The latest changes from Ofcom in what is a busy year for the regulator is the launch of a voluntary code of conduct around broadband speeds for business connections.
The new voluntary code has seven operators who have signed up with a commitment to be meeting all the principles by 30th September 2016, BT Business, Daisy Communications, KCOM, TalkTalk Business, Virgin Media, XLN and Zen Internet.
Parts of the code do not apply for fixed line speed connections such as FTTP and cable, though of course users of these services when they are not dedicated 1:1 contention services can and do experience variable throughput, just the connection speed is assured. Any business with a dedicated line e.g. leased line, Ethernet First Mile (EFM) or Ethernet over FTTC are not covered by the code.
- Principle 1: Transparent and accurate information on broadband speeds at the point of sale. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will provide estimates of expected download and upload access line speeds (and throughput speeds, where available) as early as possible during the sales process and in any event prior to the customer agreeing to purchase the service.
- Principle 2: Detailed information after the sale and on the website After the sale, ISPs will provide all relevant speed related information in writing.
- Principle 3: Manage speed related problems ISPs must manage any speed problems received by their business customers and offer them assistance in resolving the issue.
- Principle 4: Right of exit ISPs will offer customers, at any point during the contract, a right to exit the contract without penalty (and subject to returning equipment, where requested by the ISP) if download speed falls and remains below a minimum guaranteed access line speed, even after the ISP and the customer, following the ISP's advice, have had an opportunity to address the speed issue.
- Principle 5: Deliver the objectives of the Code through appropriate processes ISPs must ensure that speed information must be as accurate as possible, provide resellers with accurate speed information if they are a wholesaler and support the spirit of the Code.Five Core Principles of the Code
The code while helping business may not have too much of an effect as in the same way as the consumer code of practice the majority of providers where already giving estimates at the time of sale. The ability to exit a contract if after attempts to resolve poor speeds fail will be welcome, but in case of unreliable lines or the lack of fast options in an area firms may find themselves chasing a unicorn trying to find the right service, when the one who gave the lowest estimates might actually have been the most accurate.
For those businesses stuck in a two or three year contract hoping this will let them walk due to slow speeds at peak times e.g. between 3:30pm and 5:30pm when the business day coincides with school kids firing up their games consoles, then there is a debate that will need to be had with the provider over whether this is normal performance or was an exceptional week due to the launch of Call of Duty IX.