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UPD ISPs Support New Broadband Switching Fix But Say Problems Remain

Friday, Aug 9th, 2013 (9:06 am) - Score 517

Ofcom’s proposal to introduce a new harmonised Gaining Provider Led (GPL) solution for swapping broadband and phone provider has been given a warm welcome by most ISPs. But some providers’ fear that they could be left to chase vanishing customers for payments or that the system may soon end up being out of date.

The “simpler and more reliable” system (details), which will replace the old Migration Authorisation Code (MAC) method, means that customers whom want to swap ISP will now only need to contact their new (chosen) provider in order to begin the process.

ISPreview.co.uk queried a large cross section of ISPs to discover their thoughts about the change and practically all were supportive of the effort and many expected to benefit from it. But there was still some criticism and concern.

In particular AAISP (Andrews and Arnold) noted that some customers might abuse the system by trying to escape without paying. Meanwhile BT appears concerned that Ofcom’s decision to shun fibre optic (FTTP) and cable platforms might do some harm and Entanet (note: we’re still awaiting their official comment) warned of the potential damage to fibre growth/appeal (and potentially also the same to Openreach’s SIM2 solution).

Adrian Kennard, Director of ISP Andrews & Arnold, said:

Many of our services don’t have a minimum term, and have no costs for migrating away, but BT currently insist on a 12 month term for FTTC even if migrating away (as I understand it), so we charge our customers a min term on some services.

At present, when ordering a migration code, we are able to explain the 30 day notice and any minimum term very clearly to the customer. Obviously this is explained up front when they buy in the first place, but the order of a migration code ensures there are no surprises and gives them a chance to reconsider based on costs.

With this new process we could find people vanish (migrate away) and we are left chasing payment on a cancelled DD and a customer saying “nobody told me” (wrongly) and threatening ADR if we don’t drop it.

Obviously I am concerned over slamming as well – regardless of the checks they are adding. Only time will tell if this is really an issue.”

A BT Spokesperson said:

BT has been pushing for a unified approach to switching across all voice and broadband services for a long time now, and we therefore welcome today’s announcement. It is vital for consumers to be able to make a fully-informed decision, and then to switch quickly and easily, with no loss of service or possibility of slamming.

Whilst Ofcom’s proposals are a step in the right direction in improving customers’ experience, we are disappointed that they have not taken the opportunity to adopt a process which could be extended to cover switches to and from other networks such as cable and fibre in future, so that we have one single, clear and simple system.

Customers often want to buy their landline and broadband in a bundle with TV these days, so we are keen that Ofcom extends a simplified process to cover pay-TV and mobile. We will continue to work with Ofcom and industry to make these improvements as soon as possible.”

A TalkTalk Spokesperson added:

TalkTalk has long argued the switching process is unnecessarily complicated, therefore we welcome Ofcom’s announcement. A simpler, single switching process is vital for a more competitive market providing better value and choice for consumers.”

Nigel Eastwood, CEO of New Call Telecom (Primus Saver), said:

New Call has always maintained that the over complicated process of switching landline or broadband provider was heavily balanced in the favour of the losing provider. Each month, many of our potential new customers who have made the decision to switch are unable to transfer, due to the unhelpful road blocks that the losing provider quite often place in the way.

New Call support this announcement, it will undoubtedly engender a better switching experience in an era when consumers are constantly seeking better value for money. This new way of operating will further assist those in more costly contracts to move to providers like ourselves.”

A Sky Broadband Spokesman added:

As the UK’s fastest-growing home communications company, we want to ensure there’s a smooth and straightforward process for customers who want to switch. We will review Ofcom’s proposals and engage fully in the consultations to follow.”

Nicholas Lansman, ISPA Secretary General, said:

Anything which makes it more convenient to switch providers in what is already considered one of the most competitive marketplaces should be welcomed. Industry, however, does have concerns over the implementation of GPL, specifically the technical procedure and back-end complexities involved in migrating a customer over.”

Generally speaking we’re pleased to see Ofcom finally addressing this issue with a simpler process and we can understand the very real technically barriers for not including fibre optic (except for BT’s hybrid-fibre FTTC of course) and cable platforms, although it’s a shame that after five ridiculously long years (the time from inception before their new system is introduced) they couldn’t have found some way to address the latter (note: more work on this aspect is to be conducted).

The new migration solution is expected to be finalised by early 2014 and after that ISPs will be given a year of grace before they’re forced to introduce it (i.e. early 2015). We’re currently still waiting for some comments back and will add those as the day progresses.

UPDATE 11:46am

Here’s the full reaction from Entanet, which makes for an interesting read.

Paul Heritage-Redpath, Entanets Product Manager, said:

Entanet supports anything that genuinely improves the position of the customer but these proposals throw up some interesting points or debate:

Any change across industry like this means costs for providers which have to be either swallowed or passed on, as well as the risk of disruption when systems are changed. Having one process sounds like a great idea – but the reality of the UK’s patchwork of connectivity is that there will still be separate processes for Openreach and Virgin.

At first sight the record-keeping obligations under discussion look rather onerous for communications providers and the notion of letter production feels strangely anachronistic for this industry; but we’re delighted that another centralised government database is not going to be part of the initial phase at least.

It’s interesting that Ofcom are now mandating Sim provide while Openreach’s revised Sim2 process debuts in November. So, as matters stand, there is a risk of the need for further systems work in the same area being required twice in a year. Having already taken two years to deliberate thus far, we think that Ofcom is being rather ambitious in allowing ISPs only one year to overcome what they acknowledge at para 1.16 admit to being “significant logistical challenges.

We see demand for bandwidth continuing to trend upwards and so it’s unfortunate that the opportunity hasn’t been taken to bring cable and fibre into one harmonised system for the future. The UK’s legacy copper estate continues to cast its shadow over thinking about the shape of our national connectivity.

We note the main driver for the original review was “slamming”, yet our own experience has been that this is not a common issue and Ofcom acknowledge in their report that the problem is only 16.2% the size of their initial estimate.”

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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