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Ofcom tells BT to speed up business broadband installations

Tuesday, March 22nd 2016 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Ofcom has told BT to start providing better broadband services to its business customers.

The regulator said BT’s performance “has not been acceptable” and has set out new rules to improve the service it provides companies.

These include reducing the time it takes to install high-speed business lines and reducing the price of leased line services.

The rules form part of Ofcom’s Business Connectivity Market Review and will be finalised at the end of April subject to consideration by the European Commission.

The review, published today, looks at the UK’s £2bn market for leased lines – dedicated, high speeds connections typically used by large businesses and mobile and broadband operators.

Most of these lines are owned and maintained by BT’s Openreach division.

In the past five years, the average time between an order being placed and a line being ready has increased from 40 to 48 working days.

Ofcom wants BT to reduce that number to 46 by the end of March 2017 and return it to 40 working days by 2018.

The regulator is also proposing that, by March 2017, Openreach complete 80% of leased line orders by the date promised to customers when they make the order. This should rise to 90% of orders by April 2018.

Openreach is currently failing to complete one in four leased line installations by the dates promised to customers.

Jonathan Oxley, Ofcom competition group director, said: “All of us depend on high-speed, fibre optic lines.

'Greater certainty'

“Businesses use them to communicate, and they also underpin the broadband and mobile services used by consumers at home and on the move.

“BT is relied on by many companies to install these lines, and its performance has not been acceptable.

“These new rules will mean companies across the UK benefit from faster installation times, greater certainty about installation dates, and fast repairs if things go wrong.”

As well as setting new performance targets, Ofcom wants BT to give its competitors greater access to its broadband infrastructure.

Last month, the regulator said it would force Openreach to open up its network of telegraph poles and underground tunnels to allow rivals to build their own fibre networks.

Now Ofcom is telling BT it must give other providers of high speed leased lines access to its network of fibre cables that are already in the ground but not yet connected to carry traffic – known as 'dark fibre'.

Mr Oxley said the plan would “reduce the country’s reliance on Openreach” and allow BT’s competitors to better serve their customers.

Under Ofcom’s proposals, BT will still be required to offer wholesale leased line products but will have to bring down the prices its charges wholesale customers over the next three years.

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