Broadband: Advertising

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons on 13th December 2018.

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Photo of Ian Murray Ian Murray Labour, Edinburgh South

What steps the Government are taking to protect consumers from misleading broadband advertising.

Photo of Margot James Margot James The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

The Government are working with industry and regulators to ensure that consumers receive clear and accurate information to help them make informed choices about their broadband. The Advertising Standards Authority has recently strengthened its rules on broadband advertising to ensure that speed claims in adverts are not misleading. A new Ofcom code of practice on broadband speeds will come into force next March.

Photo of Ian Murray Ian Murray Labour, Edinburgh South

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer, but a High Court case has been raised today to try to overturn the Advertising Standards Authority’s decision to allow broadband to be advertised as fibre when large parts of it are of copper. Given that Edinburgh, where my constituency is, has just become a fibre city and that the Minister herself has called this advertising “misleading”, what can the Government do to ensure that when fibre broadband is advertised, it is indeed fibre end to end and does not have copper?

Photo of Margot James Margot James The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

I have great sympathy with the hon. Gentleman’s point. As we know, the judicial review of the ASA’s decision, brought by CityFibre, is expected imminently, and we will continue to monitor that issue. In the meantime, however, I hope he can take comfort from the new Ofcom code that comes into effect next March, which will considerably strengthen the situation.

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow Conservative, Taunton Deane

Good broadband services are essential for so many businesses throughout Taunton Deane. Sadly, however, owing to the difficulties with Gigaclear, many are still not getting the services they deserve. While Infracapital has revised the plan for the roll-out, it is going to be much longer and slower. Its success will depend on extending the rate for state aid beyond the March 2020 deadline. If we do not do this, many businesses will be jeopardised and homes affected, so will the Minister meet me to discuss the issue?

Photo of Margot James Margot James The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

I am aware of the issues raised by my hon. Friend. Indeed, I will meet her and the companies she is concerned about in the new year to discuss the issues she has raised.

Photo of Kevin Hollinrake Kevin Hollinrake Conservative, Thirsk and Malton

We call it t’internet in Yorkshire. Broadband suppliers are responsible for the universal service obligation. Will they be required to use wireless technologies where those are the most cost-effective solutions?

Photo of Margot James Margot James The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

We are aware that, no matter how successful our full fibre programme—and we have our target, as my hon. Friend will know, of full fibre coverage across the UK by 2033—there will be premises for which fibre will never be the optimum route of connection. We will of course consider and urge others to consider wireless technologies where full fibre is not effective.