BT Openreach Told to Reduce its Wholesale Broadband Prices

While Openreach – the company that holds a monopoly over the main broadband and telephone infrastructure in the UK – has managed to dodge calls for it to break its affiliation with BT over fears that it is at odds with the spirit of competition law, the UK telcom regulatory body OFCOM has demanded that the self-appointed ‘guardians of the last mile’ reduce the wholesale prices it charges businesses and ISPs to use its network, and improve the speed at which it installs leased lines after failing to meet its own targets more often than not.

In a statement released today (22nd March), as part of its investigation into the efficacy of Openreach, OFCOM accuses BT of taking “too long” to deliver services to business customers, and of charging too much for its sub-standard service.

“This means BT would have to give competitors physical access to its fibre-optic cables, allowing them to take direct control of the connection,” OFCOM’s Business Connectivity Market Review reads. “This service is often referred to as ‘dark fibre’, because the cables would not be ‘lit’ using BT’s electronic equipment. Instead, they would be ‘lit’ by the competitor installing its own equipment at either end of the optical fibre.”

“BT is already required to offer wholesale leased line products, which bundle the optical fibre and BT’s own network equipment, at regulated prices to competitors. BT would still be required to provide these services, but the new proposal would go further, allowing operators to use BT’s fibre-optic cables with their own equipment, rather than rely on BT’s equipment.”

“This should increase the opportunity for competitors to develop new high-capacity services for their customers,” the report adds.

The report calls for Openreach to complete 80% of leased line installations by its promised deadline by March 2017, raising to 90% in April 2018, and reduce its prices over the next three years.

Proposed “Online Safety Bill” Being Debated In the House Of Lords

Guess whose back? Indeed after a short hiatus I am back and raring to be creative concerning my written articles for eTeknix, although, in reality it has only been around 6 weeks since my last piece. So, what to write? I know, let’s delve into the proposed “Online Safety Bill” which is currently being debated in the UK courtesy of the House of Lords.

According to reports on the government’s own Parliament website, the bill is being debated at the “1st sitting committee stage” and proposes a law to compel “internet service providers and mobile phone operators to provide an internet service that excludes adult content” This includes provisions to offer strict and compulsory age verification checks to NSFW sites and also a role for Ofcom. There are also proposals to educate parents through digital on demand programme services and a licensing scheme for such websites.

It will be interesting to see how the debate develops and also the challenges of implementing such a law, after all, ISPs will first have to define what constitutes an “adult” website before blocking it to individuals who are under the age of 18. A further interesting angle is the proposal to “require electronic device manufacturers to provide a means of filtering internet content”.

Logically these proposals are unworkable and may in all probability be circumvented by various tech means; there is also the question of legitimate and educational sites that might fall under the banner of such a law. Another aspect which could cause concern is the proposed age verification checks, the only way this could be implemented is for a mechanism to be introduced to verify consumers through official identification without it being intercepted by hackers and a myriad of external cyber threats.

Image courtesy of echo

Ofcom is Standing up for Slow Broadband Users

The UK is a relatively small place when compared to the likes of Russia, USA and China. This is evident when you consider that 77% of UK adults have broadband installed in their homes in the UK compared to a comparatively small 70% in the USA.

So with such a small ground coverage, the UK Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are all covering the same areas, offering some places super-fast broadband, while others in more rural areas are getting stuck with slower internet speeds.

Up until now, if you signed up for 19 – 30Mb, but only received 17Mb; you could complain to your ISP and hope they will either increase your speed, reduce your bill or terminate your contract. Today is a turning point where Ofcom, UK communications regulator, has announced that if you are not receiving the paid speeds; you can cancel your contract, even mid-term. This will govern all of the major providers such as BT, Sky, EE, TalkTalk, etc…however, Virgin Media is excluded as this new plan only covers copper and Fibre based broadband up to 80Mbps.

Along with this, Ofcom also plans to make it easier for customers to switch provider. Starting from June 20th, it will put more power in the hands of the ISP you plan to change to, rather than from. If you are using a traditional BT phone line, you can simply jump between the major providers using Ofcom’s new “one touch” process. It plans on offering the same for mobile contracts, but that will come to light next month.

Thank you engadget for providing us with this information.

UK Approves White Space Broadband

UK telecoms regulator OFCOM has approved white space broadband following successful trials.

White space is the name given to the empty buffer zones between television channel broadcast signals to stop the content from bleeding together. White space broadband uses this dead space to transmit wireless internet signals by “gluing” them together to form a single transmission band, without interfering with TV signal.

