2024-06-07

One Touch Switching

OFCOM have come up with a few things that are perhaps a tad questionable in terms of their benefit or practical application (in my personal opinion, of course). Sanity checking CLIs is one which created back scatter and broke useful services, but putting that aside, the latest is "One Touch Switching".

So what is it?

The concept seems relatively simple - a residential/consumer with a fixed location broadband (i.e. internet access) or telephone ("Number Based Interpersonal Communications Service") should be able to easily switch to a new provider. They should be able to do it as "one touch", i.e. their one order with the new provider.

Does this make sense?

Well, maybe. From a consumer point of view, for many people, the fact that moving from one "Openreach back end" broadband provider to another is different to moving from one technology to another, and may be confusing. Fair enough.

It is different for a reason - if you have a broadband service provided over Openreach based copper (or worse, aluminium) wires, you can change provider by the new provider working with Openreach to change what is attached to those wires and the ISP to which it is routed, and pretty much seamlessly move from one ISP to another. Of course ISPs vary, some don't even have IPv6, and some use CGNAT, and some filter or log stuff, so not really "switching", but OK.

But if it is a different technology, e.g. moving from VDSL on wires, to some radio (WiFi) service, or Starlink, or Virgin, or mobile, or, well, anything that is a different technology, the process is different.

But it is not complicated! It is order new service and cease old service. If you have any sense you arrange an overlap to ensure new service works well for you before old service stops, as it its not the same "wires". (and no, you cannot easily arrange that overlap now!)

OFCOM could have mandated that "ceasing" a service has to be simple and easy. That would have made any change of technology simple. They chose a different path.

How does it work?

Well, that's another problem, as OFCOM said to "industry, you have to do this", and expected something magically to happen. It did not, and has been delayed. Eventually some new company called TOTSCO has been created that is co-ordinating it.

This new system is simply a way for one telco to talk to another, with some quick, well defined (ish), messages to handle the process. Spoiler, it is JSON!

Basically the new provider ("gaining" provider) messages the old provider ("losing" provider) to match a customer and address, and if that all works they can start, and then later finish, a "switch". Old provider is expected to email customer with any early termination charges and stuff, good.

What it does not do?

It does not actually change the switching, migrating, or porting systems in place now. It simply adds a new layer.

If the process involves some migration or porting that happens the same as if ever did. If it does not, e.g. changing broadband from Virgin to Starlink, all its does is coordinate the cease of the old service when the new one starts.

More work for customer!

Our broadband provide and migrate order forms are complex enough, we have to know exact address and what service we can offer, and if migrating from another Openreach service. But now we have an extra layer on top to match the service from the old provider. It saves the customer ceasing the old service if it is a change of technology, but if a migrate then it makes no difference, just adds more that we have to ask and more that can go wrong.

But for some people it may help, especially if ceasing an old service would be hard work. Some ISPs seem to make it hard work. So some good, maybe.

It seems to also stop most "anti-slamming" measures - not allowing losing ISP to cancel a migration now!

The old systems still needed!

However, the new system is only fixed location internet access or telephony, and only consumers. Anything else still has to work as before, business services, and services that are not fixed location. And even for the cases the new system applies, the old systems to migrate and port are still needed to make it happen.

Some hope?

Maybe, just maybe, number porting, which seems to involve a lot of manual work now, could be improved using some new messaging system used for One Touch Switching. If so, that will be good.

The issue here is many VoIP services are not "fixed location", so outside the scheme. We have had lots of issues with people porting numbers to us where the "address" did not match, when in fact the losing providers idea of "address" is years old before it was moved to VoIP. The new system simply does not apply to non "fixed location" services, so that will be no help at all. A system like mobile ports, using a "PAC", may be way better, and not location dependent.

For us, porting a telephone service, from a fixed location, it may help, as it may confirm address match and confirm losing access provider, so ensure porting (which still has to use the same old system) may be more reliable. We hope so.

