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Breakthrough for broadband switching

Ofcom tackles ISPs' reluctance to help customers

Broadband users in the UK will no longer be charged for switching broadband suppliers following new rules that came into force today.

In principle, a MAC (Migration Authorisation Code), or alphanumeric identifier, will now be given to customers by the ISP they’re leaving without any hold ups, and that code can then be passed on to their new service provider. Broadband suppliers that charge their clients for switching will face penalties from Ofcom.

In December last year Ofcom revealed that 83 percent of UK internet users found it easy to switch service providers. However, the regulator still felt too many people were experiencing disruption to their service and so pushed ahead with the new plans to force ISPs to help customers switch.

Steve Weller, head of communication services at comparison and switching service, uSwitch.com, said: “The 234,000 consumers switching broadband every month have a right to do so simply and free of charge.”

uSwitch said while it’s pleased Ofcom is attempting to resolve the MAC code issues, it feels some problems have yet to be addressed.

Customers switching between ISPs that use some local-loop-unbundled (LLU) networks – where third-party operators put their equipment in BT’s exchanges - for example, may still face problems. uSwitch says the problem of how MAC codes are transferred from one LLU provider to another has not been tackled, warning that this could become more of an issue, as the number of LLU connections is predicted to double.

Price comparison service, firsthelpline.com, also feels that Ofcom’s new MAC code has some flaws.

Aamir Baloch, director at firsthelpline.com said: “Although Ofcom’s ruling on MAC codes is a step in the right direction, it still lacks protection for the 1 million subscribers to LLU broadband providers who may be looking to switch in the future.”

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