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Wanadoo comes a cropper for 'full speed' broadband ad

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The thorny subject of what is - and is not - broadband has raised its ugly head again after Wanadoo UK was ordered to pull an ad claiming that its 512 kbps ADSL service was "full speed broadband".

Both BT and cableco Telewest complained that an ad urging people to sign up to "full speed broadband for just £17.99 a month" was misleading because faster speeds are available.

The advertising watchdog agreed even though Wanadoo UK, which changed its name from Freeserve earlier this year, argued the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) had previously accepted that most consumers would understand broadband to mean a service of greater than 500 kbps.

Defending its position, Wanadoo UK argued that it was merely "trying to correct the confusion among consumers" who are bombarded with ads for "broadband" services of speeds only a few times faster than dial-up access. And it accused some ISPs of "actively fuelling this confusion by promoting products with speeds of only 150kbps or 256kbps".

Said Wanadoo UK: "We accept and will adhere to the ASA's decision on our use of the term 'full speed' broadband, but believe we were right to introduce this term to try and combat some of the confusion in the UK market about what "broadband" actually means. Our research showed us that over the past few months, with a myriad of definitions circulating as to what actually constitutes Broadband, UK consumers are becoming increasingly confused.

"Indeed, we believe that some ISPs are actively fuelling this confusion by promoting products with speeds of only 150kbps or 256kbps as Broadband, when clearly they are not 'true' Broadband products, and in some cases are only a little faster than dial up Internet connections. In calling our 512kbps product priced at £17.99 'full speed', we were simply trying to correct the confusion among consumers. We were saying that our product is 'full speed' as opposed to 'half speed" and by stating 'full speed' we were in no way claiming that 512kbps is the fastest broadband product available."

In February this year MPs raised concerns that there was no industry-wide common definition for broadband. At a select committee hearing the Consumers' Association told MPs that UK consumers needed a clear definition of broadband to prevent them from being misled. It argued that there was "widespread confusion about the term 'broadband'" and maintaining that different definitions (especially over service speeds) only served to confuse consumers who found it difficult to compare different products and providers.®

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