Telephone and broadband customers stand to benefit from faster line repairs and installations, under new rules proposed by Ofcom today.
The measures would require Openreach, the company which installs and maintains connections to BT's network on behalf of competing telecoms providers, to meet new minimum performance standards.
Should it fail to meet the new targets over a 12-month period, Openreach would face sanctions from Ofcom - which could include fines.
The requirements would mean the large majority of consumers and businesses encountering a fault with their telephone or broadband service must see it repaired within two working days; while the large majority of those requiring a new line must receive an appointment within 12 working days.
Ofcom is concerned about the time it can take for Openreach to complete this work. The problem was most acute during 2012, when installations and repairs were to some extent hampered by extremely wet weather conditions.
Since the start of 2013, under an arrangement brought about by Ofcom, Openreach has committed to new contractual targets for services, leading to automatic payments to other telecoms companies where it misses those targets. Openreach's performance has since returned to pre-2012 levels, but Ofcom wants to ensure it remains at an acceptable standard for the benefit of consumers.
How the new rules would work
Ofcom is proposing that Openreach will in future be required to:
The new measures all relate to Openreach's most-used products, which are used by telephone companies to offer phone and broadband to consumers and businesses. 2 The targets are designed to ensure better service for telephone and broadband customers in future, while also avoiding any significant effect on prices.3
Ofcom is proposing the new requirements must be met in full from April 2016. Intermediate targets are also proposed to ensure progressive improvements in service before then.
Today's proposals are part of a consultation, relating to Ofcom's Fixed Access Market Reviews, which closes on 13 February 2014. Ofcom will announce its final decisions in spring 2014.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
* Both these targets will be adjusted slightly to deal with instances where external factors beyond Openreach's reasonable control (such as extreme weather) mean it is not possible to meet the service standard. The targets will allow that up to 3% of repairs and 1% of installations in a typical year might be delayed due to such factors.