Ofcom has published the conclusions from its first strategic review of the communications sector in 10 years. And with it comes a win on something we talked about only yesterday…
A lot has changed in the past 10 years, in both the way we use communication services as well as the tech we own. Many of us now have smartphones and access to superfast broadband, enriching our lives with new ways to communicate and access content.
However, it’d be wrong to say it’s all been plain sailing. It’s often difficult to identify the best broadband or phone deals; reliable and fast broadband is still a dream for many; mobile coverage can be poor; and it’s tricky to switch providers. This has put our trust and satisfaction with broadband and mobile providers at a similar low level to that of the banks and energy companies.
So, it was definitely time for change. And so we were delighted that Ofcom announced its Strategic Review of Digital Communications last year. We’ve been feeding into the review, including sharing your views, in order to highlight the need for standards and services to improve. So what’s been announced?
Changes for BT Openreach
Ofcom has announced tighter standards on the performance of Openreach, the division of BT that maintains the UK’s phone and broadband network, and has called for the company to be more independent from BT.
The regulator has also advised BT to open up its Openreach network to allow competitors to connect their own fibre networks directly into homes. This will give you a greater choice of providers, with less reliance on Openreach to roll-out superfast broadband to your house.
Automatic compensation for loss of service
On top of these improvements to the service you’ll get from your broadband and mobile providers, we’ve also achieved a win on something we talked about yesterday.
Ofcom said it intends to introduce automatic compensation for when things go wrong with your broadband, landline or mobile. You won’t have to battle with getting compensation yourself; instead you’ll receive automatic refunds for any loss or reduction in service. Ofcom will consult on this proposal this year.
There were also announcements on providers improving broadband and mobile coverage, as well as calls for providers to give clearer information on the price and quality of the services you’re getting.
Reforms must come in soon
So there are some very promising reforms in there, which should raise standards across the industry. But Ofcom needs to implement them quickly, hold providers to account and ensure that Openreach genuinely improves the service for customers who’ve been let down for too long.
We’ll be holding Ofcom to account to make sure your expectations are understood and included in these proposals.
What do you think about the proposals Ofcom announced today? Which announcement do you think will make the most difference to you?
Update 19 July 2016 – The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has found that BT is failing to invest in Openreach, its super-fast broadband network.
According to the report BT ‘appears to be deliberately investing in higher-risk, higher-return assets such as media properties, and not investing in profitable lower-risk infrastructure and services through Openreach’.
The Committee has estimated under-investment to be potentially hundreds of millions of pounds each year. MPs have warned that the telecoms giant should be forced to split off from Openreach unless it addresses the significant under-investment and poor service.
Our Director of Policy and Campaigns, Alex Neill said:
‘We welcome today’s Committee report. It’s clear that Ofcom must move quickly to make sure Openreach genuinely improves service for customers who have been let down for too long.
‘People now see telecoms as an essential service so Ofcom must work with the industry to raise standards, with faster, more reliable broadband and automatic compensation for consumers when things go wrong.’