/ 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.’

Comments
Rita Tibbs says:
1 March 2016

Reform needed. Recently I had no phone line for more than a week. Imagine one can fly into space in 6 hours, yet BT cannot reconnect you promptly.

Our home broadband with BT is between 0.49mbts & 2.25. That’s why we’re signing up to Gigaclear!

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I changed from slow BT to a much faster connection with TalkTalk. Now, if I use the landline, the internet connection breaks – a distinct disadvantage when I am working from home. Looking at the customer blogs on TalkTalk’s website, this is an ongoing problem for a number of people which remains unsolved.

Also, I live in an area that has very poor mobile signal and my Blackberry’s signal used to be boosted by the broadband connection with BT. I just assumed this would continue when I switched to TalkTalk but this is not the case. I can no longer make or receive calls or texts when I am at home. What a nightmare – and I’m stuck with a contract for 12 months! For all BT’s faults – slow and unpredictable – I would go back to them in a hart beat. TalkTalk is riddled with problems.

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Why is Openreach (et all) still installing only superfast broadband for new installs and upgrades – surely they should be now installing ultrafast broadband infrastructure? Why install “old” standards when newer, faster and better technology is available and being installed in other countries?

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I live in a country area. My neighbour and I are 200 yes from where the fast broadband line is but we cannot and it appears we won’t get it unless we pay to have it connected.
This is totally wrong as we pay Open reach the same for line rental!

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sarah says:
2 March 2016

I am in CT5 paying for BT Infinity. My speeds for downloading are nowhere near those advertised and uploading is actually impossible. When I challenge BT they say they don’t guarantee speeds. I considered downgrading to the service I had previously but that was actually almost unusable.

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I have been BT Residential and Business customer for years. I moved home and business over two years ago from Swansea to West Wales. I have had problems ever since moving. It took 3 months to get Business line up and running, and even then both the residential and business line had intermittant ‘Drop outs’. Complained to OFCOM back in 2014. Openreach upgraded my Cabinet last Sept to FTTC, so I spoke to BT to upgrade to superfast and was told I would get between 8 and 11Mb downlaod speed and Promised minimum of 5. In fact I had slight increase in residential speeds (Down = 3.3Mb, Up = 1Mb), BUT my Business line (Fed from same Cab) dropped to Down 1.4Mb, Up 0.5Mb! NINE engineer visits later, twice having lost Business telephone line for 2 days, I am still getting “We’ll have to arrange an engineers visit” from Faults Team. I am approx 1 mile from the Cabinet that has 6 houses within 400 yards. It serves my village and others that all all over 3/4 of a mile away. Engineers have told me I am too far from the Cab, that there is evidence of corrosion on the connecting terminals and that there is a section of Aluminium cable in my line. Openreach don not MAINTAIN telephone lines, BT rakes in £18 a month (£216 a year) for every telephone line under Openreach, and then FAILS to update/Renew older lines that have been going for ?? years
(OFCOM found in my favour from my complaint in 2014, and still no word from BT. OFCOM NEED BIGGER TEETH.

We have had a series of governments crowing that so many things in Britain are “world class”. Which world would that be? I fully agree with earlier comments on finding considerably quicker & stable broadband across Europe. We lived in rural Tarn, France for 10 years and had a disappointing shock on returning to rural Shropshire to find how slow it was here. As to “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.”… ABSOLUTELY. Ofcom needs to be effective, obtain and use MUCH bigger teeth, and ensure that the monopoly attitude of Openreach and BT itself is squashed. This is not the only sector in which we have lost effective accountability over the last 30 years and its increasing privatisation. And that is not forgetting the Coalition’s termination of the Standards Board, an independent means for citizens/taxpayers to hold local authorities to account, leaving individual councils of all sizes to provide their own, preferred process for dealing with complaints against… er… themselves. The proof? Take a look at Private Eye’s ‘Rotten Boroughs’ pages.

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This comment was removed at the request of the user

Until Superfast arrived the quality/speed here was pathetic (a rural village but within a mile of a major road, within 3 miles of a market town and 10 of a large town). However in many other rural areas (no, non metropolitan areas) it still remains unacceptably slow and unreliable putting everybody at a disadvantage. Yet the same prices or more are charged. Q1 2015 figures just quoted by Ofcom (aren’t they wonderful!) state an average speed of 22.8Mps – that must be a load of twaddle. Their sampling methods look more than questionable. Besides, what sort of ‘average’ is it? Dominated by thousands of city centre very high speeds set against a smaller number of more rural very low speeds of 2 or 1Mps – a totally skewed distribution where most ‘averages’ are more than misleading. Ofcom should know better but they are too ‘remote’ to really support the consumers. Perhaps a fine might kick the ‘providers’ into something better but for the consumer a good, speedy, reliable service is what’s important, not the refund of a few coppers.
Also, what’s all this about their claims for 4G – we cannot even get 2G here for most networks. The UK is way behind most countries including many that are termed ‘developing’! Well done BT, well done successive governments and well done Ed Vaizey and his failed Mobile Infrastructure Project!

