Ofcom revises Openreach rules

The telecoms regulator introduces extra 'incentives' to make sure BT's broadband access division provides better service to its ISP customers

The telecoms regulator Ofcom has launcheD a new package of "incentives" for Openreach to improve the service it offers to other internet providers.

Openreach is the division of BT that was split off to give other providers equal access to the UK's telecommunications infrastructure — a move prompted by Ofcom in order to make the communications market more competitive. Openreach's progress has been monitored by the Office of the Telecommunications Adjudicator (OTA) with general positivity, but Ofcom seems to have decided that extra incentives are needed to ensure Openreach maintains a high level of service for its ISP customers.

The new rules, which will take effect from 20 June, require Openreach to "proactively" compensate customers if faults are fixed late or lines are provided late, rather than the customers having to make a claim.

Openreach will also have to pay "every time service or quality falls below the contractual threshold instead of paying out against performance stated as an average over time", and "continue to pay compensation each time problems persist, up to a capped limit". The penalty for not activating live "unbundled" lines — where an ISP has installed its own equipment in a BT exchange rather than leasing BT's connectivity — are also set to double.

"Openreach's role is to sell products to any communications company wishing to provide services to UK customers," said Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards on Thursday. "The new incentives will encourage Openreach to ensure that a high quality of service is delivered to industry and ultimately consumers."

Ofcom's Thursday statement on the matter noted: "Openreach should not provide services to other parts of the BT Group on more favourable terms or practices".

A spokesperson for Openreach told ZDNet.co.uk on Thursday that the revised rules were "broadly in line with what [Ofcom] have previously said" and represented only a "streamlining of how the system works".

"We're currently offering high levels of service to our customers anyway," the Openreach spokesperson claimed.

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