Broadband users may benefit from better service after a review last week put BT under pressure to open up its network infrastructure to let rivals lay their own ultrafast fibre-optic broadband lines. The move was announced on Thursday as part of Ofcom’s once-in-a-decade review of the telecoms market. The regulator opted for this course of action after deciding against forcing BT to spin off its Openreach division, which operates the UK’s broadband network infrastructure. But does this help consumers experiencing trouble with their broadband?
What is Openreach?
Openreach builds and maintains the UK’s vast copper and fibre network that connect nearly all businesses and homes to the national broadband and telephone network. It has faced criticism over poor service standards.
What problems are consumers having?
Customers, who include large firms such as TalkTalk and Sky, have suffered problems from installation delays to eye-watering costs for laying cables to connect them to the outside world.
What if I don’t use BT?
Trouble with Openreach extends beyond BT’s customers because Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone rely on its “last mile” of wiring to get their service to subscribers’ homes. These companies have called for a more radical option from Ofcom, in which BT loses control of Openreach altogether. They say Openreach has a poor record on repairs, is not investing enough in upgrading its infrastructure and the cash it generates is helping BT regain a dominant position in the telecoms market.
Am I entitled to compensation?
Any compensation for delays is paid to the provider. Customers who have lost out must take their case to whichever dispute resolution scheme their provider is signed up to. Ofcom is consulting on payments for affected customers and will set out plans for an automatic compensation scheme this year. This would see customers get a credit on their bill or receive a cheque after a prolonged outage.
Will this mean better broadband?
There will be a new government-backed universal obligation to provide fast broadband to every home and business in the UK, starting at 10 megabits per second. If the review helps speed up fibre roll-out, speeds could reach 1 gigabit a second across much of Britain.
Is it worth switching?
Ofcom plans to introduce league tables and make it easier for customers to switch provider. This should make it simpler to decide whether it is worth switching, through services such as www.uswitch.com and www.broadbandchoices.co.uk.