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Ofcom UK Closes in on Solution to Improve Bundled Broadband ISP Migrations

Posted: 03rd May, 2011 By: MarkJ
ofcom uk average broadband ISP speeds March 2011The UK Communications Regulator , Ofcom , is close to revealing the outcome of its Strategic Review into Consumer Switching. The idea is to make migration between providers (e.g. broadband ISPs and telephone operators) "quicker, cheaper and easier for consumers"; this would also aid market competition.

The first consultation ended on 26th November 2010 (here) after discovering that 39% of customers whom had switched broadband ISP using the Migration Authorisation Code (MAC) process felt that it was too much hassle.

Incidentally the MAC solution doesn't work for all ISPs (e.g. fully unbundled providers) and bundles, which presents an additional set of problems. On top of that Ofcom has also had to look at the new generation of "super-fast" broadband services, particularly fibre optic providers, in order to contemplate how best to make migration viable there too.
Broadband Migration Authorisation Code (MAC) Explained
https://www.ispreview.co.uk/new/complain/common_isp_complaints_migration.php#1
At the time Ofcom proposed a process in which the customers new ISP would take the lead on switching the service (Gaining Provider Led), albeit with new safeguards to protect against "slamming" (i.e. when a consumer is switched without consent). The new solution would also be designed to work with bundles (i.e. phone and broadband).

Ofcom now intends to launch a 2nd consultation document, which will mostly likely be accompanied by a summary of its initial proposals, and subsequent statement. No firm date has been given but we expect it to happen in the near future and definitely before the end of 2011.

The related Switching Working Group (SWG) has already come up with 2 Gaining Provider Led (GPL) and 1 Losing Provider Led (e.g. enhanced MAC) switching processes as options. One of the GPL solutions (TPV) would use 3rd party validation and an account reference model to handle migrations, while the other would simply require a Unique Service Number (USN).

The Migration Authorisation Code (MAC) process has, for the most part, worked quite well. However, when an ISP stops communicating with its users due to woeful support or financial trouble (e.g. liquidation) then it can leave customers trapped. This is one of the reasons why Ofcom is moving towards GPL, despite the obvious risk from slamming.

Progress on all of this is said to have been "good" and providers are now trying to work out how much each would cost to implement and run. This work must be completed before Ofcom can launch its final consultation.

Hopefully the adopted solution will be affordable to consumers and would thus not present yet another barrier to effective switching. Easier said than done, some platforms are quite difficult to migrate between.
Ofcom's Strategic Switching Review
http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/consultations/consumer-switching/
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