Broadband users could benefit from better service from 1 July, after Ofcom proposals to speed up repairs carried out by BT Openreach were signed off by the European Commission (EC) and will come into force next week.
Ofcom unveiled the proposals in May, and they were signed off by the EC on 19 June. Under the rules, BT Openreach will have to complete around 70 percent of fault repairs within one to two working days of being notified, rising to around 80 percent by 2016.
BT will also have to provide an engineer appointment for around 55 percent of new line installations within 12 working days, rising to around 80 percent by 2016.
Ofcom also wants Openreach to report publicly on performance, adding that it will “monitor and intervene” here if required, and give customers a clear indication of how long works would take to complete. The targets allow for circumstances such as bad weather, giving leeway of three percent for repairs and one percent for installations each year if there are extenuating circumstances.
BT said it is already well on track to meeting the targets, pointing out that it is recruiting new engineers to support this requirement. In May, BT announced plans to employ 1,600 new fibre engineers and self-publish information on its repair and fix timelines, as part of its ongoing rollout of broadband services across the UK.
“The first set of quarterly reports will be available within the next few weeks, well ahead of Ofcom’s deadline,” BT told V3.
Ofcom said that the rules would “underpin” the service that is provided during repairs and installations, and should increase competition in the superfast broadcast market.
“Should Openreach fail to meet the new targets, it would face sanctions from Ofcom, which could include fines,” it warned.
The telecoms watchdog also wants to make it cheaper for customers to change their superfast broadband provider.
“Currently, if a consumer wishes to change superfast broadband provider, the company they are switching to must pay a £50 fee to Openreach,” Ofcom said.
“This is often passed on to the customer. Ofcom intends to cut this wholesale fee to £11, which would allow providers to offer lower retail startup fees.”
Users could also be offered shorter retail contracts as a result of the changes, as wholesale contracts between BT and suppliers will reduce from a year to one month.