Friday, 30 October 2020

Ofcom set to probe BT over broadband charges in remote areas

by Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Friday 16 October 20

The watchdog plans to investigate whether BT is inflating quotes for rural customers, a claim which BT strenuously denies

Ofcom yesterday launched an investigation into BT over the prices it quoted rural customers to obtain broadband.   In 2018, Ofcom introduced universal service obligation (USO) rules that allowed all UK premises to request a 10 Mbps broadband connection. If the cost is calculated to be lower than £…

Ofcom yesterday launched an investigation into BT over the prices it quoted rural customers to obtain broadband.

 

In 2018, Ofcom introduced universal service obligation (USO) rules that allowed all UK premises to request a 10 Mbps broadband connection. If the cost is calculated to be lower than £3,400 then the USO provider – which is BT for almost all of the country – is required to perform the work for free. If the cost is more expensive than this threshold, then the customer can choose to pay the difference.

 

The issue here appears to be the claim that BT has been quoting hard-to-reach customers extortionate fees for broadband installation, reaching sums in the hundreds of thousands of pounds.

 

“While the cost of some connections will be high due to the remoteness of many of these premises, we are concerned that BT may not be complying with the regulatory conditions correctly where it assesses excess costs for a given connection,” said Ofcom announcing the probe. “This could result in some customers’ quote for a connection being higher than necessary.”

 

The announcement of this probe comes just a week after Minister for Digital Infrastructure Matt Warman, while speaking in parliament, called on Ofcom to resolve the USO situation.

 

“Many people who have been waiting patiently for the eventual launch of the USO have written to me to express their disappointment and a feeling of unfairness about the way that quotes have been calculated,” he said.

 

Ofcom responded to the request by announcing that they were already in ongoing discussions with BT; the probe announced yesterday was presumably already in the works. 

 

For their part, BT have today strongly denied these accusations, saying that they are “fully committed” to working with Ofcom and the government to serve the UK’s hardest to reach customers.

 

The results of the probe are expected to be announced before the end of the year.

 

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