Rory Cellan-Jones

Ask Ofcom

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 4 Mar 09, 14:56 GMT

After yesterday's big announcement about the regulation of super-fast broadband, we asked the regulator's Chief Executive Ed Richards whether he would like to answer questions on the subject from readers of the BBC website.

He has kindly agreed, and you can submit your questions by following this link - or commenting on this blog post. I will then put a selection to him some time in the next week.

A few suggestions of areas you might like to pursue - what does he consider "fast"? Who besides BT and Virgin is going to build a fast network? How much of this job will be done by the market, how much public money will be needed to fill in the gaps, and how is he going to stop consumers being over-charged for a vital service? But I'm sure you have much better ideas...


  • Comment number 1.

    How is he going to ensure that rural areas are served with an adequate bandwidth?

  • Comment number 2.

    When people talk of Broadband and increased speeds it is almost always focused on the cities where broadband is already fast and the band-width used (to quite a large extent) as an alternative to conventional TV access.

    I live in the countryside and although living in a reasoanably substantial village it is still miles from the telephone exchange. There has been talk of fibre to the cabinet to help people like me but I suspect that priorities will again be to the mass markets of the city-dwellers.

    Will there be any Regulation pressure to level the playing field and aloow countty-dwellers equal (at least in terms of speed) access to Broadband-Britain?


  • Comment number 3.

    In the article 'Green light for faster broadband' Mr Ed. Richards says that he will "promote investment by removing regulatory barriers".

    My questions mirrors the US SEC and UK's FSA and the state of the economy.

    Isn't it healthy to have regulation? If we remove barriers then we are letting our guard down for problems in the future.

    We should try and pre-empt and foresee problems, thereby making a good strong foundation for the future ahead.

    Of course in a utopian world I'd love to give everyone access to the internet (and the knowledge to use it well), but we don't. We live in a society that cares about profits rather than good moral sense.

    So yes to fast broadband with a good healthy amount of regulation!

  • Comment number 4.

    Why is the word "unlimited" allowed to be used in advertising by ISPs, when in almost all cases there ARE limits involved?

    It would surely be both clearer and more honest to require the limits to be spelled out in the headlines rather than the fine print, especially given the consequences of breaching the limits in many cases.

  • Comment number 5.

    I would like to know OFComs views on why the "newer" speeds are only availble to those who can afford the astronomically high prices of the contracts with ISPs, such as Virgins new service that is circa £50 pcm (think it's 50mpbs but the actual advertised speed escapes me at this point)?

    In an age when everyone could benefit from having a broadband connection, there are an increasing number of people who cannot afford one, at least not a half decent one, if they can afford one at all, so I would also appreciate hearing OFComs views on why ISPs offer services which are no better, in many cases, than dial-up, and why they (OFCom and ISPs) are not doing anything to narrow the "digital divide" that exists between the well-off and the low paid/retired and unemployed in this country.

  • Comment number 6.

    Why is Ofcom's policy focusing on the speed of the connection itself, when bandwidth caps and throttling are far bigger practical issues for consumers on which Ofcom is utterly silent. What's more, Ofcom positively encourages ISPs to be secretive and misleading about the nature of these caps, eliminating effective competition.

  • Comment number 7.

    Why are companies continually allowed to advertise schemes that they can neither provide nor support - e.g. Virgin Media's 2 Mbps service!

    What benefits has privitisation brought to the telecoms sector and can we really expect firms to put backbone to narrow the digital divide in places where it isn't profitable? How does Ofcom intend to 'persuade' them to do this?

    To what extent is Ofcom concerned by the fact that there is little competition in the market place with only two firms, and to what extent has the division of BT into a reseller and a customer company been a success (LLU)?

    How much is the government willing to invest to provide high quality service to the UK, and is it accepted that Fibre optic is the way to go? If so, is there any need for each house to be connected by one cable for each company - or could nationalisation (of effective nationalisation) be utilised in order to provide each customer with the telecoms services through one connection - which could potentially include TV, phone, internet etc

  • Comment number 8.

