British Infrastructure Group (BIG) report has the backing of 57 MPs but the broadband industry and experts accuse it of selective analysis
The broadband industry and independent experts have criticised a “comprehensive” investigation backed by 57 cross-party MPs claiming as many as 6.7 million homes and businesses can’t receive the 10Mbps rate that could form part of a universal broadband obligation (USO).
‘Broadbad 2.0’, the sequel to an equally panned report published in 2016 by the British Infrastructure Group (BIG), has called for automatic compensation for poor service, progress on the USO and for broadband data to become clearer.
“The voluntary agreements currently in place between broadband providers and Ofcom to ensure that customers are compensated for poor service do not hold providers to account,” said Grant Shapps MP, chair of BIG. “This means that broadband customers often end up enduring unnecessarily lengthy complaints procedures if something goes wrong with their service.
“It is unacceptable that businesses and homeowners alike still can’t receive fast Internet, and the lack of minimum standards in the sector represents a worrying picture for post-Brexit Britain’s competitiveness.”
However the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) has described the published figure of 6.7 million as “unhelpful”, noting Ofcom data from June 2016 shows 95 percent of the UK can access 10Mbps or faster, with an average speed of 51Mbps, and that the report has ignored moves made by its members to improve the situation.
“ISPA welcomes parliamentary interest in broadband and we have helped support MP’s local broadband campaigns, but it is important that research and reports that inform policy are robust,” ISPA said in a statement. “By failing to acknowledge the work that is already underway and selective use of data, this latest report falls short of this standard.”
Both Internet providers and Ofcom are working on updates to the voluntary agreements in place which would include automatic compensation for network outages, which could amount to more than £180 million, but not for slow speeds.
However, there are plans in the works to let customers leave their provider without penalty if they do not receive the speeds they are promised.
“We share concerns that broadband must improve, and we’re already taking firm, wide-ranging action to protect customers – including new plans for automatic compensation, faster repairs and installations, and ensuring providers commit to giving accurate speed information to customers,” an Ofcom spokesperson told Silicon. “We also provide robust, comprehensive data on broadband take-up and availability, through regular reports and interactive consumer tools.”
Independent experts have also been critical, arguing that BIG’s time and effort would have been better spent elsewhere and if its demands were met, the UK could actually end up having worse broadband.
“This latest broadbad 2.0 report raises some interesting points for discussion but in the political and fake news environment that exists in 2017 we feel the report is actually going to damage the UK broadband picture,” said Andrew Ferguson, editor of Thinkbroadband.com.
“Compensation for slow broadband will of course appeal to the public where many are stretched financially, but the reality would be that the many millions of broadband customers would end up collectively paying for this compensation.
“Broadband providers will then very quickly start to refuse service to those in areas where service is poor, leading to limited choice and potentially wrecking any chance a Universal Service Obligation has of working, without billions in public money shoring up a loss making service.
“A much better use of time and resources by BIG would have been to identify those households which can get faster broadband services and have not upgraded and analyse the trends. The price premium for superfast services at £5 to £10 per month and the fact that in some areas the best service is not sold by their existing provider are likely to feature high on the list and the simple reality for many is a speed of 3 to 4 Mbps is sufficient to meet their needs.”
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