Ofcom brings broadband switching up to speed
Valentine’s Day will see a new rule come into force that should make it much easier for people to switch broadband service providers.
Historically, those wishing to change vendors were at the mercy of a voluntary code of practice, whereby they requested a migration authorisation code (MAC), a unique number that minimises the disruption that can occur during the changeover.
Without this code, transferring proved less than easy and, as the production of a MAC wasn’t a mandatory requirement, Ofcom was powerless to step in and protect users.
However, the communications watchdog recognised that this could not continue and it launched a consultation process last summer to remedy the situation, announcing in December the final plans and the date of 14 February as the day the new regulation becomes applicable.
‘New regulatory and industry initiatives – for example, the unbundling of the local loop – have created a competitive market in broadband, resulting in the availability of cheaper, better and faster services,’ said Ofcom in a statement when the consultation process was launched.
‘However, if consumers are to continue to see the benefits of competition, they must be able to shop around – and, once they have found a good deal, to switch broadband providers without undue effort, disruption or anxiety.’
The regulator continued: ‘Competition is only effective where customers can punish “bad” providers by taking their custom elsewhere, and reward “good” providers by staying where they are. If switching is difficult, competition may, over time, fail to ensure that consumers receive the benefits they should be able to expect.’
Since the new regulation was first mooted, ISPs have generally responded positively.
BT, for example, welcomed the decision, but suggested that the requirement should only apply at the retail, rather than the wholesale, level.