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BT told to speed up broadband and phone repairs, ISPs respond

Tuesday, May 20th 2014 by Hannah Langston

BT, Sky and TalkTalk have welcomed draft Ofcom plans to improve the performance of BT Openreach on line repairs and installations.

Openreach connects properties to BT’s network on behalf of competing providers, including Sky and TalkTalk.

Ofcom, the UK telecoms regulator, has proposed that 80% of phone and broadband faults should be repaired within two working days and 80% of customers waiting for a new line should be assigned an appointment within 12 working days.

A Sky spokesperson told Cable.co.uk: “Given how important broadband is for millions of families every day, it is good news that Ofcom will now regulate the quality of Openreach’s service.

“However, we believe tougher standards are needed to match customer expectations on installation and repair times and we will continue to press Ofcom to take stronger action.”

The changes will be introduced gradually over the next three years, with possible fines for failure to meet targets, according to Ofcom.

A TalkTalk spokesperson told us the company was “pleased that Ofcom is acting to ensure BT Openreach deliver a good service, with strong targets and penalties if they fail to deliver.”

“We have long called for this on behalf of our customers and Ofcom is right to intervene.”

A spokesperson for BT, which announced on 19 May that it will recruit 1,600 new Openreach engineers to improve customer service, told Cable.co.uk: “Openreach is committed to improving its customer service levels so we support the new targets outlined by Ofcom today.

“The creation of a further 1,600 engineering jobs over the course of this year will ensure it continues to meet or exceeds these standards. We have also stated that we will publish regular performance data on the Openreach website from this summer to increase transparency.”

Ofcom also intends to enforce a 78% cut to the wholesale fee for superfast broadband, which is the cost a provider must pay to Openreach when a consumer switches to their fibre broadband service.

Currently set at £50, it will be reduced £11, and Ofcom suggested the revised fee “would allow providers to offer lower retail start-up fees”.

In addition, the minimum length of the wholesale contract between BT and the new fibre supplier would be cut from one year to one month.

Ofcom confirmed it is “not intending to set the level of wholesale prices for Openreach’s fibre service”, as “the price of fibre broadband is currently constrained by the availability of standard broadband services, and by competition from Virgin Media’s cable network.”

However, the regulator added that it would soon propose “new guidance on its future approach to the ‘margin’ that BT sets between its wholesale and retail fibre prices”. This was welcomed by TalkTalk, which said it was “pleased” to see Ofcom “reiterating its intention to take action on fibre margin regulation.”

The changes mark the conclusion of Ofcom’s Fixed Access Market Review and are now subject to EU approval in June.

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