Today Ofcom has announced proposed measures to promote greater investment in fibre networks while protecting customers from higher pricing. Jonathan Oxley, Ofcom’s Competition Group Director, summed up the news; "Our plans are designed to encourage long-term investment in future ultrafast, full-fibre networks, while promoting competition and protecting consumers from high prices." Oxley went on to say how essential reliable broadband is to UK homes and businesses.
So how do you get companies to invest more in fibre networks while limiting what they can charge for access to their fibre services? Ofcom's plans seem to centre on making 40/10 fibre connections into a kind of commodity service, while faster services will be luxuries that providers can charge what they want for - or rather what the market will bear.
Ofcom will reduce the wholesale pricing of the Openreach 40Mbps download / 10Mbps upload broadband package from the £88.80 pa today, to £52.77 in 2020/21. It fully expects various providers to sell cheaper access to fibre on the back of these reductions. Faster fibre services and the likes of BT's new G.Fast network won't be price capped so those prices will be more shaped by market competition and/or availability.
Measures designed to get companies to "construct their own full-fibre ultrafast networks to compete with Openreach," were also touched upon by today's Ofcom news. Incentives for this investment push aren't detailed, Ofcom simply says that its "proposals also provide an incentive for BT's rivals to invest in their own ultrafast networks for the longer term".
In the meantime, if you are out of reach of fibre or just not interested in superfast broadband, Ofcom will continue to keep an eye on traditional broadband prices so they remain largely stable.
Faster installs and repairs
Expanding on its quality of service push and auto-compensation proposals from a week ago, Ofcom proposed some minimum levels of fault fixing efficiency that must be in place by 2020/21. These are as follows:
- complete 93% of fault repairs within one to two working days of being notified, compared with 80% today;
- complete 97% of repairs no later than six or seven working days;
- provide an appointment for 90% of new line installations within 10 working days of being notified, compared to 80% within 12 days currently; and
- install 95% of connections on the date agreed between Openreach and the telecoms provider, up from 90% today.
Ofcom says it will monitor Openreach's performance closely, in reaching the above targets, and step in if required.