    1.) Recently I've seen Ofcom do very little to help telecom consumers - is this a conscious decision to act as a "light touch" regulator? Specifically I don't see the markets working properly because of a.) difficulty comparing rival products due to plan range and complexity (esp. mobile & broadband) b.) Cost of migration - seen as a major headache, esp by older people, and although MAC/PAC process has helped customers still lose up to a month's subscription in "termination notice" (even outside of contract term) which I think should be banned.

    2.) I noticed Ofcom has urged ISPs to follow the IAB code of conduct. Whilst any move towards [self] regulation is better than no regulation, is Mr Richards aware that already laws are in place (RIPA, PECR and DPA) guaranteeing rights under law, and the IAB stance in my opinion falls short of the legal minimum safeguards guaranteeing privacy in communications. Will Ofcom act where the law has potentially been breached, maybe by funding a test case?

  • Comment number 9.

    Has Ofcom got anything planned to help consumer choice in the market?
    - since many consumers find it very difficult to select the best value plans given the wide range of tariffs and special deals in the market?

    Will Ofcom be looking further at the migration process (PAC/MAC)?
    - since older people perceive the migration process as troublesome (e.g. having to use a temporary number) and telcos invariable impose a
    28-day notice period, which incidentally is the longevity of the MAC/PAC code, so it’s actually difficult to migrate without losing money?

    Does Mr Richards see any need to improve consumer focus of Ofcom?
    - since complaints against telcos don’t seem in my opinion to be forcing improvements (my last migration was disastrous with previous supplier continuing to bill after migration – a common story repeated across many forums)?

    How does he see the role of the European regulator both currently and in the future. Is he happy with the recent moves to cap prices?

  • Comment number 10.

    OFCOM should be there to protect the consumer not take the business side to destroy consumer’s privacy. If OFCOM cannot full their obligation of regulator by saying they can self regulate then consumers need their own regulatory power to protect privacy, copyright and any small person from the large companies who feel the way ahead is manipulation of the laws.

    Large companies are starting to use more unscrupulous methods with consumers like BT’s rolling contract auto renewing every 12months. My personal opinion is this is a total scam after your initial 12months which for internet technology is too long then you should just be monthly. Then to start to sell off your browsing to advertisers which virtually can identify you as a unique number is more identifiable than a common name.

    OFCOM has failed consumers since the MAC code being made compulsory with mainly the larger companies failing to deliver the MAC’s within 5 working days BT included. So if OFCO now is all for the larger telecoms and business then they public need a regulator just for them to balance out the irregularities of those who should ask questions from experts before accepting the ISP and such as Phorm saying what it does. Recent events they have all failed to take independent advice on what the targeted adverts from your ISP can access, the methods in which it is delivered even the method of delivery of internet if you refuse to be in the targeted adverts.

    Opt-in is the way they have been told but then those who do not opt-in should not be sent via the servers those who opt-in go any other method has to be illegal interception of the communication.

    What is OFCOM going to do to regulate this?

  • Comment number 11.

    I live in a rural community where broadband speed have more in common with dial-up than they do this super fast fibre, a chosen few are going to benefit from, what is Ofcom going to do to ensure a framework where all citizens can benefit? or are we going to be an after-thought again like we have been with the ADSL infrastructure and the huge failing of the policies from letting the market decide where to LLU, therefore ignoring the vast majority of the rural community.

    Will he oversee yet another failing for those largely ignored by Ofcoms previous policies?

  • Comment number 12.

    Super-fast within 5 miles of a node is fine. What about everyone else? What about those on fixed incomes who cannot afford £93/month for phone+web+tv?

  • Comment number 13.

    "Ed Richards: There are always going to be price differentials. What we have seen is a very substantial reduction in the price of broadband. Of course there will always be affordability issues for those on low incomes. Intervening to provide free services or subsidised services is a problem for the government. That's a political decision. "

    Ooh I actually got an answer.

    Seems like everything monetary these days is "a political decision", so just another case of buck passing amongst government watchdogs then...


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites