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Ofcom shakes up Openreach rules on service, broadband competition

Alex Scroxton

Ofcom has proposed changes to the regulatory framework governing telecoms company Openreach, which it hopes will lead to improved competition in superfast broadband and a better deal for consumers.

Openreach installs and maintains connections to BT's national network on behalf of competing phone and internet providers.

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Ofcom submitted its proposals to the European Commission today, and wants the revised targets in place this summer. It hopes they will result in lower charges for standard broadband and phone calls, and better repair and installation services.

The draft measures are designed to ensure telephone and broadband customers receive better service. 

They will commit Openreach to completing 80% of fault repairs within one to two days, providing an appointment for 80% of new installations within 12 working days of notification and making clear to customers the timeframe in which it is completing remaining jobs.

These targets will escalate over the next couple of years, said Ofcom, which revealed it also plans to review standards of redress, such as compensation.

Under Ofcom’s Fixed Access Market Review, the regulator plans to cut the £50 fee charged to superfast broadband providers for switching consumers to £11, which it claims will allow providers to offer lower retail startup fees.

Also, where existing superfast customers switch to a different supplier, minimum contract lengths between BT and the new supplier will drop to just a month, potentially offering greater flexibility of contracts.

However, Ofcom said it will make no changes to the level of wholesale prices for Openreach’s fibre services, because the price of fibre broadband is constrained by the availability of standard services and competition from Virgin Media’s cable network. 

BT welcomed this decision and said it was pleased to see Ofcom levelling the playing field between its own retail division and the likes of Sky and TalkTalk.

“Openreach is committed to improving its customer service levels so we support the new targets outlined by Ofcom,” said a BT spokesperson. 

The creation of a further 1,600 engineering jobs over the course of this year will help us continue to meet or exceed these standards. We have also stated that we will publish regular performance data on the Openreach website from this summer to increase transparency.

“Regulation needs to reflect the level of competition in the market so it’s only right that Ofcom is levelling the playing field by largely removing the artificial price difference between the wholesale products consumed by the LLU operators and those bought by other companies. We feel Ofcom could have gone further, however, by addressing this imbalance immediately rather than over a three-year period,” said BT’s representative.


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