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UPD Sky Broadband Criticise BT Openreach UK for Consistently Poor Service

Monday, September 23rd, 2013 (9:19 am) - Score 3,520

BTOpenreach, which is responsible for maintaining BT’s national UK network, has said that it’s always “working to improve” its service after at least two ISPs – Sky Broadband (BSkyB) and TalkTalk – both criticised their service quality ahead of Ofcom’s on-going review of the fixed telecoms market.

The communications regulator, Ofcom, is currently conducting a series of wide-ranging Fixed Access Market Reviews to examine key issues like cost and competition for broadband Internet and phone services across the United Kingdom. A series of related consultations have been launched around this and three of those are due to close to new responses on 25th September 2013.

Ofcoms Fixed Access Market Reviews

* Approach to setting LLU and WLR Charge Controls

* Review of the wholesale broadband access markets

* Wholesale local access, wholesale fixed analogue exchange lines, ISDN2 and ISDN30

Several related proposals to cut prices and improve how Openreach functions (here and here) have already been made, one of which would require them to meet “specific performance standards” for new line installations and fault repairs (i.e. sanctions could be applied if they fall below these standards). Openreach will also have to issue better performance reports so that Ofcom can monitor them more closely.

At the time of writing Ofcom has yet to start publishing the official responses to any of its above consultations (this usually comes later) but in the meantime business newspaper CITY A.M. has managed to get their hands on some comments from TalkTalk and Sky Broadband’s (BSkyB).

A Spokesperson for Sky said:

Openreach’s consistent poor quality of service negatively impacts thousands of UK consumers every day. We therefore welcome Ofcom’s proposals for a more thorough regulatory framework. If effectively implemented, it will deliver better overall experiences for consumers and encourage greater levels of switching between providers.”

TalkTalk similarly urged the regulator to produce “detailed and robust” proposals that would be “enough to actually improve Openreach’s performance“, with financial penalties if they don’t. But Openreach countered that they were already working to Service Level Agreements (SLA), which are apparently “stricter than anywhere in Europe“, and said they viewed Ofcom’s consultation as “a good opportunity to listen to customers“.

An Openreach Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

It is hardly surprising that retailers want better terms from their wholesale suppliers. That’s the nature of business and Openreach already works to Service Level Agreements that are stricter than anywhere in Europe. However, we are always working to improve, so Ofcom’s consultation is a good opportunity to listen to customers.

We will also be making recommendations about how to improve service levels, as it’s important they align with the level of wholesale prices Openreach can charge.”

In fairness many ISPs have been suspicious of Openreach ever since its creation as a semi-separate division of BT under the operators legal undertakings and that’s unlikely to change unless there’s full structural separation, which is a rather more complicated debate and one that won’t be happening this time around.

Similarly Openreach does have a difficult task to perform and often faces problems during situations of extremely bad weather, which can introduce significant delays. But ISPs often feel unfairly treated by the group, especially with regards to certain SFI/SFI2 charges, missed appointments (e.g. engineers that leave before you can even get to the door) and so forth. It should be said that BT’s Consumer ISP can suffer from similar issues.

Ofcom currently expects to post its final conclusions to all of these reviews during spring 2014.

UPDATE 10:19am

Openreach sent us a copy of their full statement – added above.

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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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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