Who is responsible for the quality of your broadband service?

On March 1st Earl of Erroll tried to give Ofcom a duty to provide mechanisms for resolving the  buck-passing that takes place when there is a fault on your broadband line. He linked his Amendment 9A  to the detoriating state of the local loop infrastructure – because unbundling gives Openreach no incentive to do more than the contractual minimum. Who-ever wrote the brief for the non-answer given to the government spokesman to deliver has clearly never had a problem that affects the broadband connection while leaving an adequate voice line.      

The Earl of Erroll politely withdrew his amendment “for more work” – but it went to heart of one of biggest user annoyances with the on-line world. A recent survey indicated that as many as one in four broadband users has been annoyed by poor service.

Having sat in on the recent round table on “Uncovering the truth” with the Audit Commission, National Audit Office and others, I have no idea how much credence to give to those findings but I would place no more reliance on the performance data provided by the operators.

A bigger problem is that the managers of the operators and ISPs, let alone regulators and politicans may genuinely believe performance reports that are as misleading as those from Basildon, Maidstone or Mid-Staffs Hospitals that were totally out of line with patient or clinician experience. Most lines are regularly tested – but are they tested in ways that would, for example, detect the deterioration of broadband speed over an exposed line (as friction, damp and wildlife work away) until it actually fails the contractual standard? And who is responsible for taking action before the consumer complains?

Meanwhile, there is little or no reward for providing a service above standard. 

In world of “smart metering”, what about a service where payment is based on delivered, as opposed to claimed, speed?

Dream on Philip