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Lords Call for Firm UK Broadband Speed and Service Quality Commitment

Posted: 14th Dec, 2009 By: MarkJ
Two members of the House of Lords - Lord Corbett of Castle Vale and Lord Erroll - have blasted the "buck passing" of customer fault reports between ISPs and BT, the misleading state of broadband speed advertising and the inability to ensure a minimum quality of service for the government’s commitment to a 2Mbps minimum UK broadband speed by 2012.

The reactions were published in a short interview conducted by PC Pro today, where both Lords tackled some well known and difficult issues. In particular the common annoyance of broadband line fault reporting and management; this can be confusing and expensive for users when neither the ISP nor BT appears to take clear responsibility.

Lord Corbett told PC Pro :

"The consumer must have a one-stop shop. The buck passing of fault reporting being the responsibility of the customer must stop. How can a non-technical customer expect to be bounced from call centre to call centre?"

Lord Erroll added :

"BT, or any other line provider, has a duty to keep the lines up to standard. Their bosses are sitting on the fence, hoping for a cash injection. The lines have become unsuitable for internet use, even if they are usable for the telephone."

Both lords also said that the Universal Service Commitment (USC) to deliver a minimum speed of 2Mbps to everybody in the UK by 2012 "must deliver and sustain a minimum stated level of service", which we firmly agree with.

There's little point in offering 2Mbps if the customer still only receives something far slower; that would not be different enough from today's situation where 99.6% of the UK is within reach of a 512Kbps capable ADSL broadband line from BT. Sadly the crucial issues of latency and affordability were not touched on.

Finally the Lords vented their anger at both Ofcom and ISPs for continuing to allow the advertising of maximum broadband speeds, which often cannot be achieved. Though to be fair, some ISPs do achieve that performance for a few customers and it is quite a complicated problem to resolve.

Instead the Lords suggested that speed should be advertised based on the "IP throughput that is useable by the customer", which is stricter than Ofcom's current voluntary Code of Practice (CoP) on broadband speed. The CoP requires ISPs to offer customers an estimate of what their phone line can handle.

Just to twist the knife a bit, Lord Corbett also demanded an end to misleading "Unlimited" marketing practices. He stated that unlimited, if used, should mean what it says and not be accompanied by small print.
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