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Ofcom plan to simplify broadband switching process
Friday 10 September 2010 15:47:20 by John Hunt

Nearly half (45%) of all broadband and home phone users think that switching their broadband or telephone provider is too much hassle according to a study by Ofcom. The telecommunications regulator has announced that it is considering ways to make the switching process quicker and easier and has released a new consultation document on switching telecommunication providers to help build the ground work for new policies.

Initially the work will focus on fixed line and broadband services with a move to looking at mobile and pay TV afterwards. Currently broadband customers in the UK have one of three processes that they must go through to switch provider depending on what kind of broadband they receive, and this may be more complex if they take a bundled package. New services such as next-generation broadband services also need to consider migration in the developments of the services.

The simplest is a cease and re-provide which applies where different technologies are used for providing broadband. The customer would need to contact both providers to cancel and start the new service. This process is used when switching between Virgin Media cable broadband and a BT landline based broadband service.

The second process which may be familiar is using MACs. MAC stands for Migration Authorization Code, a special code that must be requested from the current broadband provider and given to the new broadband provider in order to create a near-seamless transition from one provider to the other. This is used amongst broadband providers who resell BT wholesale's services.

The final process is called NoT, Notification of Transfer, and is used to migrate some broadband lines where an operator has full control of the line (known as Metallic Path Facility (MPF) or full LLU). In this case the customer contacts the new broadband provider and places an order for their service. A notification is then sent to the losing provider who sends out a notice to the customer giving them the option to cancel the process.

Ofcom's favoured approach for the way forward is to implement a Gaining Provider Led system similar to NoT as they result in significantly less hassle for consumers and the gaining provider has an incentive to ensure that the switching process is easy. There are concerns about 'slamming' with this method however which is where a user is switched without their knowledge or consent. Safeguards can be built in to the process however to ensure that this is minimised such as through third party verification, a system which has worked well abroad.

This consultation on switching providers is due to close on 19th November 2010, but Ofcom will be conducting further discussions with industry and consumers. Details on how to respond and the full consultation document are available on the Ofcom website.


Posted by TaRkADaHl over 7 years ago
Mmmhhh.... I have always enjoyed contacting my provider and threatening to leave to try and get a better deal... won't quite be the same.

In theory it may cause providers to be a little more willing help/fix problems if customers can just leave so easily...

Although, what happens if you go to another provider and they start the switch whilst you are in contract with your current provider... would they just switch it and you get a suprise bill for leaving? Interesting....
Posted by Gamerwillz over 7 years ago
I am pleased with this news. I have to admit that switching ISPs is quite an hassle.
Posted by MarkHampshire over 7 years ago
The last time I looked at this, one of my clients was being told "£129 for a new line" to get away from Talk Talk LLU. In the end, a new line and socket was installed alongside, and the previous one is now dormant - for the same £129. Which might have involved a new pair run. The law of unintended consequences!
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
Dont like the idea myself, prefer the MAC system see you can pick and choose when you wish to use it or not use it. Though that system isnt perfect either... If they are going to change things i think they should sit down and come up with something entirely new, LLU to BT and vice versa can still be a nightmare, with ridiculous charges involved as touched on above. If they are going to make the system better they need to think about how to make it better not just tweak it.
Posted by New_Londoner over 7 years ago
"Gaining Provider Led system ....There are concerns about 'slamming' with this method however which is where a user is switched without their knowledge or consent."

Why introduce something that is more open to slamming, not great for us customers surely?
Posted by gbswales over 7 years ago
There is nothing wrong with the present system other than the need to force companies to comply with it immediately rather than trying to stall it and keep you hooked in.

I also think the practice of lock in for more than 30 days should be made illegal
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 7 years ago
What is wrong with present system is the disparity in being able to switch lines between WLR and full LLU, particularly when leaving full LLU.

The costs to return are prohibitive.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
Indeed Andrew, something i touched on briefly and which IMO should be totally overhauled.
Posted by simon194 over 7 years ago
The comments about NoT process are not really correct because most, if not all, ISPs require you to have a BT line before they will let you place an order.

You can do a RTD for free but it ties you into a 12 month phone contract with BT and cost £90(?) to buy out of.
Posted by otester over 7 years ago
Is it really that hard to pick the right ISP in the first place with all the information out there?
Posted by TaRkADaHl over 7 years ago
@otester - circumstances/requirements/money change
Posted by Greentoad over 7 years ago
I had a lot of hassle when I tried to change from AOL to BT. AOL 'deliberately' (in my view) gave me an incorrect migration code and BT didn't contact me to tell me that it was wrong. On the changeover day I was all ready but nothing happened! I ended up staying with AOL and returning the BT hub etc rather than face more hassle. I will be so glad if it is simplified.
Posted by rogerforward over 7 years ago
It does pay to research very thoroughly before changing ISP. I changed to PlusNet because I had heard that they offered brilliant customer service, then after I signed up with them and found them to offer bad customer service and be downright dishonest, I discovered that they were actually now owned by BT. I welcome simplification of the process of changing ISP, and would also like to see simplification of the process of changing mobile telephone service provider whilst keeping the same mobile number.
Posted by otester over 7 years ago

So this only affects lazy people then.
Posted by chrysalis over 7 years ago
ofcom doing the wrong thing here, the market is already agressive and this will make it worse, its not a good thing to have customers isp hopping everytime their contract runs out.
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