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Ofcom to Make Broadband Switching Easier


Customers will find it easier to switch between broadband providers, under new protocols proposed by telecoms regulator Ofcom.

Most consumers are signed up to ISPs which use Openreach’s infrastructure, including BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Vodafone, EE and Plusnet. They’re able to use a seamless process called ‘gaining provider-led’ switching, in which they contact only the provider they’re switching to and that provider arranges the switch.

However, increasing numbers of customers are opting for alternative networks. That includes the more than five million subscribers to Virgin Media’s cable broadband and hundreds of thousands signed up to a growing number of independent full-fibre providers, like CityFibre, Gigaclear and Hyperoptic, which lay their own networks.

Switching between or to or from these alternative networks is complicated. Customers have to use a process called ‘cease and provide,’ which requires they contact both their current and new provider and coordinate the dates of the switch themselves. This often involves downtime or an overlap in bills.

Ofcom found that 43% of broadband customers who decide not to switch do so because they’re worried about coordinating the beginning and end of two services. 37% were daunted by having to speak to two providers and 35% worried about having to pay for two services simultaneously.

Under Ofcom’s new proposed switching protocol, the receiving provider will manage switching for all customers, regardless of what type of network they’re coming from. Any loss of service involved in the switch should not exceed one working day and ISPs would have to compensate customers if it does or the switch goes awry in any other way.

Ofcom will also ban notice period charges beyond the switch date for residential customers, who households won’t face paying for two services simultaneously after arranging the switch.

Ofcom will publish more details about the new switching process, and when it will come into effect, early next year.

These new rules will complement regulations Ofcom is introducing from February, requiring ISPs issue end of contract notifications to customers, informing them, via text, phone or post, of the expiry date of their contract and any price changes they’ll face after that date.

Ofcom has estimated that 8.8 million broadband customers—40% of the market—are currently out of contract with their provider and could find substantial savings by switching or entering a new deal with their current provider.

Alternative network provider CityFibre welcomed the switching changes.

“We are encouraged by Ofcom announcing plans to make it easier for customers to choose to access our full fibre network. Measures such as these will help the industry to become more competitive, supporting the rollout of full fibre networks by companies such as CityFibre as we look to reach the ambitious 2025 target the previous government set out,” a spokesperson said.

“As CityFibre grows to become the UK’s third national digital infrastructure platform, we welcome all the support Ofcom is able to provide consumers in making it easier to switch their provider.”

Lauren Smith
Lauren Smith

Lauren Smith has worked as a journalist and copywriter for most of the last decade, covering technology, energy, and consumer rights, in the US and UK.

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