Broadband customers looking to switch providers to unlock cheaper monthly bills or faster speeds will continue to struggle for the next two years. Regulator Ofcom has delayed plans to force companies to handle the nitty-gritty of switching between broadband firms until December 2022, instead of the original December 2020 deadline.
As it stands, switching between providers that rely on the same infrastructure from Openreach, like BT, EE, Sky and TalkTalk, is pretty simple. You only need to contact the new Internet Service Provider (ISP) you’ve chosen and pick a contract, then everything else is handled behind-the-scenes. After that, your new provider will probably send out a new router in the post – as well as some new home phones, maybe. And then you’re good to go. You’ll be told when the switch is likely to take place and you can unplug the old kit, and plug in the new one.
However, if you’re hoping to move away from a company supplied by Openreach to another provider, like Virgin Media or HyperOptic, you’ll need to handle the process yourself. There’s no automatic switching, in fact, you’ll need to manage the move yourself. Getting the timings right to ensure that you’re not offline for an inconvenient amount of time – with increased working from home – is your responsibility.
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Ofcom had asked the industry to create a process to end this discrepancy – so that switching from BT to Virgin Media, or HyperOptic to Sky, or TalkTalk to EE, are all identical.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. After failing to do so, Ofcom officials are now working to create their own solution. The regulator says it will consult the public and the companies involved before it rolls out ahead of the December 2022 deadline.
Following the recent £5billion pledge from the UK Government to bring “gigabit-capable” fibre broadband networks across the UK by the end of 2025, a vast number of smaller firms have sprung-up to challenge familiar faces like BT, Sky and Virgin Media. As these colossuses pivot to bring full-fibre to more customers, the new kids on the block are working fast to be first out of the gate in a number of locations, or – failing that – offer perks not available from more established brands.
If you’re looking to upgrade the internet speeds in your home, then it might be worth checking if some of these less known competitors are available in your area as there are some unbeatable deals to be had. Often, these new rivals will already have the next-generation full-fibre cables in your street – sometimes ahead of more established brands, which need to upgrade their ageing copper cables.
CEO of one of these newer options, Paul Stobart, commented on the latest delay from Ofcom. Stobart told Express.co.uk: “This latest example of Ofcom intervening to protect consumer interests is one we absolutely support. To be honest it’s disappointing that the regulator has to intervene at all; it should be up to all of us in the industry to make switching frictionlessly easy. If we were all brilliant at looking after customers to the best of our respective abilities, switching would decrease dramatically! As an industry, what we should all be doing is working on ways to enhance the customer experience we provide, not offering short term deals to generate quick wins but then penalise customers with higher prices post the initial contract term.”