Communications provider Entanet, which supplies a number of ISPs in the United Kingdom, has claimed that it “really isn’t practical” to compensate all customers for a loss of broadband service.
The issue stems from last week’s ruling by the Federal Court of Justice in Germany, which was overseeing the case of a man whom had been left without broadband access for two months. The court ruled that the internet is now an “essential” part of life and that the man should be compensated (i.e. via a proportion of the rental cost for the service).
On the surface it seems only fair that customers shouldn’t have to pay for a service that they haven’t received (many UK ISPs will compensate for a serious loss if you ask and it’s justified), yet the court’s ruling has also opened the floodgates to a complicated issue that, in practice, isn’t always easy to define.
Neil Watson, Entanets Head of Service Operations, said:
“Firstly, we believe this would never work in practice because of the UK’s channel supply model. Most UK providers are reliant on Openreach to fix faults and maintain the major BT based network which runs throughout the UK. In addition to this, unless they are LLU or cable based operators, they purchase their services through BT Wholesale and many then sell these services on to reseller partners who in turn sell to end user customers.
So consider for a minute, who would pay the compensation? The end user would claim from the reseller, who would try to claim from their wholesale provider, who would in turn try to claim from either BT Wholesale or Openreach – you can imagine how much time and red tape that would cause!
That process would be complicated even further where the underlying PSTN [phone] line is provided by an alternative provider. What happens if the broadband service goes down because the PSTN had a fault? Then who would be liable?”
Watson also points to the difficulty of establishing whether or not the problem has been caused by a customer’s own equipment, which is not uncommon, and the complications that may arise from such situations. For example, some ADSL lines can even be disconnected by interference from a neighbour’s faulty AC adapter or Christmas tree lights, which is tricky to pin down.
On top of that you also have the issue of cost and the difficulty of establishing how long a broadband outage would have to last before compensation was due or even if compensation should extend beyond mere service loss (e.g. slow speeds). “It’s inevitable that the ISPs will need to factor that potential cost into their service charges, potentially meaning a [price rise] for customers,” said Watson (Entanet blog).
Ultimately everybody has a right to expect that the service they pay for is actually delivered, although at the same time businesses will pay extra to ensure that a serious loss of connectivity can be resolved and or compensated for in a timely fashion (not that those SLA’s always work as intended); similar features can often be purchased by home users too.
In any case ISPs will usually do all they can to reconnect customers when problems occur because none of them want to see their reputations trashed by angry users and some, surprising though it may seem, actually do care about their end-users.