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BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk to Work on New Business Broadband Code

Thursday, June 25th, 2015 (12:28 pm) - Score 683
businesses need broadband connections

The UK telecoms regulator claims Virgin Media, BT and TalkTalk have all agreed to help address the problem of poor business broadband speeds by jointly working to build a new Code of Practice, which is similar to the code that already works to protect consumers from slow Internet speeds.

The code for business broadband is expected to cover similar areas, although it will be “tailored to [the] particular needs of smaller businesses” and that means a greater focus on areas like upload speed (the consumer code is almost entirely focused on downloads). Ofcom also wants the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK programme to set “explicit targets” for business coverage of superfast broadband (this should have been done years ago).

In clarifying Ofcom explained how their own data from June 2014 shows that SMEs aren’t as well served by superfast broadband (defined by the regulator as download speeds of 30Mbps+), with only 56% of related businesses having access to such a service and that compares with 75% of all UK premises.

The regulator’s analysis also suggests that by 2017, when 95% of all premises are due to have superfast access, around 18% of SMEs may still not be able to receive the service. Ofcom claims that this is “partly because it usually costs more to connect business premises than households“, but that really depends on where the business is situation and whether ISPs are trying to force expensive leased lines as the only option or not.

Sharon White, Chief Executive of Ofcom, said:

Small businesses are essential to the UK economy, and most rely on telecoms services to carry out their everyday work. But some companies lack the resources or expertise to get the services they need.

We’ve made clear we want to see better broadband coverage, quality of service, information and advice for all consumers, and that means business users too. So we are taking action alongside industry and the Government to make that happen.”

A TalkTalk Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

Ofcom’s business broadband report echoes what we’ve saying for a while: for too long Britain’s businesses have suffered from unreliable broadband access, low speeds and poor service.

TalkTalk Business is focussed on delivering high-speed connectivity at low costs for Britain’s businesses, whether that’s through the country’s largest Next Generation network or through new propositions such as our ultra fibre optic plans in York, and we’re delighted that Ofcom is looking for ways to ensure a fairer deal for businesses, through measures such as a new business broadband speeds code and making it easier for SMEs to switch provider.

As we move towards becoming a truly digital economy it is more important than ever that businesses have a realistic expectation of their internet connectivity and bandwidth, and we look forward to working closely with Ofcom to make this a reality.”

Interestingly Ofcom also notes that most SMEs are “not being given the option of paying for faster fault repairs“, although ISPs that operate off the BTOpenreach network can often still take a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with faster repair times (e.g. within 6 hours). However we note from complaints by some ISPs (e.g. AAISP) that this doesn’t always result in a practically improved repair rate. Ofcom claims to be examining this issue.

Furthermore Ofcom’s update states that around half of SMEs “struggle to compare information about suppliers and tariffs“, which is apparently “compounded by a lack of information on some operators’ websites about prices, services and contracts“. In fairness it’s a little odd for Ofcom to say this since the cost of business provision is sometimes unique to each firm, thus is can be very difficult to set a general price for certain solutions (e.g. Leased Lines etc.).

On the other hand many SME’s can’t afford the bigger Leased Line style connections and so there is an argument for ISPs being more open with their prices for certain business services, such as those based off FTTC or ADSL2+ lines where the base costs are usually the same. Sadly a lot of business solutions like this prefer to keep prices behind the familiar “Request a Quote” button. Ofcom says they will now nudge ISPs to comply with their rules and thus make such details more transparent.

Lest we not forget that Ofcom’s new migration rules also allow businesses with fewer than 10 employees to switch provider over BTOpenreach’s network by only dealing with their new supplier. Mind you this is a somewhat odd limit since up until recently many ISPs would never have had to ask a business for employee numbers, plus the firm could just as easily tell a porky in order to stay covered by the rules.

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Mark Jackson
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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