Ofcom is consulting on how to bring more competition to the superfast broadband industry. The question is, will the regulator’s proposed improvements to the industry benefit customers as well?
Despite living in the middle of London, I can’t get superfast fibre optic broadband in my area. I’m stuck with ‘only’ 8Mbps speeds at the moment, which is a darned sight better than the 3Mbps I used to get. Nonetheless, I certainly wouldn’t mind something closer to 100Mbps…
If I was lucky enough for such speeds to be rolled out to my area, I might still be held back by a difficult and lengthy switching process. Thankfully, Ofcom’s on the case – the regulator is consulting on how to make switching to superfast broadband cheaper and easier. Here come its proposals…
Slash the cost of switching to superfast
The first proposed change is to slash the cost of moving a customer from one superfast broadband provider to another.
At the moment, broadband providers who use BT’s fibre optic Openreach network have to pay BT £50 to switch a customer onto their service. This is a charge that Ofcom says is often passed on to customers, and so the regulator plans to cap this charge at a maximum £15. Great news, if this benefit is passed on to customers.
A second proposed change is to require minimum service standards for superfast broadband, and for Openreach to be held accountable for its performance. Considering that we often hear from people complaining about the poor service they receive from broadband engineers, it’s good to hear that Openreach will be required to maintain an acceptable level of performance.
I can even speak from experience – my home broadband connection is down at this very moment. It took an hour of my housemate’s time to convince our provider’s customer service team to send out an engineer for free (they wanted to charge us £50 to fix a fault on their line). Now we have to wait for another engineer to come out and fix it this weekend…
Shorter superfast broadband contracts
Anyway, let’s move back to Ofcom’s consultation. There’s one proposal that interests me most – the regulator has suggested reducing the minimum length of wholesale contracts between BT and the new supplier from a year to just one month. I know that one of the most annoying aspects of signing up to a new provider is being locked into a lengthy contract. It’s one of the reasons why I’m on a pay-as-you-go mobile phone contract.
So, if shorter term contracts are passed on to consumers, it would allow millions of people to switch to faster broadband connections without the fear of being locked into lengthy contracts. That would certainly make me more likely to switch to superfast – how about you?