Ofcom plans tougher minimum standards for BT network maintenance

LONDON Thu Dec 19, 2013 10:36am EST

LONDON Dec 19 (Reuters) - Britain's telecoms regulator is proposing to set tougher standards for BT Group's maintenance of telephone and broadband connections, which should mean faster installation and repair times for customers.

BT's Openreach, which installs and maintains connections to the network on behalf of competing telecoms providers, would face fines if it did not meet the standards, Ofcom said. The proposal is part of an Ofcom consultation on the charges for accessing landlines in Britain.

It would require Openreach to respond to about 80 percent of telephone or broadband faults within two working days. The same proportion of consumers and businesses requiring a new line would have to receive an appointment within 12 days.

Failure to meet these new targets over a 12-month period could trigger sanctions including fines.

Ofcom said it was concerned about the time it sometimes took Openreach to complete repairs and installations, particularly in 2012, when the work was to some extent hampered by wet weather.

It said in July it wanted BT, the former national telecoms monopoly, to cut the prices it charges rival operators such as BSkyB and TalkTalk to access its network.

BT said at the time that the proposed cuts would make it difficult to meet tougher standards for Openreach.

On Thursday, a BT spokeswoman: "BT is disappointed that Ofcom wants to extend the unfair regime whereby third parties benefit from cheaper wholesale prices ...

"Our concern is that the prices being proposed are insufficient to fund the higher level of service that Openreach wishes to deliver, and its customers expect."

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