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ASA backs NTL, kind of

'Unlimited access' broadband claim upheld

The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) today dismissed complaints concerning ISP NTL's 'unlimited access' broadband advertisement, despite its recent 1GB download restriction.

Its announcement to restrict download space was met with a barrage of complaints from customers who had signed up for 'unlimited' rather than 'restricted' broadband usage.

Objectors argued that once users reached their 1GB limit they would experience a break in service, which therefore did not amount to unlimited access.

But NTL insisted its user policy was no different to that of other ISPs providing similar unlimited services. It claimed that those regularly exceeding the download limit were adversely affecting the service for the rest of its customers. It also added that users never experienced a 'break in service'. Instead, persistent offenders would be contacted and offered an alternative package.

ASA stated that because users enjoyed 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week access and their services were never interrupted this amounted to unlimited use.

On a separate issue, ISP Freeserve hit out at broadband subscriber figures posted by NTL, claiming that its 128Kbps (kilobits per second) service should not qualify as broadband.

ASA again found in favour of NTL as it fulfilled telco watchdog Oftel's definition of broadband as "higher bandwidth always-on services, offering data rates of 128Kbps and above".

But because most consumers would understand broadband to mean over 500Kbps, NTL's claim to be 'the UK's No.1 broadband provider' without qualification was likely to mislead. ASA ordered NTL to alter its advert to make it clear that this claim was based on its 128Kbps service.

However, NTL has hit back at the decision claiming that independent research it commissioned showed that just 4 per cent of those quizzed said that broadband operated at speeds of 500kbps or over.

"The ASA's research was superficial and flawed. To base any definition of broadband solely around some arbitrary speed limit is simply naive. This ruling should be thrown out," said Bill Goodland director of internet at NTL Home.

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