UK wholesale provider of converged voice and data connectivity services, Entanet, has welcomed Ofcom’s decision to force ISPs to hand over MACs (Migration Authorisation Codes) without delay when users want to switch broadband providers. However, it says that the regulator must come down hard on any ISPs that fail to hand over MAC codes if the new rules are to be effective in encouraging competition.
The new rules will take effect from Valentines’ Day – the 14th February – next year.
The key points are as follows:
• Communications Providers (CPs) must comply with the MAC process
• CPs will not be able to withhold MACs where the customer owes them money (debt blocking), nor will they be able to charge for MACs
• There will be obligations upon resellers to give MAC to end users
• Ofcom will have the power to formally investigate potential breaches and where appropriate take enforcement action against broadband providers who have failed to fulfil their obligations
Entanet has welcomed the planned introduction of the new rules but says that it will be vitally important for Ofcom to flex its muscle as soon as any service provider fails to conform.
Carol Davies, Entanet’s Business Development Manager – Data, says: “The changes Ofcom has made are very positive but they will not be effective unless the rules are strictly enforced and Ofcom comes down really hard on companies that don’t follow them in a timely manner. If Ofcom does not use its powers to investigate and act against service providers who flaunt the rules, it’ll be British businesses and consumers who will suffer, as they will not be given the freedom of choice that Ofcom is supposed to protect.”
Entanet has always given MACs to customers when requested but is aware of many customers who have wanted to migrate to its service but have been unable to because their current provider refuses to issue a MAC. Davies states: “Some potential customers have told us of various excuses, or reasons, given to them as to why their incumbent ISP is unable to provide a MAC. Ofcom’s new regulation will ensure that all Providers have to have processes in place to allow a user to obtain a MAC. BT Wholesale makes it very easy for ISPs to request a MAC using XML and in most cases a MAC can be available within hours – there are no valid excuses”.
Under the Communications Act 2003, the two principal duties of Ofcom are set out as being “to further the interests of citizens in relation to communications matters”; and ”to further the interests of consumers in relevant markets, where appropriate by promoting competition.”
Entanet also draws attention to issues now arising with LLU (Local Loop Unbundling) that also need Ofcom’s urgent and decisive attention. Under BT’s current charging structure, users who migrate from an LLU supplier are currently being compelled to pay a new activation fee of £40, rather than the usual £11 for migrations between non-LLU providers. Entanet believes this is unfair and could dissuade some users from making a switch away from LLU. As part of its migrations policy, Entanet absorbs the £11 charge but is unable to waiver the higher £40 fee.
Davies says: “A key part of Ofcom’s remit is to enable consumer choice. The very fact that migrating from an LLU provider will incur a new activation fee doesn’t do much to support that aim. This may well have been something that was unforeseen when the rules around local loop unbundling were drawn up, but whatever the reasons for the current situation, it needs to be put right. We can take some encouragement from the changes Ofcom has made with regard to broadband migrations this week and we hope the regulator acts soon to urgently review the situation with regard to LLU as well.”
Entanet is also hearing complaints from potential customers who have been moved to LLU without either their knowledge or approval. Davies says: “Several of the LLU providers are moving customers over from their IPStream platform to LLU without the customers’ knowledge. Customers are coming to us with the intention of migrating, only to find that they’re currently on LLU. This means that it will cost them to move, hence taking away their freedom of choice.”
The full statement from Ofcom can be found at www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/migration/statement/