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NTL's 128k service is/is not broadband – ASA

What a farce

NTL is fuming following a ruling by the advertising watchdog that the unqualified use of "broadband" to describe its 128k service was "likely to mislead" punters.

The ruling against NTL, published today, was made even though the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) acknowledged that cableco's 128k service met industry definitions laid down by regulator Oftel.

The ASA's decision highlights the muddle caused by the lack of an agreed workable definition for broadband and underlines the confusion faced by consumers.

Today's ruling follows a complaint from rival ISP Freeserve and a member of the public, both of whom objected to an advert for NTL's cable service headlined "High Speed Broadband Internet only £14.99 a month".

Both challenged NTL's use of the word "broadband" arguing that they thought broadband services were those with speeds of 500kbps and above, as opposed to NTL's 128kbps service.

In its defence NTL wheeled out definitions used by telecoms regulator, Oftel, and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which said that broadband was "higher bandwidth always-on services, offering data rates of 128 kbps and above".

The cableco explained that the technical definition of broadband, as used by physicists, was a system where a signal was carried over a wide band of frequencies; NTL's service was transmitted in a 6 MHz channel, which was a broad frequency band, making it a broadband service within the technical definition, it said.

Based on these definitions, the ASA accepted that NTL's 128k service was indeed a broadband service.

"But, because it considered most consumers would understand broadband to mean a service of upwards of 500 kbps, the Authority concluded that the claim "broadband", without qualification, was likely to mislead," it said.

A spokesman for the cableco told The Register: "We are very disappointed - we do not believe this is misleading.

"They haven't said we can't use the term broadband. We just have got to think what the ASA thinks people think what broadband is."

NTL confirmed it is considering whether to appeal against the decision. ®

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