UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has revealed that fixed line voice and broadband customers stand to benefit from faster line repairs and installations, following its proposal of measures which would require Openreach, the company which installs and maintains connections to BT’s network on behalf of competing telecoms providers, to meet new minimum performance standards. According to the watchdog, should Openreach fail to meet the new targets over a twelve-month period, it could face sanctions, including fines.
Under the terms outlined by the proposals, Ofcom said that ‘the large majority of consumers and businesses encountering a fault with their telephone or broadband service must see it repaired within two working days’. Meanwhile, the bulk of customers requiring a new line must receive an appointment within twelve working days. It noted that since the start of 2013 Openreach had committed to new contractual targets for services, leading to automatic payments to other telecoms companies where it misses those targets. While the infrastructure provider’s performance has since returned to pre-2012 levels, Ofcom has said that it wants to ‘ensure it remains at an acceptable standard for the benefit of consumers’.
To that end, under the proposed rules Openreach will be required to: complete around 80% of fault repairs within one to two working days of being notified, irrespective of factors such as severe weather conditions; provide an appointment for around 80% of new line installations within 12 working days of being notified, irrespective of factors such as severe weather conditions; ensure it adheres to these new standards across the country, by meeting the requirements in each of ten geographic divisions of the UK; and provide data on repairs and installations that are not completed within this timeframe. Further, Ofcom has also asked Openreach to make clear the timeframe in which it expects to complete these remaining jobs in future, in order to provide reassurance to consumers about how long this work is likely to take. With Ofcom proposing that the new requirements must be met in full from April 2016, intermediate targets have also been set out to ensure progressive improvements in service before then.
The proposals themselves are part of a consultation relating to Ofcom’s Fixed Access Market Reviews, which closes on 13 February 2014, and the regulator is expected to announce its final decisions in spring 2014.