OFCOM hopes that the technology will be deployed by the end of 2015. Steve Unger, acting CEO of OFCOM, said in a statement, “This decision helps ensure the U.K. takes a leading role in the development of innovative new wireless technology. It is also an important step in helping the U.K.’s wireless infrastructure evolve effectively and efficiently.”

Source: Gigaom

700MHz TV Spectrum to Be Used for Mobile Data in UK

Ofcom has announced that the 700MHz part of the digital TV spectrum is to be cleared for mobile data use. By 2022.

The new initiative means some digital TV signals will be moved to a new band, while mobile data will take over 700MHz, giving much more bandwidth to networks who are finding more and more people are using more and more mobile data.

The advent of 4G means mobile data is now a much more viable way to get your internet connection, whether that be via a mobile device or even for a PC. However, mobile data is incredibly constrained, with only limited amounts of bandwidth and not yet complete enough coverage.

This all means higher prices, and mobile data is easily the most expensive way to get an internet connection, with all its usage caps included.

This new plan, which should be ready by 2022, “will bring considerable benefits to citizens and consumers” according to Ofcom, hopefully making it easier and cheaper to get access to mobile data and its increased speeds.

Source: Gizmodo

New Laws For UK Mobile Contracts Allow You To Cancel If Prices Are Increased

For years, people around the UK have suffered whenever phone companies felt the urge to increase the prices of their mobile contracts. Quite often a small clause within the depths of the contract ties you into these increases, meaning that you’re unable to escape them and have no say in the matter (hint: always read before you sign!).

The UK’s mobile phone regulator Ofcom is putting into place a new regulation that prevents phone companies from locking in their new customers (if you’re already got an existing contract, sorry!) with increased prices in the middle of their contracts with no way out. Ofcom have stated that users tied into contracts will have a legal, no consequences route out of a mobile phone contract if the provider chooses to increase their rates.

The issue that’s being faced currently is the fact that the majority of contracts signed are between 12 months to 2 years, meaning that a large amount of the mobile phone using population are already tied down to a single contract, making this new regulation irrelevant for the time being.

This regulation change made by Ofcom may come as a slow reaction to some as many countries in the EU (such as France for example) have had this regulation in place for years, which brings the question of “why has it taken so long to get rectified?”

As a customer, are you looking forward to these changes? Have you been hit by price increases during your current phone contract? Let us know in the comment section!

Image courtesy of Heraldsun

Biggest File-Sharing “Pirates” Spend More On Content Than “Normal” People

Copyright hysteria has taken over most of the big corporate entertainment industry. They are constantly searching for new ways to prevent piracy, enforce stricter content control and DRM management on their products. This includes methods like ISP blocks of “pirate” websites, always-on DRM for the gaming industry and legal cases against prolific illegal downloaders (mainly in the USA).

A recent study looks set to put all these ideas to shame. According to a new study, so called “pirates”, or people who regularly download illegal content, actually spend 300% (3X) more of there own money on purchasing content then “normal” people do, that is people who aren’t involved in illegal downloading.

The study was conducted in the UK by the UK telecommunications regulator Ofcom and they found out other interesting things too. For instance the top 20% of illegal downloaders the UK’s population conduct 88% of all piracy, while the top 10% conduct 80%. However, the top 20% of illegal downloaders also purchase 11% of all legal content downloads – which is more than the average UK downloader does.

Ofcom split the illegal downloaders into four categories: justifying infringers, digital transgressors, free infringers and ambiguous infringers.

Justifying infringers operate a “try before you buy” style behaviour, and feel like they have already spent enough on legal content – they account for 9% of illegal downloaders and 24% of infringements. Digital transgressors account for 9% of illegal downloaders and 22% of infringements, they consume mainly films and TV shows, show little remorse for their actions, purchase little legal content and are scared of being caught. Free infringers, the largest group making up 42% of illegal downloaders and 35% of infringements, freely download and upload illegal data without much care for their actions. Finally ambiguous infringers make up 39% of illegal downloaders and 20% of infringements, they have the highest proportion of paid and legal content and the lowest levels of (illegal) digital consumption.

So these are certainly some interesting results. While they do suggest that a lot of pirates do just download illegally in excessive amounts “because they can” they also show that an equal number so called pirates actually spend a lot of their money on buying legal content. “Try before you buy” may be illegal, but the latest study shows it boosts sales for the entertainment industry.

What are your thoughts on these revelations by Ofcom?

Source, Via