Ofcom slams BT’s ‘unacceptable’ leased-line services, imposes time limits


Ofcom has slammed BT’s performance in providing wholesale leased-line services to businesses, describing it as “not acceptable”.

The telecoms regulator is imposing 40-working-day time limits on new BT installations. These will come into force by 2018, with an intermediary 46-day limit to be imposed by next year. “Our research shows that although end-users would like BT to deliver their services within shorter lead-times, they attach greater importance to certainty that BT will deliver those services on agreed dates,” it said.

The comments were made in Ofcom’s Business Connectivity Market Review, published yesterday.

Ofcom claimed that, since 2011, the “provisioning performance” of BT’s ethernet services has deteriorated and “currently shows little sign of sustained improvement. We also consider that whilst the quality of BT’s repairs of these services is broadly acceptable, this too could deteriorate if BT were to divert resources to improve the quality of provision.”

While BT recognises the need for improvement, said Ofcom, the regulator explained its belief that “the regulatory and contractual arrangements currently in force for wholesale ethernet leased line services are not sufficient to ensure that BT maintains appropriate standards of quality to support effective downstream competition and to protect end users.

“Therefore, we are imposing new obligations on BT to ensure that it has appropriate incentives to improve its provision of wholesale ethernet leased line services and to do so without degrading its repair performance.”

Ofcom has also ordered BT to ensure that 94 per cent of faults reported to its infrastructure division, Openreach, are fixed within five hours.

BT: wake up, or break up!

The moves are the latest in a ratcheting-up of pressure on BT to improve its services, after critical reports and calls for the company to be broken up in the interests of the UK’s digital competitiveness. Earlier this week, the government warned BT about its policy of charging for unwanted landlines in new broadband installations.

In recent years, BT has appeared to regard itself as a media conglomerate, with interests in sports coverage and other areas, while taking its eye off a far more important ball: building, managing, and maintaining a world-class communications infrastructure.

For the national good, BT needs to abandon its absurd pipe-dream of being a major content player and focus on its core business, where it is failing both corporate and consumer customers.

It also needs to stop being economical with the truth about its claims of “superfast” broadband speeds being available to most customers, which are easily proved to be false – using BT’s own statistics, as UCInsight reported in January.

Ofcom concluded, “We will continue to keep Openreach’s ethernet service performance under review […] to incentivise Openreach to perform above minimum standards where this delivers consumer benefits. We will also work with industry as discussions progress on ways to improve order processes.”

About Author

Chris Middleton

Chris Middleton is a widely respected business and technology journalist, author, and magazine editor. In recent years he has been Editor of Computing (where he remains Consulting Editor); co-founder and Managing Editor of Professional Outsourcing – a magazine he developed from scratch and grew to be the leading magazine in its field; Editor of CBR in its most successful year; and co-founder and launch Editor of Sourcingfocus.com. Today, he is co-Director of EastwoodMiddleton Publishing, and founder, designer, and Editor in Chief of Strategist magazine (UK), the boardroom magazine that provides strategic insight for business leaders, and of its mobile-first digital edition at www.iamtheStrategist.com. He is also co-founding Editor of Child Internet Safety magazine, and a contributing Editor of Diginomica.com. Over the years Chris has also written for, among many others, The Guardian, The Times, the BBC, and Computer Weekly. He is the author of several successful books on digital media, and a commissioning editor of more than 50 books.