Worrying new research released today shows that millions of broadband customers across the UK may have been misled about their broadband service. Now that almost all broadband customers say a reliable internet connection is important to them, clarity on which technology offers the best service is vital. The clear majority (86%) thought the type of cable connecting them to the internet made difference to the speed they received, but 65% didn’t think their current connection relied on copper cables or hybrid copper-fibre, even though this is the case for most consumers.

Almost a quarter (24%) think they already have fibre cables running all the way to their home (fibre-to-the-premises), despite this only being available to 3% of UK properties. What’s more, close to half (45%) believe that services currently advertised as “fibre” deliver this type of connectivity as standard, highlighting how confusing the status quo has made broadband for consumers.

Once the difference between hybrid copper-fibre connections and full fibre was explained, two-thirds thought the advertising rules should be changed so that hybrid services could no longer be called ‘fibre’.

CityFibre, who commissioned the 3,400-broadband customer survey from Censuswide, is taking the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) to Court, disputing its conclusion that ‘fibre’ is not a misleading term in broadband adverts when used to describe hybrid copper-fibre connections.

The two incumbent infrastructure providers, BT Openreach and Virgin Media, have sold so-called ‘fibre’ connections for years – despite relying on copper cables to reach the home – and this has now become the industry norm, clouding people’s understanding of the digital infrastructure they are paying to receive. While just under two thirds (65%) said their broadband provider had described their connection as “fibre”, only 1 in 6 (17%) thought this connection would include copper cables.

This confusion could mean that consumers miss out on the benefits of full fibre, damaging demand and so undermining the industry’s ability to reach the Chancellor’s target of national full fibre coverage by 2033. Any delay to the full fibre rollout risks the UK’s ability to compete in a global digital economy.

CityFibre has today written to the CEOs of all the major broadband providers (BT, Virgin Media, TalkTalk, Sky, Vodafone, EE and Post Office) asking them to change the way they advertise broadband to customers now, rather than wait for the judicial review of the ASA’s decision to conclude.

Greg Mesch, CEO of CityFibre, said: “Years of misleading advertising of broadband speeds and technologies have left people totally confused about what they are paying for, undermining trust in the industry. It is time to put the customer at the heart of the full fibre rollout and ditch dishonest descriptions once and for all.

“We are calling on all broadband providers to stop using the word “fibre” unless it is describing a full fibre connection. Rather than waiting for the backwards-looking ASA to be forced to act, the industry should stand as one and pave the way for a new generation of connected homes, businesses, towns and cities across the UK.”