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Virgin Media cleared of lying over ADSL speeds

The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has dismissed accusations that a Virgin Media broadband ad suggested DSL ISPs lie about the speed and quality of their services.

Virgin stuck an advert in the national newspapers under the headline: 'Truth, Lies and Broadband'. (By the by, it was one of those oh-so-cutesy, 'hey, it's a mad world but were all in it together so let's have a laff' ads that makes me wish I had a basement in which I could plan revenge attacks.)

The Virgin advert stated: "In terms of broadband, there are two types of homes in the UK. Half of us can get cable broadband. This… is officially the fastest and the best performing broadband available.

"The other half of the country can get a standard connection - also known as ADSL. Most broadband companies, like BT, Tiscali, Sky, TalkTalk and so on, only offer this."

And furthermore, according to Virgin Media (well, and science fact too I suppose), ADSL lines get slower the further away you are from the exchange. So "you might not be getting the speed you pay for". Well... d'uh.

TalkTalk objected to the ad, which is to be expected, right? More surprisingly, a handful of actual real people also complained.

The basis of their whining was not the advert's smug, patronising tone, but the fact that Virgin uses copper wire to get the broadband signal from the street into the home. So even with cable, you could get speed depreciation on the last leg of the journey, so to speak.

If true, this is massive news. As it transpires, there is one, tiny flaw in this argument. It's utter nonsense. Virgin uses aluminium or steel wire, with a copper coating to prevent interference. And that's only for the final few hundred metres. So the service is tip top and you'll notice no slow down. One nil to Branson's lot.

But that's not all. The phrase 'the other half of the country', caused TalkTalk and Sky to get the hump and tell the ASA on Virgin. Because, of course, ADSL covers about 98 percent of the country (and yes I know that if you're in the 2 percent it's annoying). And the ADSL ISPs thought Virgin was saying they covered only half of our great nation.

Well, I think we could all understand what Virgin actually meant. But for the benefit of the ISPs Virgin Media mandarins put it into plain English anyway. The claim, they said, meant only that Virgin could provide a cable service to 50 percent of the country, and that the other 50 per cent could receive its ADSL service. Geddit?

The ASA gave the complaints a tiny amount of shrift in its ruling (although as a singular body it misused the plural with gay abandon. Naughty ASA).

The ruling went thus: "The ASA noted Virgin's argument that the aim of the ads was to highlight the technological differences between cable broadband and ADSL broadband.

"We also noted that cable broadband uses a combination of fibre-optic and co-axial cable to deliver broadband into the home. We acknowledged that Virgin's co-axial cables were made of either aluminium or steel and had a copper coating."

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