What's in a surname?

I mentioned a lack of any means to avoid "slamming", forced change of ISP/telco. This could be someone hijacking customers, or some end user being malicious and migrating someone's service for fun our malice or fraud.

The one thing the new system expects is a match of surname. They have a cryptic requirement to remove accents, but that is messy, depending on language and alphabet, simply "removing" an accent is far from "equivalent" to non accented. But we have done that in a crude way. But we do have to match surname.

So we have allowed customers to set the surname on their broadband services. This is not for VoIP as our VoIP is not fixed location, so will never match for One Touch Switching anyway, and needs old school porting out.

What I have now put on the web site re slamming is:-

For a long time we have operated an anti-slamming option where you tell us in advance that you do not wish your broadband to be migrated to a new provider. You could then change that at any time.

However, the new One Touch Switching system works differently. We will no longer be able to reject switching. However, to start switching the new provider needs an address and surname to match. They can start a switch process in BT without, but this is less likely as the normal process for consumers, and probably most businesses, will be One Touch Switching.

Because the surname has to match, we now allow you to edit the contact name on each line you have with us. Your name is what you want it to be, so picking any name for any circumstance is your right, and we have to respect that and allow you to change your name under GDPR, even if only on that very specific part of our system - the contact name for a broadband service.

If you change your surname, even if it is to PSJKHGJGEXC, then that is your choice. And any One Touch Switching match request would fail unless using the surname PSJKHGJGEXC.

Obviously this is meant to be for your surname not really as a pseudo password, but, well, it is up to you.

9 comments:

  1. Could you still offer an anti-slamming service? When a request comes in, before you do any checks, change the surname on the account. Do your checks, find it doesn't match and then change the surname back. Obviously, ticking "turn anti-slam on" would have to give permission for A&A to know their customer by any name they choose, albeit for only a few seconds...

    ReplyDelete
  2. The problem with that is if you allow AAISP to do that, you'll end up with other ISPs doing that by default in the name of security. Instead of currently battling with retentions to cease your service, you'd need to go through the same to enable switching.

    I agree there should be some simple way to cease, with no fuss. A button on the billing console should suffice. If it's secure enough for payment details should be secure enough for leaving

    ReplyDelete
  3. If someone tells us a new surname we have to accept it under GDPR, surely?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Can someone explain slamming to me, and therefore why anti slamming is useful? Why would I be suddenly switched to another broadband provider without my consent, what use is that to anyone, and why is it called "slamming"? What has been "slammed"? Is it do with closing doors, or DSLAMs, or what?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We do see it happen, and existing customers cancelling a migration as a result. New provider sends the bills and people pay. Can be the most tenuous of excuses like someone calling saying “are you paying too much for your broadband” and they argue you agreed to change provider. But also can be malicious, cause someone hassle.

      Delete
    2. So why is it called "slamming"? I see no logical reason for that name.

      Delete
    3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telephone_slamming

      "The term slamming was coined by Mick Ahearn, who was a consumer marketing manager at AT&T in September 1987. The inspiration for the term came from the ease at which a competitor could switch a customer's service away from AT&T by falsely notifying a telephone company that an AT&T customer had elected to switch to their service. This process gave AT&T's competitors a "slam dunk" method for the unauthorized switching of a customer's long-distance service. The term slamming became an industry standard term for this practice."

      It wasn't all that hard to Google.

      Delete
    4. Thanks for the explanation. I was looking for internet service slamming, I hadn't associated it with telephone lines and my searches weren't finding anything. And "slam dunk" means almost nothing to me as a non sporty UK person, but for that I was able to find it with a search engine.

      Delete

Comments are moderated purely to filter out obvious spam, but it means they may not show immediately.

NOTSCO (Not TOTSCO)

I posted about how inept TOTSCO seem to be, and the call today with them was no improvement. It seems they have two test stages... A "s...