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BT must fix faults in two days and slash superfast fees

Watchdogs have ordered BT Openreach, which runs the UK's phone and Internet infrastructure, to install new lines and fix problems faster.

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BT must repair faults within two working days and install new lines within 12 working days under new rules. Watchdogs have also sought to cut the fees for Britain's broadband network, encouraging Internet service providers to offer better deals for broadband and superfast connections.

UK telecoms watchdog Ofcom proposed the new rules last year to improve standards at Openreach, the part of BT that deals with phone and broadband infrastructure. Openreach's network is used by other Internet service providers (ISPs) to pipe your broadband into your home, so problems with the network don't just affect BT customers. And because Openreach is a behind-the-scenes, business-to-business operation, it can be difficult for Internet users like you and me to get some problems addressed.

Ofcom's new targets require 80 percent of faults and new lines to be sorted out within the new deadlines. The targets will be introduced over the next three years, with possible fines if BT's performance isn't up to scratch. Ofcom is also reviewing the compensation provided by ISPs when things do go wrong.

Not only will the targets improve customer service, but they could have a knock-on effect on our willingness to look for better deals. "Setting specific targets for installations should lead to more households feeling confident enough to switch their package and get a better deal," says Dominic Baliszewski, telecoms expert at broadbandchoices.co.uk. "We regularly hear from people who want to switch but are afraid to do so as they'd risk being left without a connection for any length of time."

Superfast connection cost

Ofcom also wants to cut the fees charged by Openreach for telecoms companies to use its phone lines. And to encourage you to switch to superfast broadband, the fees for an ISP to transfer you to a new, faster connection could be slashed too. Currently, an ISP has to pay Openreach £50 to take you on as a superfast customer, but that would be cut to just £11.

"This charge was sometimes passed on to the customer," notes Baliszewski, "so reducing this should help bring down fibre package costs even more, either through lower monthly costs or the removal of up-front delivery and installation costs."

And the minimum contract will be cut from a year to one month to give ISPs more flexibility in the length, type and cost of superfast contracts offered.

"The traditional barrier to getting superfast broadband was high prices," says Baliszewski, "but in recent years these have come down considerably -- superfast doesn't necessarily mean super-expensive anymore."