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Broadband, Mobile & Energy News: Weekly Roundup 19/06/18

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We’ve collected all of the top energy and broadband news stories from last week for you to have a look at:

Sadiq Khan plans to ensure every new London home has full-fibre broadband

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is launching a new City Hall initiative with the aim of making London “the smartest city in the world”. As part of his Smarter London Together proposal, Khan has outlined plans to ensure that all future homes built in London will have access to full fibre optic broadband.

These plans will see property developers co-operating with broadband network operators. Developers will be required to design homes that allow for the installation of fibre optic broadband, whilst the costs of laying the new cables themselves will fall at the feet of network operators. City Hall promises that “changes to the Mayor’s draft London Plan will propose planning policies to require new development across London to provide full fibre connectivity to the home.”

This proposal is one among over 20 that feature in the Smarter London Together scheme. The scheme is designed to address some of the greatest challenges facing London, like improving infrastructure and tackling air pollution. Khan claims that providing Londoners with ultrafast broadband would tackle many of the issues the city faces, by allowing more people to work from home. This would thereby reduce congestion and air pollution in the capital.

Full fibre optic broadband would provide ultrafast broadband capable of reaching download speeds of 1Gbps. However, currently just 5% of Londoners have access to ultrafast broadband, which is lagging behind most of the other Major cities in Europe.

Cityfibre Secure Judicial Review of “Misleading” Fibre Broadband Ads

Last week, the High Court gave fibre optic broadband provider Cityfibre the green light to go ahead with a Judicial Review into questions raised by the Advertising Standards Authority over fibre optic broadband advertising. The debate concerns the kinds of broadband can be described as “fibre” in adverts. Cityfibre has argued that the current usage of the term is often misleading.

Back in 2008, the ASA took the decision to allow slower hybrid fibre broadbands to advertise using the same terminology as full or pure fibre optic broadband. Pure fibre optic is capable of achieving much greater speeds than hybrid networks, which mix fibre optic cables with metallic ones. Cityfibre claims that the use of the same terminology to apply to both means that it is difficult for consumers to tell apart rival companies who offer pure ultrafast fibre optic, or slower hybrid fibre broadband.

While the ASA reviewed their stance last year, they did not make any major changes to it. They reasoned that consumers generally saw fibre as a blanket term to describe fast broadband, and usage of the term in ads was not influential for consumers choosing a broadband package.

Since then, Cityfibre has been campaigning for the ASA to change the rules once more, and has finally secured the judicial review that they have sought for so long. Cityfibre, which has an extensive network of fully fibre optic broadband connections, argued that the “research and logic that lead to the [ASA’s] decision was fundamentally flawed” and this in turn means its slower hybrid fibre ISP competitors can “continue to mislead consumers.”

Virgin Media and Sky 'have the best reputations among broadband customers'

A study conducted by ISPreview.co.uk has revealed the public’s perception of different broadband providers, as well the fact that almost 80% of consumers factor a company’s reputation into their decisions over whether to switch broadband provider.

The study found that Virgin Media and Sky have the best reputations among broadband providers, while BT and TalkTalk were held in the lowest regard. 68.7% and 67.5% of respondents to the survey said that they believe Virgin and Sky had good reputations respectively.

ISPreview.co.uk called it “no great surprise” that these two providers had a "distinctly more positive reputation" than their competitors because “both providers tend to attract significantly fewer consumer complaints and Virgin are well known for offering the fastest widely available broadband speeds.”

By comparison, BT, the worst ranked, was said to have a poor reputation by 78.4% of those polled. TalkTalk was the next worst, although only 34.4% of respondents considered it to have a poor reputation.

ISPreview.co.uk pointed out that these scores were likely due to the fact that "TalkTalk has been caught up in various problems over the years - the cyber attack is just one of the biggest examples - and meanwhile BT, being the largest overall broadband provider by some margin, will always tend to attract a large volume of gripes."

They went on to stress that these reputations were highly subjective, and that having a bad reputation was not necessarily "terminal". TalkTalk, for example, was able to recover and grow following the 2015 cyber attack they were subject to.

Ofgem could make it harder for new firms to enter energy market

Ofgem has announced it is planning to review the changes that it made to the energy market 15 years ago when it made it easier for new companies to enter the energy market to encourage competition and challenge the domination of the big six.

Ofgem’s changes allowed 66 new smaller suppliers to enter the market, and they now account for 20% of the market – a rapid rise from the 1% market share six years ago. Ofgem reasoned that while consumers have undoubtedly benefited from these added competitive pressures, standards of customer services and the finances of companies themselves were being put at risk through the low entry requirements for the market.

Following several such issues with these smaller companies arising, Ofgem has stepped in to act.

Two smaller companies have collapsed under financial pressure in the last two years, and Ofgem has barred another company, Iresa, from taking new customers because of their bad customer service.

Ofgem is now considering testing the finances of prospective companies and may check more rigorously on established energy suppliers as well.

The announcement by Ofgem was welcomed by consumer groups and price comparison sites, who praised it for being in the interest of consumer protection.

Bulb Energy Prices Increase

Relatively young energy supplier Bulb has announced a recent 5.1% price hike. Because of increases in the wholesale prices of gas and electricity, Bulb said that they would be forced to raise the cost of their Vari-Fair tariff, which all of their 450,000 customers are on.

This tariff price will rise by 5.1% after the 12th of August, bringing the average annual bill for its customers up by £44 to £923.

Despite the price hike, Bulb’s tariff is still one of the cheapest available, and significantly cheaper than any equivalent variable tariffs offered by the big six.

Hayden Wood, one of Bulb’s co-founders, said “Bulb is committed to supplying energy at a fair price. That’s why we have one tariff for all our members, which reflects the true cost of energy. When wholesale energy costs change, our tariff does too … As a result, from August, our price will be going up by £4 per month for the average Bulb member.”

He went on explain that another one of the advantages Bulb holds over the big six is customer flexibility, that “because we don’t charge exit fees, our members can leave at any time, at zero cost.”

Bulb explained that their prices have been reduced more times than they have increased in recent years, and told their customers that “when costs fall by more than £20 per year, so will your tariff”. The company has managed to lower their prices seven times in their history, and has only had to raise them three times. The last time they changed their prices was in February. Since then, the cost of energy has risen by 20% and the new prices reflect this.

Mr Wood said “despite this rise, we remain one of the cheapest suppliers in the UK. We’ll continue to deliver simpler, cheaper, greener energy for all our members.”