Sharon White the new chief of Ofcom is to announce at a conference today in her first speech in the role changes to the fairly old Code of Practice that applies to broadband services.
It is believed that the changes will mean that while currently you get a get out of jail free card to exit your broadband contract if speeds provided do not meet the speeds you were told to expect for the first 3 month of service is to be changed to apply at any point during your contract.
Oddly the changes will not affect Virgin Media, which is understandable on one hand as they do not use xDSL thus the line speed should be at a fixed speed (unless there is a fault) but the reality is that we have seen some people switch away from Virgin Media due to highly variable speed experience as a result of congestion and find xDSL services providing a more stable experience.
It must be remembered that the threshold for leaving is if your speeds are below what is often called the minimum guaranteed speed which is the speed for the bottom 10% of users on a similar service, so for BT ADSL2+ our speed test data suggests this is around 0.7 Mbps compared to a median value of 4.5 Mbps for full range of line lengths, but for those on long lines the guaranteed speed may actually be lower. For FTTC the overall result is that the bottom 10% speed is 12.1 Mbps against a median speed of 33.7 Mbps (based on May 2015 speed test results).
It must be pointed out that to use poor speeds as a reason to get out of a contract you are expected to give the provider a reasonable period of time to fix the issues, this gives them time to reset DLM, IP Profiles or other issues that may affect your speed. Migrating using the new provider led process and then claiming that you moved because of low speeds and thus should not have to pay off the remaining months in your old contract will not work as once you've moved the provider has no opportunity to fix things.
Hopefully once the text of Sharon White's speech has been published and the policy updated online has been published we will know more detail. Ofcom previously tried to reduce the length of fibre broadband contracts, and Openreach now does have a 1 month minimum term for those switching their FTTC (12 month minimum term for new connections), but this has been ignored by 99% of providers. So it will be interesting to see both how the new migration rules pan out and the new code of practice. There are real concerns in some quarters that the new migration system may increase the amount of slamming and for SME customers actually lead to slower switching due to the mandatory 10 ten day notification process.