/ Technology

Updated: Change is on the way for broadband and phone providers

Fibre broadband

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.’


As a TalkTalk customer, I upgraded last Friday to Fibre Broadband. All went well – except I lost my phone line! As TalkTalk had advised that the switch could take place any time up till midnight, I did not report the fault until Saturday morning. TalkTalk advised that as it was weekend, the fault would probably not be rectified until Monday, but meanwhile they placed a divert on my landline to my mobile, so that I wouldn’t lose any calls.
Monday came, but still no landline. I reported this at 21:45, and TalkTalk came back AM Tuesday to say they had chased BT Openreach, and at 17:00 Tuesday TalkTalk made further enquiry and reported that BT Openreach had issued a works order for the repair to be done Wednesday. The landline service was indeed restored Wednesday afternoon.
My thoughts:
(1) Could BT Openreach deliberately/accidentally switch off the phone service, when they switched over to Fibre Broadband?
(2) Would BT Openreach deliberately soft pedal on “repairs” to services for competitors’ customers?
(3) Will the Ofcom review deal with this sort of situation?

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Seems a shame to give a thumbs down when someone is supplying facts. These Convos rely upon information to help them along. Let’s not put people off! (I doubt duncan would be though 🙂 )

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Derek Fisher says:
2 August 2016

Having tired of BT’s 1-2Mb broadband offering, I checked with PlusNet and checke my service availability through their website. I was informed I could receive fibre broadband from 18 – 25Mb.
After placing the order I waited for over two weeks for my router and confirmatory email that my service was available. The cost of this was almost £75 to set up.
On contacting PlusNet again to ask why I had, so far, heard nothing, I was informed there were no fibre connections available at present and they would be in touch when there were any available.
I asked why I was told it was available when placing the order and was informed the supply had exhausted between my placing my order and them placing their order with the supplier. Strange that I can still be offered fibre on their website now . . . .
Does this constitute false advertising?

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My experience was as follows.

Fibre installed 23 Dec. 2015, no cabinet but dirct to exchange.

Broadband has been fine, telephone took seven months. Endless calls, excuses and apologies as during that time I had an unrelable copper phone line and no Caller ID.

Am awaiting the Ombudsman and BT promise of compensation.


I live in a Derbyshire village, some 10 miles from Derby and 2 miles from Ashbourne. At best I can access Talk Talk about twice in a week. on average. Their claimed speed is merely 1.8 mgb at best.
My wife has two properties in the Middle East. In Northern Cyprus her internet is first rate at all times and in South-Eastern Turkey, in rural mountainous terrain, some 30/40 km from the Syrian border, she receives a connection I can only dream about in Derbyshire. I have to get her to book my airline flights from there while I fume in frustration in this so-called technological and civilised country.

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A recurrence of not being able to receive incoming calls happened again yesterday. I reported this to BT after the first time a few months ago who couldn’t explain what the problem was and denied there were engineers working in the area. My two sons tried unsuccessfully to phoned me yesterday and continually got the engaged tone. All my phones were fully charged and the landline on its hook, one portable was in my pocket. If people phoning in are receiving the engaged tone then who was using my phone all day yesterday?

I had a very worried son on the ‘phone at 9am this morning with normal service resumed so what’s going on with technology at the moment?

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I wonder if it would be easier and more cost effective to assume that everyone needs a TV licence and invite anyone who does not watch TV to claim a payment, say the current licence fee plus £10 for the hassle.

Perhaps it’s the TV watching you rather than vice versa.

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Apparently the technology can see what size packets of information are being received, but no more. So these have to be matched with programme knowledge and then, of course, identify the culprit. Not going to be easy. However, I pay a licence fee for my tv and radio to enable the BBC to provide a public service. I do not see why others should access the service without similarly paying. Other broadcasters charge subscriptions to all and/or interrupt programmes to try to make you watch adverts. So I’d like to see the alternative supported by all those who watch or listen.

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Presumably they don’t want their methods exploited. I see no reason why the BBC should want to spy on us. Plenty of other organisations involved in security could do this if they so wished (and maybe they do, hopefully targeting those who would harm us). The technology does not seem to give a clear result, but should be sufficient for a court to allow suspect devices to be examined. If people want to watch BBC programmes the easy way to avoid potential prosecution is to pay the licence fee, isn’t it? If they do not they know the risk.

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I don’t have a problem with surveillance if it helps the BBC recoup all the revenue it is owed and if its purpose is to uphold the law. The less I know about the method the better, I think. My philosophy is that the more saturated the security services are with unmanageable volumes of data the less likely they are to waste their time looking at people with nothing to hide.

Nigel says:
14 August 2016

Personally, I don’t have a problem paying for a TV licence – after all, someone has to fund all those top BBC salaries – but what I do object to is that you can only buy a TV licence for a period of a year. We have a UK home where we live for part of the year, and otherwise we are with our family in Canada. I want to be legal while we’re here, so I want to be able to buy a licence for the four or so months at at time while we’re here, but – no can do. Currently I have to buy a year’s worth of licence and then claim a refund when we leave the country. A waste of time and effort in this modern age, I think.