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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 December 2006, 13:05 GMT
New rules for broadband switchers
Ethernet cable, BBC
Ofcom said it had complaints from a "significant minority"
Switching broadband suppliers looks set to get easier for UK net users.

Regulator Ofcom has drawn up new rules to address complaints from the "significant minority" who struggle to move to a new high-speed service.

It said the rules would streamline procedures and would replace the voluntary code that broadband firms have abided by before now.

Ofcom said it was getting "increasing" complaints about the difficulties of shifting from one net firm to another.

Rule change

Broadband has proved hugely popular in the UK and now more than 75% of all net connections in British homes are through fast net links.

Many net users have been prompted to try to pay less for their high-speed link by switching as new firms enter the broadband market. Cost comparison website USwitch estimates that up to 234,000 people move broadband supplier every month.

Ofcom said 83% of those who had moved supplier had little trouble, but it still saw complaints from many who had encountered problems.

Many of the problems revolve around the Migration Authorisation Codes (Mac) issued to those who want to switch.

Ofcom said it was getting "increasing" complaints from consumers who are unable to get a Mac from the supplier they wish to leave.

As a result Ofcom is making the issuing of a Mac part of the regulations governing net service firms. From 14 February 2007 broadband firms will be obliged to issue a Mac on request and will not be allowed to charge for it.

The regulator said it was also working with broadband firms to investigate the circumstances under which firms refuse to issue a Mac and look for ways around these bottlenecks.

Another big bottleneck, and which gave rise to more than 50% of the complaints made about switching broadband, was the existence of a "tag" or "marker" on the telephone line to be used for broadband.

This stops a telephone line being used for a new broadband service because the tag suggests it is already being used for a high-speed net link.

Ofcom said improving the process of issuing a Mac would stop some of the instances where a tag or marker stalled a move from one broadband supplier to another.

It added that the new rules governing switching made might mean other reasons for a tag being put on a line might disappear as they try to ensure "technical or operational problems" do not stop consumers moving supplier.




SEE ALSO
Ofcom plans radio spectrum sale
11 Dec 06 |  Business
Vodafone joins broadband brigade
10 Nov 06 |  Business
BT broadband hits key milestone
08 Nov 06 |  Technology
Broadband costs see Carphone loss
02 Nov 06 |  Business
Net supply switch 'to be easier'
17 Aug 06 |  Technology

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