/ 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

i have found plusnet to be good value for money i am on 70-60 mbs for £22 per month with phone bill where as talk talk was charging around £70 for same thing and then they wanted to charge me for engineers to come out and repair our broadband because our broadband kept on losing connection and it was £25 for each visit even though they did not solve the problem which i think is a rip off

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R F says:
22 March 2016

TalkTalk are an appalling company
But frankly, none of the ISP’s deliver decent broadband where I live
Tried various ‘upgrades’ and when they fail to deliver I’m told this is too bad, it’s because my house is ‘at the end of the exchange’
Allegedly, fibre optic would drastically improve the connection, but I note there’s no get out for 24months if it doesn’t

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I am convinced (and have spoken to a BT employee confirming this) that BT and other ISPs prioritise internet traffic to/from speed test sites. When I notice slow internet performance from several sites (suggesting it is not just one site’s server), I use a speed test site and it never fails to show the speed I should be expecting! Yet the internet connection is still slow!

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ChrisG says:
25 March 2016

I decided to change my broadband and phone provider. On checking with several companies, including PLusNet, I found that standard broadband would be available only at 2-4Mbps in my area – central London – as opposed to the alleged 12.5Mbps I get at the moment. (It seems much slower a lot of the time.) )Utility Warehouse might have offered me the same speed but when I phoned them, they were unable to tell me whether they supported Apple Mac users. Back to BT, who offered me a deal that cost only £1.50 a month more than Utility Warehouse, who did not include 0845 and 0870 numbers in their free calls. I was not impressed at all by the ill-informed customer service at Utility Warehouse. I’m staying with BT another year……..Standard broadband speeds as low as 2-4Mbps make the deals provided by many other companies not really worth having, sadly. I’d like to have fibre but too expensive at the moment.

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We live in a rural area of Kent with no access to high speed broadband. Recently there was a major outage in the area and much of the village was without any internet for almost a week. The recorded message was unhelpful and the timeframe for a fix kept advancing into the future nearly every time we rang. It was very frustrating for us but even worse for those who run businesses. I insisted on it being treated as a complaint and being given a reference number (otherwise BT don’t keep a record) and was given £10 off my next bill. I’m sure that the lack of competition is a major factor in the length of time it’s taking for high speed broadband to be rolled out to more rural areas – this needs to change so the latest news is welcome. Incidentally, we also have poor mobile phone coverage here – we’re lucky if we get 1G! Again, we have no choice of provider as our nearest mast only gives access to EE.

Michael Johnson says:
29 March 2016

The state of rural broadband in this ‘first world’ country is a scandal. It’s bad enough that we have to force companies to be honest about speeds, but what about the poor people and businesses getting less than 2Mb/s? It’s a situation that wouldn’t be tolerated in other countries.

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As far as I am concerned, BT and OpenReach are a joke.

When I checked the Superfast Wales checker at the end of December last year, it stated that we can now order Infinity as we are connected to cabinet 13 which has gone live. We went ahead and ordered Infinity 2, and was given an activation date for January. The engineer turned up that day and said that we can’t get Infinity as we are connected to cabinet 6 and not 13. Cabinet 6 is a stone throw away from cabinet 13. A week later another engineer turned up to check the cabinets, and confirmed that we are connected to cabinet 6.

About 10 days later our Broadband connection went down.

We phoned BT, who said that the connection is working. After a lot of words being exchanged, they booked an engineer visit and warned us that if the fault is inside our house then we would have to pay £100. The engineer came a week later, and confirmed that the connection was non-existant. His explanation was that the system disconnected us as we were supposed to be on Infinity. He checked the cabinets and confirmed that we are connected to cab 6 and not 13. He managed to get us connected again to normal ADSL Broadband at the exchange.

In the meantime I contacted OpenReach via their website, and they insisted that their database is correct and that we are connected to cabinet 13.

Early March we thought we have another go, and ordered Infinity once again. The same thing hapenned; the engineer came out and said someone made a mistake, we are not connected to cabinet 13. An hour later our Broadband connection went down. We phoned them again, and spent the best part of 2 hours on the phone. The first person we spoke with was British, and he acknowledged that BT made a mistake, and someone would call us back. When they called us back (from India or somewhere) they insisted that we are on Infinity, that we are connected to cabinet 13, and that BT wasn’t at fault. He ran some tests and said everything was fine. He actually said that there was an engneer at the cabinet at that moment. Well, we can see the cabinet from our landing window and there was no engineer! In the end they agreed to send another engineer out.

Of course, when the engineer came, he said the same as all the other engineers: we are NOT connected to cabinet 13, but to cabinet 6. Unfortunately he couldn’t reconnect us as he wouldn’t be able to find us in the exchange (strange how the first one did). To give him credit though, he did report the issue and BT called us a few hours later.

It seems that we would had to cancel the Infinity order and reorder ADSL Broadband. By this time we had enough, and said ok. However, we wouldn’t be connected until 10 days later BT said. They did say that an engineer would be going to cabinet 13 to connect us if we wanted Infinity. No thank you, we will have ADSL Broadband as we knew our cabinet is number 6.

