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BBC One Rip Off Britain TV Show to Tackle KCOM Woes in Hull UK

Friday, June 1st, 2018 (11:10 am) - Score 3,760

The BBC One consumer rights TV show, Rip Off Britain, looks set to take KCOM’s broadband and phone network in Hull (East Yorkshire) to task when it returns for a new series from 11th June 2018. The telecoms provider could face criticism of its prices, customer service and monopoly position in the local market.

At present Ofcom has ruled that KCOM continues to hold a position of Significant Market Power (SMP) in the Hull area, where their network has dominated the local market for many years via a mix of copper line phone, ADSL, FTTC and now “full fibreFTTP based broadband connection technologies.

Naturally many locals often get upset about the lack of alternative fixed line choices in the local market (there are some but coverage is very limited) and none of the major ISPs have adopted KCOMs limited wholesale solutions (partly because they don’t do LLU or VULA FTTC etc.). However Ofcom has previously found it difficult to take more decisive action, not least because KCOM is a significant financial contributor and major employer in the Hull area (details); they don’t want to ruin the local economy.

On top of that KCOM is busy investing £85 million to ensure that 100% of their network area can access their Gigabit capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology by March 2019 (around 200,000+ premises), which will admittedly still include a small amount of 75Mbps capable FTTC (roughly 4% of coverage).

The above is an advantage that few other UK areas enjoy, but naturally KCOM will also want a fair return on that investment, ideally before Ofcom swings any regulatory hammers. Rocking the boat too much at this stage is risky.

A Spokesperson for KCOM said:

“We have been contacted by the Rip Off Britain team and provided them with some facts about the broadband market and provision in Hull and East Yorkshire. We look forward to seeing a balanced show which recognises Hull and East Yorkshire as one of the fastest and best connected ultrafast broadband regions in the UK and indeed the world.”

However it’s clear that many locals may still be dissatisfied. A recent poll conducted by the Hull Daily Mail, which collected 34,000+ responses, found that only 5% of respondents were “happy” with their KCOM service. This seems to be a little out of whack with reality (we don’t see that many gripes against KCOM) but then it could just be reflecting general frustration with the aforementioned lack of choice.

Meanwhile Ofcom has yet to report on the final outcome of their on-going Wholesale Broadband Access (WBA) market review, which was due to be published earlier this year alongside their other reviews but is instead continuing to drag on (see details). As part of that the regulator proposed to examine the following issues.

Summary of Ofcom’s Plan for KCOM in Hull

Our proposals seek to achieve the following outcomes:

* Addressing the potential competition concerns we have identified, namely KCOM refusing to supply wholesale services, unduly discriminating in favour of its own retail operations or other selected telecoms providers and charging excessive wholesale charges;

* Ensuring that other telecoms providers can obtain the wholesale products they require at fair and reasonable prices from KCOM to compete effectively in retail broadband services, with a transparent process for telecoms providers to use if those products are not yet available;

* Greater transparency and accountability in relation to requests for new wholesale services and the functioning of the process by which such requests are submitted and considered by KCOM; and

* Greater transparency in relation to KCOM’s costs for supplying wholesale services, to ensure that it is complying with its regulatory obligations.

At the same time KCOM are already gearing up to be the first to retire their old copper line network in the UK, which could complicate Ofcom’s work. On the other hand the regulator has already ruled out copper Local Loop Unbundling (LLU), except Sub-Loop Unbundling (SLU), and they want KCOM to “provide fibre network access on reasonable request,” while adopting “fair and reasonable prices” at wholesale.

We suspect that ‘Rip Off Britain’ will, whenever the relevant episode actually airs (we don’t know yet), do their usual thing and merely skirt around some of these more complicated issues.

Leave a Comment
12 Responses
  1. Avatar Joe says:

    “We suspect that ‘Rip Off Britain’ will, whenever the relevant episode actually airs (we don’t know yet), do their usual thing and merely skirt around some of these more complicated issues.”


