If all goes to plan, BT Openreach customers should face less of a wait for a new phone line or for repairs to be made to an existing one under new regulations being drawn by telecoms regulator Ofcom.
The regulations would set a minimum performance standard for Openreach, the company that installs and maintains connections to the BT network on behalf of wholesale customers including TalkTalk and Plusnet.
Under the draft measures that Ofcom released today, Openreach must in future:
- Complete around 80 percent of fault repairs within one to two working days of being notified
- Provide an appointment for around 80 percent of new line installations within 12 working days of being notified
- Report publicly on its performance, which will allow Ofcom to monitor and intervene further if required
- Make clear the timeframe in which it is currently completing any remaining jobs, to provide reassurance to consumers about how long the work is likely to take.
These new measures won't come into place immediately, according to Ofcom, with minimum standards instead stepped up over three years, only "reaching their full level in April 2016".
While the regulations sound like good news for consumers, Ofcom has not been specific on what penalties can be brought to bear if the new standards aren't met, saying only that suppliers that fail to deliver quality service "could face fines".
Another big change that could be brought in under the proposals is a cut in the fee that providers must pay when a customer switches to them. Currently, they have to pay a £50 to Openreach; in future, that could fall to £11. This, Ofcom hopes, will, "allow providers to offer lower retail start-up fees".
Similarly, when an existing superfast broadband customer switches to a different supplier, the minimum length of the wholesale contract between BT and the new supplier would reduce from a year to one month.
Ofcom also said it doesn't want to set wholesale pricing levels for Openreach's fibre service, as "it believes the price of fibre broadband is currently constrained by the availability of standard broadband services, and by competition from Virgin Media's cable network" — a sign that the regulator is reasonable happy with the current level of competition in the fibre broadband network.
The draft legislation drawn up by Ofcom is awaiting approval by the European Commission but should be in force from this summer.