Wednesday, 6 March 2013

10% of lines are faulty for many ISP?

OFCOM do have a code of practice on broadband speeds. We (AAISP) don't subscribe to this (it is voluntary) for good reason, and we actually have our own code which we think is better.

This is a bit of a repeat of a rant from years ago really, but I was reminded of this as one of the comments broadbandchoices made to ASA was that they expected ISPs to sign up to the voluntary code of practice on speeds. This could be a snag. I am not sure I want to sign up.

Basically, any ISPs signed up to this are saying that at least 10% of their customers have a fault!

That is not really a statement I am prepared to make.

It comes from 26(c) which defines the minimum guaranteed access line speed as "If asked to explain further or asked to state the definition of "significantly below", the ISP should provide information on the access line speed achieved by the bottom 10th percentile (or above) of the ISP's similar customers ("the minimum guaranteed access line speed") and explain that if the customer's actual access line speed is below the minimum guaranteed access line speed, then it will follow the process set out in the 4th Principle."

The 4th principle allows customers to leave a contract with no penalty (within 3 months of sign up) if their line is below this minimum. In fact, it has wording in 32(a)(ii) that is "Log the problem as a technical fault if the actual access line speed is at or below the minimum guaranteed access line speed".

What is also rather annoying is that OFCOM do not force BTW to reflect this requirement and allow ISPs out of the 12 month min term for FTTC services. This means 10% of FTTC customers where there is no actual line fault are considered faulty, the ISP cannot actually do anything as the line gets what speed it gets, and the ISP loses out as it has to pay BTW for 12 months anyway.

Granted, there will be lines that have faults, but just because lines are slow does not mean there is in fact a fault. DSL is a rate adaptive service. 10% of lines will be at or slower than the 10th percentile. It is just like people getting cross that half the population are below average!

There are grey areas - how does one define "similar customers" and the like, but the more narrowly you define it the more people end up "at or below" that 10th percentile. Indeed, all FTTH customers in each speed class are at or below the 10th percentile as the speed is not variable. It is was just "below" as 26(c) implies, not "at or below" as defined in 32(a)(ii) then there would be some hope - ISPs can define "similar customers" to be "customers getting exactly the same speed as you" and so have zero customers that are below the 10th percentile, making a mockery of the code of practice.

What this means is that at least 10% of customers on any ISPs signed up to the OFCOM code of practice are operating at or below the minimum guaranteed access line speed and this has to be considered to be a fault.

To be honest, I think this makes us more likely to be considered one of the "best ISPs" than those that do sign up to the code, as we don't have anything like 10% of our customers that we define to be faulty! Why do these ISPs agree to such a crazy statement?

10 comments:

  1. You answered your own question "Why do these ISPs agree to such a crazy statement? "

    To get visibility on broadbandchoices website. simples!

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  2. Just to repeat my point from yesterday - this doesn't actually MATTER, and in fact gives you more ammunition. Their adverts say "all"; if they have criteria, then clearly it's not "all"! Bam! QED! etc etc - false advertising

    Unless I am missing something?

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  3. Perhaps they use the "upto" get out on broadbandchoices... they show "upto the full market"...

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  4. An ISP I am using signs up to this Code of Practice and then completely fails to implement it for both ADSL and FTTC. They don't even understand what the term Minimum Guaranteed Access Speed means (it's defined in the CoP).

    Any suggestions as to what I can do?

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  5. An ISP I use has signed up to this CoP. Unfortunately they completely and utterly fail to implement any of the terms.

    They don't even understand what Minimum Guaranteed Access Speed means.

    Any suggestions as to what I should do?

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    Replies
    1. OFCOM's statement on their website says it all.

      We do not investigate individual consumer complaints. However, we record and monitor complaint levels. If we identify an area of concern we may raise the matter with the management of the company directly.

      So, you can send them a letter and if enough people complain they *might* do something. Wow, that's really helpful.

      Looks like the ADR route then...

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  6. Why do so many people (including Ofcom) have this obsession with the sync (aka line access) speed? Would it not be more appropriate for a CoP to cover cases like the one recently reported in uk.telecom.broadband where the ADSL line has a 'solid' connection at the maximum (8M in the case reported) sync rate, but the achieved throughput is considerably lower (and variable) for much of the time. In the case reported, it was not a problem with the customer equipment as the expected throughput was achieved early Sunday morning.

    It is in situations like this that I think that the customer should be allowed to terminate the contract without penalty, as the problem is much more likely to be within the ISP's control.

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    Replies
    1. I quite agree - but one of the issues is what you can measure and who is responsible. The ISP could be responsible for "slow downs" at certain times if their lines are congested, but so could the carrier (e.g. BT) or the transit provider (unlikely) of the link to the far end web site, or some peering link in between, or the final destination itself. All look exactly the same to the user, and pinning down which is an issue is not as easy as it looks. Only one part will be ISP responsibility, some others will be a party the ISP contracts with but that contract may not allow any remedy for this, and most of the possible causes are totally outside the ISPs control. So making that sort of guarantee is almost impossible and just a matter of "what the internet is". At AAISP we aim not to be the bottleneck ourselves, and we aim to take up issues with carriers where we can (and we are pretty good at that regardless of the contracts we have with them), but we cannot guarantee that, sadly.

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  7. One could argue that OFCOM is defective: being in the bottom 10% of UK telecoms regulators :o)

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