency, and takes up much less physical space. Conversely, there is a reason 10Gbase-T became wildly popular the moment products implementing it became available, despite the longstanding general availability of 10Gbase-SR/LR/LX4.

          The key to fibre making sense is amortisation. Over a few hundred meters, there is no measurable difference in latency (in fact, latency in endpoint switches and routers will dominate in both cases) between 2-4 pairs of copper and a MMF pair, and with the right signalling protocols the copper will offer more than adequate throughput to avoid being the bottleneck for the types of connectivity we're discussing here. These problems grow even worse for fibre when they are multiplied over hundreds or thousands of short-haul links, each one requiring an expensive transceiver and an expensive switch port. This is why buildings run UTP to the desktop instead of MMF. On the other hand, over a few hundred km, the fact that you have orders of magnitude fewer strands of fibre that require installation, inspection, and occasional repair, relative to copper pairs, overcomes the higher per-pair/strand cost and gives you measurably better latency to boot. Since such links are designed to use SMF and deliver very high throughput, you can aggregate traffic from hundreds or thousands of ports across a single such link. For this application, fibre is the runaway winner.

          For throughput on the order of tens to hundreds of Mb/s, at distances of tens to hundreds of meters, to thousands of endpoints, there's no good reason to choose fibre. It costs more than copper and won't relieve any bottleneck. Therefore there are only three reasons to care about FTTP over FTTC:

          1. You own the telco and want to be able to offer throughput on the order of 1-10 Gb/s later without having to upgrade the cable plant between the cabinet and every building. This is meritorious but it doesn't offer value to your customers at the time they make their purchase, especially because upstream links are certain to be bottlenecks for the forseeable future.

          2. You're in Marketing and think you can convince customers that FTTP is better than FTTC *right now* even though it isn't. Please die in a fire.

          3. You insist on marrying copper pairs to switchgear that supports only signalling protocols that will end up being the system bottleneck given the other available infrastructure. Don't do that then.

          So this really has nothing to do with copper vs fibre or FTTP vs FTTC. It has to do with building a network and selling access to it based on the performance the network as a whole will deliver. All else being equal, there is no reason for the customer to know or care about these implementation details. And indeed this seems to be pretty much the judge's reasoning here: if for some reason you've got it in your head that this matters, you're going to dig into each offering and verify these implementation details; for everyone else who either knows they don't matter or just doesn't care, there's no distinction to be drawn on this basis so there's no reason to prohibit these advertisements.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: And thus the problem

            "This is why buildings run UTP to the desktop instead of MMF. "

            It's the same _cost_ to run fibre or copper in the building - if anything fibre is cheaper as it's far less bulky and it's a hell of a lot safer in most cases (mains up the networking is still a risk and happens from time to time), but would rule out PoE

            network cards for fibre are (still) a specialist item and priced accordingly, whilst copper networking devices are cheap cheap cheap. if fibre cards were in the same kind of volume production then they'd be nust as cheap. Chickens and eggs.

            Underscoring that - until very recently, 10Gb/s fibre and copper cards were about the same price and not long before that, fibre cards were CHEAPER

            It doesn't really matter that the optics is converted to electronics internally. An optical tranceiver and a copper tranceiver still tranceivers - and when you buy them in SFP format optical 1GB units are 1/4 the price of copper ones - which should give a pointer to the costs.

          2. Cavehomme_ Bronze badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: And thus the problem

            Very enlightening post, much appreciated.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: And thus the problem

        "There is no downside to using dry copper pairs between the street and the premises when you're talking about distances of a couple hundred meters and frequencies of a few MHz"

        Except we're long past "a few MHz" and a hell of a long way past "a couple hundred metres"

        And that's only half the story anyway - since it was installed, my VDSL speed has dropped by 25% on a 150m connection simply as a result of interference from _other_ VDSL circuits.

        This isn't a new phenomenon - Back in the early 1980s when I was working in Telco side stuff, we found that you could only put 8 2MB/s trunk circuits in a cable before they interfered with each other. The alternative was substantially reducing the distance between regenerators (as in less than half) - and this was a major driver of deploying fibre, as fibre links would go the entire distance without a repeater and without relying on the electricity supply to each of those repeaters going titsup.

  26. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Rinse and repeat

    ASA is NOT A FUCKING REGULATOR

    It's a _voluntary membership_ trade association masquerading as one.

    If you want action, go to Trading Standards

  27. Alan Brown Silver badge

    " Therefore there are only three reasons to care about FTTP over FTTC"

    Bollocks.

    Fibre is flat out more reliable. Wideband Copper involves a bunch of kludges (including asymetric speeds) and is extremely sensitive to disturbances.

    The fibre equipment at each end of a link is a lot cheaper too. The ONLY reason for favouring copper is "existing infrastructure" and that argument only holds water when the existing infrastructure isn't rotten. Putting in _NEW_ copper for xDSL simply doesn't make any sense, nor does replacing copper with copper.

  28. SAdams

    A tot of vinegar in your wine, sir?

    The judges next visit to a restaurant;

    Judge: This wine tastes thin and watery. I ordered the Trivento Eolo Malbec 2014, a rich and full bodied wine.

    Waiter: Yes sir, we add water to make it go further. That is how we have such excellent prices.

    Judge: But it tastes just like a cheap Merlot, you advertised it as Trivento Eolo Malbec 2014, and said nothing about adding water!

    Waiter: The wine is indeed Trivento Eolo Malbec 2014. We find most people don’t notice the difference, sir.

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