The latest OFCOM code of practice on line speeds sounds sensible. ISPs agreeing to it will give a clear minimum speed when ordering, will try and address speed issues, and will allow a customer out of the contract if they cannot.
It sounds good. I agree wholeheartedly in principle with such a plan.
But there is a problem!
Most ISPs are not the underlying line provider or carrier themselves - they buy either a broadband service from a carrier like BT or TalkTalk, or they buy copper pairs from BT and have their own kit in the exchange. Yes, there are exceptions like Virgin, but by far the majority of ISPs are buying a wholesale back-haul and DSL tail service of some sort.
This creates a problem - as an ISP, we could sign up to the code of practice, but issues impacting the actual line speed are outside of our direct control - we simply have to rely on the efforts of the wholesale carrier to rectify such issues. Indeed, even a minimum speed forecast depends on the carrier providing us with the data.
So, obviously, you would expect that OFCOM have either imposed the same conditions on the carriers like BT or TalkTalk or at least got agreement from them to support this new code of practice at a wholesale level.
After all, if they have not, then it is meaningless for ISPs like us, and hundreds of others, to sign up the code. We could not state a guaranteed minimum if the carrier does not tell us one. We cannot make effort to fix a speed issue unless the carrier will consider such an issue a fault and accept a fault report from us and themselves make such effort. Obviously the last point of allowing someone out of contract we could do, but only at our cost if the carrier holds us to term or charges us cease fees. Without the first two points we are left simply signing up to a means by which we lose money and do not actually help customers. That is dumb.
What is especially strange is that BT plc used to offer FTTC on the basis that if the line does not meet the minimum speed estimate then they will (a) make effort to fix it, and (b) we can reject the install and get a full refund, not be held to term, and even have a line put back to ADSL if that is what is was.
I.e. BT used to provide exactly what we would need for this code of practice for FTTC. But BT have changed their terms, detrimentally, so that they no longer do this. They actually have some hidden lower percentile minimum against which we can reject an install but we are not told that speed, and they will no longer make any effort to fix a line that is below the minimum they state on their checker. They have moved away from this sensible customer service based system. They don't have this for ADSL.
So what the hell are OFCOM playing at? Why did they launch a code of practice where ISPs would have to take on liability with no hope of any means to mitigate that liability or actually help customers improve their lines? In whose interest are they acting exactly?
What is worse is that a customer can impact speed themselves in various ways - impeding the line speed. With no means to get the carrier to take such issues seriously we would have to accept the low speed and let customers out of term, paying the carrier ourselves, i.e. opening ourselves to a get-out-of-contract-free scheme.
I'd like to thank TalkTalk for at least replying on this issue, and checking with OFCOM, who confirmed they are not imposing or agreeing any requirements on wholesale operations.
Sadly this means, once again, we cannot sign up to their code of practice. Last time it was stupid wording, this time it is sensible wording but no backing for such a scheme.
Thankfully we have our own code of practice on speed and quality, and take issues where a fault is causing low speed very seriously, using our advance diagnostics and monitoring tools.
But seriously OFCOM - don't you ever think when you make this stuff?
P.S. To be clear, we would be happy to sign up to this code of practice if and when the carriers we use do so as well, and hence provide us with the means to actually provide the assurances and guarantees offered.