Political leaders have called for broadband customers who are not receiving the speed of connection that they paid for to be compensated. MPs say that millions of telecoms customers are paying for high speed broadband but not getting it, which could compromise home use, business systems and VOIP systems.
A report compiled by MPs belonging to the British infrastructure group has urged the telecoms and media regulator, Ofcom, to crack down on providers who promise fast broadband but do not actually deliver it. The infrastructure group is headed by Grant Shapps, who was formerly chairman of the Tory party. Mr Shapps has estimated that up to 6.7 million British internet services may not achieve the minimum 10 megabyte speed that the government has said should be standard for the UK.
Titled Broadband 2.0, the infrastructure report is supported by nearly 60 MPs, and it urges compensation for customers as a matter of course when they do not receive broadband that operates at the speed they were promised.
Mr Shapps said that while broadband is almost considered to be essential these days, both in the home and for business systems, broadband quality could still be erratic, and service to customers had not kept pace with the demand. Mr Shapps added that it was simply not acceptable that the telecoms sector still had no minimum requirements that needed to be met when providing mobile and office based telephony solutions, internet or business systems. Network providers should be accountable to customers and have fair systems for dealing with complaints in a timely manner, he said.
The main broadband providers in the UK agreed to adhere to Ofcom’s code of practice on internet connections. This code, which is voluntary, gives customers the right to extricate themselves from contracts with no penalties, if the broadband speed fails to operate at the speed set out by the service provider.
An Ofcom spokesperson said that the code was being examined to ascertain if it should be tougher. At present, there is no compensation for customers whose broadband is too slow. Earlier this year, Ofcom revealed plans to make network providers meet the costs of failing to complete repairs on time and missing deadlines. This may result in millions - who are paying for mobile and office based telephony solutions, business systems, broadband or VOIP systems that are not meeting standards - to be automatically entitled to reimbursement. The cost of this compensation could run into millions.
An Ofcom representative said that the organisation knew that broadband needed to improve and that the regulator was trying to put comprehensive measures in place to protect users. These measures would ensure benefits such as accurate specifications of services for customers, quicker installations and repairs, and compensation when broadband failed to maintain the speed promised.
Ofcom, however, said that the scale of poor customer services was less widespread than what the MPs claimed in their report. The regulator’s spokesperson said that only around 1.4 million UK homes and businesses were not able to access broadband with a minimum speed of 10 megabytes. This constitutes around 5 per cent of the total customer base and these premises were largely found in rural or extremely remote areas.