  2. Avatar Steve Jones says:

    I didn’t realise that Ofcom had a brief to look at the impacts on local economies. In any event, looking at the stats, KCOM employs 1,700 people for 190,000 homes from what I can find (and I’m assuming that really does mean homes, and not premises). In the UK as a whole, there are approximately 25m homes, so scaling that up, it would be over 220,000 if the same ratio was used across the whole of the country.

    BT as a whole (including international employees) has about 107,000 employees, of which I seem to recall around 85,000 are in the UK (32,000 in OR). BT does not, of course, have a de-facto retail monopoly, and has infrastructure competition so you wouldn’t expect the same sort of staffing to premises ratios, but it’s still a striking difference and might well point to KCOM being a much larger proportion of the local market.

    In any event, it demonstrates that when it comes to unbundling wholesale from retail services (rather than re-badging virtual services), the economics don’t work with small network operators, and by “small” it might even mean something the size of VM.

  3. Avatar Alan says:

    The people of Hull and what KCOM have managed for the area do not know how lucky they are. As for Rip Off Britain, that show is much like the presenters… needs to retire.

  4. Avatar arundel says:

    “Rip off Britain” or by its proper name, “Old people bewildered by technology”.

    1. Avatar Joe says:

      Or “I must be being ripped off as the company is making a profit on the goods it sells’

  5. Avatar Michael V says:

    Ofcom really should have taken action years ago. The only choice in the area is KCom. I’ve worked for two ISPs & when I’ve been dealing with customers about TV packages, they’ve said how unhappy & restricted they were feeling with not being able to move. Thier prices were kind of expensive.

    1. Avatar Alan says:

      “when I’ve been dealing with customers about TV packages, they’ve said how unhappy & restricted they were feeling with not being able to move.”

      Must be the air that prevents bolting a Satellite to their walls and receiving TV.

  6. Avatar Marty says:

    sharon white will find a way to stick her oar in.

    1. Avatar New_Londoner says:

      Unlikely, she doesn’t tend to get involved in anything that isn’t high profile politically, there aren’t enough people or MPs in Hull to matter. She also neglects anything that is politically contentious, hence her complete inaction on Sky.

      Hopefully she’ll move on soon and a competent CEO of Ofcom will be appointed in her place.

  7. Avatar Meadmodj says:

    KCOM offer wholesale service for both Retail and Business. If other ISPs do not wish to engage with KCOM that is their choice. There is nothing stopping another provider providing a separate service in Hull.
    KCOM will suffer from the same technical issues as OR such as bad line pairs etc. until fibre takes over.
    Altnets are cherry picking.

  8. Avatar A Builder says:

    I do find this whole precept quite strange. I’ve never knowingly used a KCOM service.

    On the face of it KCom are

    a) investing heavily in fibre
    b) retiring copper

    This involves spending a lot of money for a short period of time.

    When a) and b) are finished they will require a smaller workforce and less contractor spend and it is then that I would expect prices to be able to be dropped whilst retaining a sensible ROI.

    The other side of the coin is that KCom have essentially proved that it is possible to fibre up a decent sized city without massive subsidy and this is a very big SME competitive plus for Hull which seems to have been totally bypassed in the conversation.

    I don’t really understand what the issue is with bundling. The fibre is agnostic as to what data is going down it. We got rid of our Sky boxes at home, we never turned then on, and just stream everything via Amazon Prime, Netflix and iPlayer over a mix of platforms.

    Gamers must be in heaven with a full fibre connection.

    Am I totally missing something here or is this whole thing completely through the looking glass?

  9. Avatar Amjad says:

    After experiencing normal broadband (moving fromm Nottingham to Hull) I have no idea what people are moaning about! I used to be a gamer and have always streamed a large amount, that’s why having FTTP is an absolute godsend

    I would rather pay a few pound extra and and have a far superior service than spend half my life waiting for things to buffer!!

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