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How will the broadband code of practice help you?

Broadband

The telecoms regulator, Ofcom, has announced plans to press ahead with updating the broadband code of practice. This will require signed-up providers to give more information at the point of sale about the service they can expect. Will this move help you?

I recently switched broadband provider. My job means I’m lucky enough to be clued-up on what I should expect from my provider, what information I need from it, and what my rights are. I know what questions to ask and what my provider is obliged to tell me.

Unfortunately, most people don’t know these things, and the jargon-heavy telecoms industry doesn’t make it easy to understand.

Most people probably don’t know that a code of practice for broadband providers even exists, either. And to be honest, as long as the initiative works for consumer outcomes, I don’t think it’s vital that they do know.

Current code

Under the current code of practice, signed-up providers (who together make up 90% of the broadband market) should give customers information about the estimated speed they can expect to get. This should be done at the point of sale.

Today, Ofcom is announcing that this will change, following a consultation on its proposals to update the code of practice. The move will mean that more realistic speed estimates will need to be given at the point of sale, so customers know what speeds they are likely to experience at peak times (between 8pm and 10pm for residential services, based on analysis).

Furthermore, the provider must give customers a minimum guaranteed speed. If it falls below that speed, customers will have the right to exit their contract.

Exiting a contract without penalty

Where providers are failing to provide the service promised to customers, it is right that they are able to leave their contracts without facing a penalty. The current code gives scope for customers to do that but new proposals will protect them further.

The right to exit will also extend to bundled products, meaning if you get your TV and/or landline package from the same provider as your internet you’ll be able to leave the whole contract. Providers will have 30 days to fix the problems or let their customers walk away.

It’s also reassuring that the new code will be technology-neutral. Currently, discrepancies in the way providers deliver services through their networks means they aren’t all subject to the same obligations. Ofcom will bring all providers under the same conditions, making it easier for customers to understand.

Compliance is key

Like anything, the importance will be how this is delivered to consumers. Ofcom’s own research last year found that compliance with the current code could be improved; 63% of telephone assessments resulted in the estimated broadband speed being given unprompted.

While it’s nice to see that most providers are complying with the code they voluntarily signed up to, you would hope that it would be 100%. When the new plans come into place one year from now, we’ll be monitoring providers to make sure they’re giving their customers all the information they are meant to have.

What do you think of today’s announcement? Would having a minimum guaranteed broadband speed help you understand what service you should be getting? Could providers be doing more to help customers understand what they should expect from their service?

Comments

I have said this continually ,unceasingly on Which website ,this is all very well but how can any ISP tell any subscriber what speed they are guaranteed ? Its an impossible task and this legislation must have been drawn up by “suites ” NOT engineers. What about a family with two kids who use online games/download videos in HD etc at peak periods on the web and their neighbours doing the same , especially on lines that are lucky to have 10Mbps ? We dont all live in 1000Mbps city areas or even a portion of that , then we have noise etc affecting the lines add to that what happens when a customers kicks up hell under the new laws,an engineer calls , after hours of checking – guess what ? it turns out to be the customers fault , then to compensate for this guarantee you could end up paying double the bill due at present rates OR a big increase in initial costs of a ISP “Bundle ” . Badly thought out . If anyone is going to rebut this I require a PRACTICAL ENGINEERING answer not a government waffle type statement who seem still to be on the -engineering – dont understand it track.

Tony says:
2 March 2018

Your remarks assume that the service you get is maintaining the needs as suggested.
Whats is deemed to be made correct is actuaslly at ‘point of sale’ not after you have got it.
Even after purchase it is easy to check actually speed by
admin into router and close off wifi so no phone etc is actually using it.
Then goto BT / Wholsale speedtest page http://www.speedtest.btwholesale.com/ this then gives you the current speed to see if you been sold a lame duck. Simples.

Your rant is off track as you say.

And your rant is way off the mark in terms of engineering reality if it was that simple I would not be posting what I did. Its obvious you have not been keeping an eye on my post over the past years doing what you suggest wont give you the speed test result thats accurate and thats an engineering fact . But as you criticise me an ex BT engineer then I will give you the facts , you own the internal wiring to do the test correctly you should have your router plugged into the MASTER socket making sure ALL internal wiring is disconnected . Only ONE computer connected by a LAN cable to your router DIRECTLY must be used and the test made over a couple of days at different times . Only then will you get a result that is anywhere near reliable . Now multiply that by every BT consumer and ISP that uses BT lines and if you cant see the logistical problem then ask a BT engineer. – Not so “simples ” as you make out Tony . A pulse test isnt a 100 % accurate indication either as wiring and other problems can hide other faults if you are thinking it can be ACCURATELY done remotely . Your post is illogical engineering wise .

This seems a relevant document https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0024/111696/statement-broadband-speeds.pdf.
I haven’t studied it but it will become a requirement in March 2019, so a year for it to be implemented.

It suggests that users should now be told what average download speed 50% of them should get at peak time. It is a different number from the advertise “up to” for 10% that was very vague. But this figure still means 50% won’t get the speed. And an average for how many consumers over what area?

The requirements include the ability to withdraw from your contract if you don’t get the speed offered. I’m not clear (because I have not studied the document) how you measure the speed and presumably this must be done at the inlet to the premises, excluding losses caused by the users’ equipment. How will this be done and provable by an individual subscriber? Maybe the provider can continually monitor this and let the user know?

I’m all for providing useful information to users to understand what they are being offered, and the principles are good. It will be interesting to see how they pan out in practice. I would imagine a sensible ISP will be quoting substantially lower, and conservative, speeds to comply with the 50% peak time condition, and wonder how useful this metric will be to most domestic users.

The current standard recognised official speed test from BT / Wholesale page:http://www.speedtest.btwholesale.com/

I am in favour of broadband services based on a conservative estimate for the premises and I remain opposed to the use of ‘up to’ in marketing.

I’m not sure what would be achieved by switching to a different supplier if the limited speed is due to distance from the exchange or cabinet but customers should be entitled to cancel a contract without penalty unless the company can demonstrate that the advertised speed is achieved at the master socket.

We certainly need a solution that is fair to both the customer and the service provider. One possible solution would be for the customer to pay for a speed test and be able to recover the cost if there was a problem.

AG says:
1 March 2018

Another pointless, belated, ineffectual (and delayed for a year) set of rules from Britain’s comedy regulator Ofcom. About time that Which? got off their padded behinds and started pressing for a competent, dynamic consumer regulator. If these companies sell a 100 mbps contract, they should have to deliver that. And a proper consumer regulator would have standards around technical aspects like latency and lost packets that force the companies to up their game.

Which? have been missing in action for at least five years when it comes to broadband regulation.

Actually AG you are correct, This has been going on for years that is why we are still way behind in the world in actual broadspeeds and availability.
‘Which’ needs to bve effectual and stop playing catchup or follow the debate with their own silly questions.

OFCOM has always been in the pockets of BT and the goverments we have repeatdely had inefectual ill informed ministers playing to BT’s tune. In turn they have dictated to OfCOM so as not be found wanting. All the time the public has suffered and is still suffering.
The UK is a small island yet BT goes about their program as if they were in Alask or Texas.