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JOHN BEART says:
2 March 2016

INEVITABLY CHARGES WILL BE INCREASED BY PROVIDERS TO RECOVER THE COST OF COMPENSATION IT HAS TO PAY.

I feel the providers should be charging on a “per meg” slider. Not an “expected”. I’d be happy if I was getting within 10% of what I’m being billed for.
Perhaps we could send an envelope with our “Expected” Payment for the service inside. Obviously the amount will depend on other companies needing the money we have available.

I am sick of struggling with 0.4 speed on my BT broadband. What can I do? I have complained to my MP and to BT but no one seems to care about us. They put fibre optics down our lane so what is it holding them up. We have a business line and house line both on broadband. Help please

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Since we moved to plus net from BT we have had a terrible broadband service which doesn’t connect about half of the time and when it does it is so slow. The landline is also not working at the moment and has been out of action for six days and they say it will be reviewed next Tuesday 8th March. I tried to email Plus net today because they have not kept me informed at all but the connection would not work and of course I cant phone them because that doesn’t work either but they have already taken the money for the service and I bet they don’t send me any back! I will be changing my ISP very soon .

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gerry says:
4 March 2016

There must b a price freeze on line rental.

Howard H. says:
4 March 2016

There are some welcome changes but it’s always to take place later rather than now!
I refer to the comment “Ofcom will consult on this proposal this year.” They always put off any decisions until later, so they announce them, everyone gets excited then nothing happens for months! (Delaying tactics?)
Why do we put up with this bureaucratic nonsense in all areas of business? Various governments have been using these tactics for years in the budget i.e. bring in tax increases immediately but reductions next year.

It should apply to landlines too. When my mother was with TalkTalk, there was a fault on her landline. BT would not fix it because she was with TalkTalk, and TalkTalk would not fix it because they did not have the ability and they refused to ask BT (who they were undoubtedly on bad terms with anyway). My mother (aged 85 and with a life threatening medical condition) was left without a landline for a couple of months. Apart from not giving her any compensation, TalkTalk also tried to charge her hundreds of pounds when she tried to change to a more reliable provider. They claimed that SHE was breaking the contract, although they were already so very substantially in breach that the contract had effectively been broken by them. They should have provided compensation and released her from the contract with no exit fee, since they were at fault. Instead, they set their debt collectors onto her.

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This comment was removed at the request of the user

This morning my son phoned me to check up that I was alright as he tried to contact me several times during yesterday, but repeatedly received the engaged ringtone. He ended up sending me an e-mail last night asking me to ‘phone him, but I didn’t read this until this morning. My landline was however working normally again this morning when he ‘phoned again.

I ‘phoned BT this morning and eventually got through to a lady supporting an Indian accent who advised no fault had been reported. After much deliberation re compensation I was told this was not possible as the problem only lasted for 1 day. I then enquired as to who would be using my number? She assured me that no-one was using my number and there must have been a fault but not to worry as the “problem must have been with Openreach and was now fixed”!!! I then ‘phoned Openreach but received an automaton who produced several e-mail contact addresses and I eventually managed to locate the correct one. I gave them my name and contact number and reason for my complaint and have been promised a return reply within the next 2 days.

I would add this is the second time I have experienced this within the last few months and I am absolutely certain none of my 3 working ‘phones were ‘left off the hook’ at any time yesterday……………..will keep you posted!

The whole of the utility industry is upside down. Broadband is now a utility. With privatisation as some have already mentioned profit is there prime driver and reason for being in business. If you are a share holder in a utility company, sorry but you have to take some responsibility as your dividend is why the company is in business, few providers the put service first and as a consequence of good service return a profit, these companies also seem to be private, strange that!
Right from first days when utility authorities were privatised , even at my young age back then I felt this was wrong and now in the words of Pink Floyd “Oh Maggie what have you done!”

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Col says:
5 March 2016

As D Wright has said stated. It will be a catastrophe.
Example. I changed from Virgin to Sky.
Phone wouldn’t take incoming calls. Virgin blamed open reach & vice versa. SIX engineers later my house alarm wouldn’t work and I refused anymore so called engineers in. So to sum up I lost my phone number I’d had for 14 years, no phone for 18 months and no house alarm for over a year.
When services are broadened to more companies it will only get worse because they couldn’t give a stuff about customers, only the DD they’ll be taking out with them.

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