Ofcom told to get tough on broadband providers that fail to deliver on fast broadband speeds.
The Broadband 2.0 report, commissioned by the British Infrastructure group, backed by 57 MPs, calls for automatic compensation for customers who do not get the level of speed promised from the internet packages they buy. The report estimates that as many as 6.7m UK broadband connections may not hit the 10Mb minimum. This is the government’s recommended UK standard for a basic decent service.
“Although broadband is increasingly considered to be an essential utility, the quality of customer services has simply not caught up with demand,” said group leader and former Tory party chairman, Grant Shapps. “It is unacceptable that there are still no minimum standards in the UK telecoms sector to protect customers from protracted complaints procedures, and ensure that broadband providers are fully accountable to their customers.”
Ofcom has already laid out a voluntary code of practice on broadband connections, designed to give customers the ability to leave a contract without penalties, should the speed consistently falls below a minimum level set by their provider. The UK’s main internet service providers, including BT, Sky and Virgin Media have all signed up to this code.
A spokesman for Ofcom said they were reviewing the code and considering making it tougher, however, there are currently no penalty compensation charges related to speed failures.
Earlier this year, Ofcom unveiled proposals to make providers pay for slow repairs and missed deadlines and appointments. This could result in automatic compensation payouts for millions of broadband and landline customers who suffer poor service from their providers.
“We share concerns that broadband must improve and we’re already taking firm, wide-ranging action to protect customers,” said a spokesman for Ofcom. “These include new plans for automatic compensation, faster repairs and installations, and ensuring providers commit to giving accurate speed information to customers.”
Disputing the claims made by the MPs’ report, Ofcom said only about 1.4m households and businesses in the UK, mostly in rural and hard-to-reach locations were unable to get a minimum 10Mb service.
Their own research found three-quarters of premises with standard broadband were able to get superfast speeds (determined as 30Mb or faster) if they upgraded.
“Almost 95% of the UK can now get superfast broadband, but we know millions of homes and businesses have not yet chosen to upgrade,” said a spokesman for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. “We want everyone to have access to fast broadband and the universal service obligation [of 10Mb minimum nationwide] will make sure that no one is left behind.”
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