fibre optics and internet cable

Clamp down on the speed demons

Broadband internet access and its benefits to members of the public and professionals alike is a technological marvel which we would suffer without.

Whether video conferencing a client in Japan or keeping the kids entertained of a Saturday morning with cartoons on the iPad, broadband services are increasingly important and today’s consumer, as with so many things, is knowledgeable and discerning.

Business and home owners spend huge swathes of time researching the most competitive products and prices on the market. Similar to buying a car, you need to ensure you are purchasing a product that ticks the right boxes for your needs and wants.

With broadband, it all comes down to speed. There is little to no point in a lacklustre trickle of activity through the wires when a full office requires a constant and strong stream.

Of course, providers will shout from the rooftops about the unrivalled speeds they offer for the best price. However, the small print can differ between contracts and the large print on ads or at the point of sale can be positively misleading.

Ofcom, the communications industry’s regulatory body, has recently published an updated code of practice for suppliers and providers to adhere to. It wants customers to have more realistic information regarding the speed they will receive upfront and to hand from any initial sales chat to signing the sign-up contract.

Most notably, Ofcom wants providers to outline how speeds will likely vary for different times of the day dependent on demand. Not an issue for those working remotely from Japan per se, but it can cause headaches, both for the customer and the customer service departments of said supplier, when the world and its wife needs internet access when the kids get home from school.

With these new guidelines, Ofcom is also championing the introduction of a minimum guaranteed speed to be provided during the sales process. The plan is that this will provide a benchmark against which competitors can be compared by the customer when shopping around.

This ties in with the new EU Open Internet Access Regulation which requires speed detail to be included on all new contracts. As an extension to this, the rights of the customer will be further strengthened by an ability to exit a contract should speeds fall below said minimum.

As providers of telecommunications services across Northern Ireland and beyond, we welcome this news. While still at the consultation process, these proposed new amendments will allow customers, potential or existing, to have more reassurance in the product they have invested in.

Ofcom plans to introduce a consumer-led guide to these updated codes in early 2018 as it is hoped they will cover all technological supplies, not simply copper-based phone lines. For businesses in particular that have invested heavily in Super Fast Cable access, this information will be vital and something we welcome.

While the man on the street doesn’t buy a car based on how fast it can go, he also doesn’t want to get a ticket, clamp or be overtaken in the technological stakes.

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