Much to our surprise, the connection was restored later that same evening.

BT and OpenReach still insist that we are connected to cabinet 13, even though various engineers stated that we weren’t. The Superfast Wales checker still states cabinet 13.

I work from home, and rely on the internet connection. So there were at least 10 days which I couldn’t work, but BT insists that we are connected to cab 13 and therefore couldn’t claim anything. Strangely though that BT offered a monthly £5 discount for our troubles when we had to place the order for ADSL Broadband.

Sufficient to say that we don’t believe anything they tell us and won’t be ordering Infinity again.

Everything with BT seems to take an age: it’s not called “Infinity” for nothing – well, it is actually, because that’s all you’re getting!

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Cabinet 13 is def a Fibre cabinet, there is a fibre cable inside it. Now I could be wrong, but I’m pretty certain an engineer said that the fibre cable isn’t connceted. Still, our line is connected to cab 6 (which is the old type), the engineer found our line in that. I will gladly provide you with any information by email, etc, if you wantneed it.

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There were 2 OpenReach vans parked by cabinet 13 earlier this morning, so I wandered over and had a chat with the engineers. It seems that they are dealing with a similar situation: a customer who ordered Infinity but are not connected to said cabinet. They confirmed that the cabinet isn’t linked to cabinet 6.

I’m not upset that I can’t get it, but because BTOpenReach says I can get it and that the cabinet is connected when it isn’t and I can’t. It’s almost if they are mis-selling a product.

With the pressure on BT and OpenReach to get as many people connected as possible, I wonder if the cabinet has been marked connected to bump the numbers up.

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According to one of the engineers, cabinet 13 is a dual cabinet. The old cabinet hasn’t got any fibre in it, and according to them there is no linkage between 6 and 13. That doesn’t make sense to me as the lines to cabinet 13 must come from somewhere. It is interesting to note that according to the Superfast Wales checker, neither of our neighbours can get fibre. If you want more details, you could email me. I’m at gmail with a dot between anton and vantonder.

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Ray says:
3 April 2016

After a dreadful experience with EE 6 months of broad and dropping to as low a .98mb at least every week. I have told them they had not provided the service I contacted with them. I’m now seeking compensation. I had three engineers out 2 BT. New box In had a visit from their engineer very heavy ufit coffing all over my home. Just done a test and left. 3rd time BT put me a direct connect box in! I have now changed my mumber with Fuel Broadband and a I am very pleased! More than the 7.4 I expected all day calls national included £24 month 12month. I would recommend the if you have these drop problems change you number as it may be the cause?
Ray! 🙂

I think a colour coded map of the local speeds on a county map would be the only fair thing to do.
It doesn’t matter who provides basic ADSL over twisted copper pair (old BT) lines, the speed will be the same, usually awful the further from the exchange you are.
A simple map is entirely feasible.

Jackie says:
7 April 2016

Where we are, (less than 3 miles from the nearest town), I sometimes think dial-up was faster, yet we still pay the same or a lot more for broadband as customers on much greater speeds in other areas.
Dorset County Council don’t help either with their congratulatory emails to the latest crop of superfast connectees when we have been advised we’re not getting SFB in the foreseeable future. It just adds insult to injury. 🙁

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Mary says:
8 April 2016

I am with virginmedias on super fast broadband yet when I try to watch a film on Netflix it loses connection or has poor connection so brilliant news hope it works put now for the consumer

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BT rolling broad band out here in south Devon . We are waiting for their existing services to work without interruption…I presume they will claim it’s more reliable.

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i honestly dont think we will get the service we pay for until we are allowed to deduct a percentage from our bills, that reflects the difference between promised and delivered speeds.

we live in an area with copper connection to exchange and as such are very unlikely to get connected with a fibre link. Very galling when houses 200 mtrs away are on fibre via green cabinets!

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The story about the report from the Parliamentary committee echoes our experience with BT. We started the move process three weeks before we moved, so advertising about how easy it is to move is misleading, especially as technically BT are actually in the hands of Open Reach. and can’t deliver as promised in advertising. There corporate complaints admitted this. They are still sorting out technical problems , broadband dropping out etc. Meantime BT still sending us bills even though not had a service and then not a realisable service since we moved on 4 April. ‪ Am dealing with corporate level complaints after going to my MP. they have dealt well enough with resolving connection issues and dealing with Open Reach but no good at dealing with my complaints about their customer services and there general corporate incompetence. Still trying to get fair compensation for all the hassle. BT do not seem to understand that Broadband is an essential service in the modern world.

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Colin Warwick says:
16 April 2016

I am paying for a BT Infinity 2 SUPER FAST FIBRE service with advertised speeds of up to 76Mb. Yet I am only getting a 37Mb download speed which is less than their BT Infinity 1 FAST FIBRE service which advertises speeds of up to 52Mb.

