Forthcoming Ofcom changes in 2017 & 2018

Ofcom recently announced some big changes in the UK telecoms world, which will begin in 2017. This includes the long awaited announcement about the future of BT and Openreach, and changes to BBC governance. If you want to stay ahead of Ofcom changes and how they may affect the telecom needs of your business, purchase an 0808 number, get an 03 number, or buy another other number range from us and we’ll do our best to keep you abreast of the latest dealings.

Nuisance Calls

The increased problem of nuisance calls in recent years has been a real thorn in Ofcom’s side. On the one hand companies want to increase their customer base through contacting potential customers and talking about what they need. On the other hand people don’t necessarily want to be phoned at home when they could easily research what they want on the internet. There is also a big upswing in the number of scam calls coming in from abroad, encouraging vulnerable people to sign up for fake deals or hand over credit card details to pay for services they’ll never receive.

Ofcom is continuing to work with bodies such as the Information Commissioners Office to prevent nuisance calls, and prosecute those who break the law. At the moment this may seem to be more of an uphill struggle, but it does mean that companies should be careful about where they purchase contact list bundles from. Companies should also be aware of their legal responsibilities with regards to data protection, and how to handle requests to be put on “do not contact” lists.

Overall the changes from Ofcom will hopefully lead to better deals for consumers and more reliable connections for both businesses and individuals. The separation of Openreach from BT is the biggest change instituted by Ofcom in quite some time, and it will be interesting to see what changes are brought about as part of this.

Changes to Openreach

Openreach is the “arm” of BT that owns the broadband network and is responsible for repairs and upgrades. BT’s ownership is a carryover from the days before privatisation, BT still carries out the majority of infrastructure work for the government, and that includes using Openreach to provide internet services.

However other telecoms companies in the UK have long considered this to be a conflict of interest. Their services have to be provided via Openreach, since they own the network. Therefore if the company you purchase internet through finds that the network has a fault, it has to be corrected via Openreach. If Openreach is owned by BT, can other companies guarantee that problems with their line will be dealt with in a timely manner? BT may not give their full attention to problems for other companies in the hope that more people will get fed up, and potentially become direct BT customers instead.

Of course there is no proof that this has actually happened, but it has been a cause for concern for some time. Ofcom has now bowed to the recent increase in pressure and has agreed that Openreach will be separate from BT, and will review changes and upgrades in way that benefit telecoms as a whole, not just BT. Ofcom also plans to encourage a newly independent Openreach to offer more control over infrastructure to BTs competitors, meaning that companies will now have a reason to invest in their own infrastructure projects via Openreach. This may help rural areas that BT considers to be unprofitable. If they can get enough people to sign up with an alternative communications provider, that company may then invest in the infrastructure required for faster, more reliable network connections. This is all part of Ofcom’s on-going work to increase competition in the communications industry, which should lead to lower prices for consumers.

Regulating the BBC

From April 2017 Ofcom will also become responsible for the regulation of the BBC. This means that Ofcom will now assess the work carried out by the BBC, and investigate complaints about impartiality and accuracy. Ofcom already carried responsibility for TV and radio through setting the “Broadcasting Code“, which all channels and providers sign up to. However the BBC was considered to be out of their remit for investigating complaints that violated this Code. As part of the BBC’s new “Royal Charter“, which sets out how they will be managed, Ofcom will now become the Corporation’s new external regulator.