Head boy calls telecom prefects to answer for their prices
We have covered the various price rises in the broadband world, which largely have been around areas line voice line rental, and price rises for ancillary elements like caller ID as providers attempt to maintain low headline pricing. For those who adopted broadband in the first years it was available, they will remember the cost of dial-up access and the relief at getting a faster service that was actually cheaper, the first broadband connections cost around £40 to £50 per month in 1999/2000, oh and voice line rental was added to that.
So precisely what a summit hosted by the DCMS and with the Prime Minister involved is going to achieve is unclear, we can almost hear TalkTalk highlighting that they've introduced a £2.50 per month broadband option, which means a telephone line and broadband is cheaper now than when they launched in 2006. Sky will mention their free broadband service for those who take a TV service. BT will highlight the wide range of value adds to their packages. Virgin Media can point out that they offer broadband with no telephone line at all.
The fixed broadband world while we all moan about the line rental rises is exceptionally cheap for what you get and forcing lower prices could reduce customer service levels further or mean less investment in bandwidth so that peak times become congested. There are areas to be looked at, such as clarity of some offers and improving switching - but this already falls into the Ofcom remit and maybe the questions would be better asked as to why Ofcom is taking so long to revamp the broadband switching market.
Ofcom has acted recently to clarify one area and that was to make it clear that ANY price rise in the fixed term of a contract (often call minimum term in broadband offers) requires notification and the consumer given the option to switch elsewhere.
As ever the savvy telephone and broadband user is the one who reads the small print and uses a combination of switching provider to chase the best deal along with things like exploiting line rental saver options, re-contracting to get the latest deal from their current provider.
The other area is that of mobile contracts and roaming costs, the EU has already moved to end roaming costs by 2017, but they will be pressure to move ahead of that time. We are worried that the lose of roaming revenue will put pressure on contract prices. Moves to clarify the costs of subsidised phones may help some people, but enough shops sell the latest devices unlocked, that a few simple sums and you can work out which is best for you as an individual, i.e. pay for phone as part of a contract, or buy it up front with cash or suffer the interest from a credit card bill.
One radical idea that will not be discussed we are sure, is the idea of naked DSL, i.e. for DSL services that need a copper phone line that the cost of the copper provision is rolled directly into the broadband cost and no phone calls are possible across the telephone line. We would expect that it is possible for BT, TalkTalk and Sky to do something like this as a 'social' tariff at around the price of line rental saver plus broadband charge but without the 12 months payment in advance element.
Sky could pull something out of the bag unexpectedly, like free broadband (2GB allowance) for those who don't take TV and increase the usage allowance for those also taking a TV package to 10GB per month.