I would expect the speed for the super fast fibre service to be between 52Mb and 76Mb to be able to advertise it as SUPER FAST

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Colin Warwick says:
18 April 2016

Having made a written complaint to BT about my broadband speed. I received several calls from Customer support and BT Wholesale where they stated the maximum speed I could expect on my line is 38Mb. They agreed therefore I had been miss sold my BT Infinity 2 package and agreed to downgrade it and reduce my monthly payments. Imagine my surprise when I received the new contract and it stated I should expect speeds of between 60Mb and 76Mb with a minimum guaranteed speed of 51Mb.

No wonder there is confusion as to what broadband speeds you can expect, when one part of BT cannot agree with another.

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Colin Warwick says:
18 April 2016

Even though they have suposably downgraded my contract it still states that I am on BT Infinity 2 as I told them I was not prepared to give up the other features provided such as netprotect and 50 Gb of online storage. I have already pointed out the quoted speeds to BTs complaints department and they are looking into why I have quoted a minimum guaranteed speed of 51Mb and quoted the range. If these speeds cannot be achieved they are going to compensate me from the time I first took out a BT infinity 2 contract. It would appear that the different departments within BT are not providing the same data when selling the product.

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Colin Warwick says:
19 April 2016

I agree with your last statements, having spent 32 years of my working life with BT starting in 1964 with the GPO. Part of my time with BT was spent with the External Plant Division specifying and developing test equipment for faults-man jointer’s working on the network between the exchange and the customer.

It was very obvious that the people I spoke to, were just quoting from what they saw on a PC screen and they could not understand the technical questions I was asking them.

The new contract they have sent me clearly states Broadband – Unlimited BT Infinity 2 so it will be interesting to see where this goes. I had yet another call last night from the complaints department and I was assured they would be looking into this and promised to call me again on Wednesday after my new contract has started, which is today.

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Colin Warwick says:
19 April 2016

I worked in the BT development labs in Wembley and it was our group that was responsible for the the development of the replacement for the meter you have . If I remember it was replaced by a multimeter called the SA9083. We worked closely with AVO down in Dover in the development of new insulation testers and my claim to fame is the replacement of the old AMP 109 and Oscillator 87 you mention with newer versions with bright yellow cases as it would appear that many of the old green ones were lost in the green verges or run over. I was also involved in the development of a replacement for the old tapper telephone. The one with the handle used to ring another phone. This all occurred between 1980 and 1985. Prior to this I worked on the development of submarine cable joints and jointing equipment.

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Colin Warwick says:
18 April 2016

If you know the distance between your house and the BT Fibre Cabinet (FTTC) you cab check to see what broadband speed you should expect by going to the url http://www.increasebroadbandspeed.co.uk/2013/chart-bt-fttc-vdsl2-speed-against-distance.

Doesn’t mean you will get the speed shown though. I am <500 mtrs away from my cabinet so should get 60MB but can only achieve 40MB on a good day.

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Colin Warwick says:
18 April 2016

I have carried out all the necessary tests and the speed remains within the range 37 to 39Mb. I keep getting told that they have carried out all possible line tests and that my line is OK. I was told by one department that the maximum speed I can expect is 38Mb and by another department I should be getting 60Mb.

Colin Warwick says:
18 April 2016

I have used the web site http://www.dslchecker.bt.com BT Broadband availability checker site for my telephone number and this seems to indicate that I come under the heading of FTTC B (impacted) suggesting that there are possible line conditions affecting my speed. However BT have not offered to send an engineer out to investigate..

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Colin Warwick says:
20 April 2016

I’ve something of a result today. Rupam the person looking after,my complaint called me today to say that they now agree that 38Mb is not acceptable and he has arrange for an engineer call out next Wednesday to carry out tests on my telephone line and see if they can improve my broadband speed. So. What happened this space

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Colin Warwick says:
27 April 2016

Something of a result today in that the BT Openreach engineer confirmed that the line from the FTTC to my house is at fault. He spent three hours trying to rectify the problem but in the end the net result was there was little to no increase in speed.

The main problem is that the majority of the cable serving my road is buried. Circa 1970s Where there have been problems in the past, joint boxes have been installed meaning that between the cabinet and my house there are numerous crimp joints. He did find a couple of crimps that needed to be remade as the wires were corroded but the maximum speed he achieved was 50Mb outside my property. Which is 20Mb less than he measured at the bottom of the road.

During his testing he also found that there was an imbalance between the two legs of my line to earth which would also impact on the speed.

He did say that he would reset my connection at the exchange later today to see if that would increases the speed but didn’t seem to hold out much hope knowing the state of the cable serving our road.

The maximum speed I have been able to measure using the Which speed test is 44Mb so we will wait and see if there are any further improvements.

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Colin Warwick says:
28 April 2016

Had a call from Rupam at BT customer services today. He said the engineer had reported there was nothing else that could be done to improve the speed of my broadband service. I was offered a downgrade to Infinity 1 but said I did not want to loose the other beniffits of Infinity 2. As I had already agreed to a reduction of £5 to my monthly costs for the next 12 months and I was offered a one off payment of £20 I agreed that my complaint could be closed.

Rupam did say that there is a new service coming up in the next few months with a new modem so I should watch out for the new TV adverts.

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