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Consumers forgotten by telecoms providers 'distracted' by technology

Thursday, March 5th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

The telecoms industry should put consumers’ needs first, rather than being distracted by the latest technology, an expert has said.

Craig Tillotson, who sits on Ofcom's Communications Consumer Panel, said there should be more emphasis on how to get people connected rather than a focus on one type of technology, like mobile, or broadband.

Speaking to Cable.co.uk, he said the telecoms industry should not allow itself to be distracted by different technologies if it was going to provide consumers with what they need.

He said: “I come from a technological background so I know what these things do, but as a panel, and personally, it's about what a consumer needs."

The Communications Consumer Panel consists of eight independent experts and works to protect and promote people’s interests in the communications sector. Mr Tillotson is a non-executive expert member of the panel and also sits on the Advisory Committee on the Old and Disabled.

Mr Tillotson acknowledged that in an industry "full of engineers and technicians", there are inevitably going to be interesting technical questions, but that the technology could be distracting.

“There's a focus on depth – 'What's the best we can do?', 'What's the fastest we can do?', 'How quickly we can do that?' – rather than breadth.”

“But they have to be secondary to the ‘What are you trying to achieve?’ and not, for example, be distracted by the technological divisions."

Accessing bank accounts

Mr Tillotson agreed with a recent House of Lords report that broadband should be considered a utility, because not having it is a huge disadvantage to consumers, preventing them from doing things like accessing bank accounts or dealing with government.

But he said when looking at how to get people online, it is vital to look at all the ways of providing broadband, rather than just one specific technology like fibre or mobile.

“There is a set of discussions about broadband, fixed broadband, which soon becomes fibre, and there’s a set of discussions that are less loud about mobile."

Mr Tillotson said that there is still scope for improving rural internet access, especially using wireless solutions.

He added that the technology which is eventually used to solve access problems must be cost-effective and meet the needs of consumers and businesses.

The Communications Consumer Panel carries out research, provides advice and aims to encourage Ofcom, the Government, the EU, industry and others to look at issues through the eyes of consumers, citizens and micro-businesses.

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