BT Retail who market the Infinity range of products which are based on BT Wholesale and Openreach services has been hauled up in front of the Advertising Standards Authority after 15 complaints were received about shifting dates in its own fibre availability checker.
"Based on searching by their landline telephone number on 20 September 2012, one complainant was presented with a table which indicated, under the column headed "When can you get it?", that they could get Total Broadband "Now," and that Infinity Broadband would be available on 30 September 2012. Further text stated "When we are able to provide a date for future fibre availability, it is indicative only and subject to change.
Having checked again on 25 September 2012, the complainant noted that the date Infinity Broadband would be available had been changed to 31 December 2012."Basis of complaint to ASA
BT Retail pleaded that the information was out of its control and that last minute delays to cabinet deployments could see dates moving around. On our own fibre forums this is something that regularly arises as people see a date and tend to not see the words such as 'subject to change'. An additional frustration can be that one area of a town will be able to receive a FTTC service, but another not which can be complicated by confusing messaging in the local press where journalists are not fully briefed.
The complaints against BT Retail were upheld, with BT being told "to ensure that the availability checker only included dates if they corresponded to scheduled plans for Openreach to engineer the BT Infinity service to the corresponding area". Which seems very weak response, particularly as even with the best scheduled plans a cabinet can be delayed and its date pushed back. Another option is for all dates to be removed and no information be given in advance of a cabinet being enabled, until orders are being accepted, which given the clamour for any snippet of information on the roll-out is likely to lead to confusion.
It will be interesting to see what changes are to appear early in 2013, with some areas of the UK now moving forward with their BDUK project it is possible more detailed information will be available. The level of detail may vary from county to county, this is already evident with the wide variation in mapping information, an issue that the BDUK should address by showcasing the best efforts made by some authorities.
"This is a disappointing ruling. People clearly want to know when fibre might become available in their area and so BT has been publishing its best estimates on a regular basis. Those plans sometimes have to change however if local planning permission isn’t granted or we find that a third party can’t meet our deadlines. 15 complaints is a tiny number when you consider that BT is enabling tens of thousands of cabinets but we will work with the ASA to make changes where we can as it is clear that people remain keen to know when fibre might reach them."Statement from BT Group spokesperson
The statement reflects the dichotomy of the situation, some people pushing for any date and some complaining if the date does slip. There will of course be millions wondering what the fuss is about, as they live in the final third of the UK, or while in the areas likely to be part of the commercial deployment no dates have actually been given. Hopefully if 2013 is drier roll-out dates will be easier to stick to.