Feeds

Ofcom's ISP code of practice: why it is necessary

My struggle with Plusnet

The essential guide to IT transformation

First Person For two years PlusNet resisted the broadband industry's voluntary code of practice designed to protect consumers from unscrupulous service providers.

Now, with Ofcom regulations forcing hold-out ISPs to fall in line with the rest of the industry, PlusNet claims to have followed the voluntary code all along.

Central to the issue is the Migration Authorisation Code (MAC) that an ISP must issue before a customer can move to a new service provider.

A side-effect of this migration process is that, in the case of an alleged debt, an ISP can boot a customer offline and withhold their MAC until they hand over the money.

The industry's code of practice, which most major ISPs had committed to since August 2004, should have put a stop to that practice. It stated: "The existing service provider cannot withhold an authorisation code to enforce debt collection or contractual rights."

But with some ISPs resisting the code, a recent amendment to Ofcom's General Conditions of Entitlement aimed to "enable consumer choice" by enforcing a consistent policy throughout the industry.

Condition 22: Service Migrations does not expressly forbid ISPs from withholding MACs to recover alleged debts, but debt is not listed as a valid reason for withholding the MAC. Ofcom's announcement of the regulations clarified what this means for consumers:

"Broadband service providers who are losing a customer will be required to provide MACs on request in most cases. They will not be able to withhold MACs where the customer owes them money ('debt blocking') or charge for MACs."

Earlier this month I experienced first hand why that rule is necessary.

Traffic prioritisation

After years as a fully paid-up premium PlusNet customer, I wanted to leave. Months of fruitless complaints, line checks and diagnostic tests had failed to resolve ongoing connection problems and had sapped my confidence in the company.

So I wasn't expecting much help when I presented PlusNet with evidence that the problems were caused by so-called "traffic shaping" - the company's deliberate blocking of some internet traffic to theoretically improve the quality of other services.

But to its credit, PlusNet did admit that network-wide traffic shaping was to blame. This, I was told, meant there was nothing they could do to address my specific problems.

I found it infuriating that the company's technical support team had failed to tell me about this issue. Frankly, I felt that I had been tricked into staying with PlusNet under the false belief that the connection problems were being addressed and would be resolved. I immediately asked to terminate my account.

PlusNet's written response was indignant:

"[There is a] 30 day notice period to pay for, the cost of this is detailed below. We are not in breach of contact (sic) with regards to traffic prioritisation. If you do not authorise the payment the MAC key will not be generated."

I didn't think I should have to pay to take my business away from a company that I felt had let me down. So I confronted PlusNet with both the voluntary code of practice and the Ofcom regulations.

PlusNet's position remained steadfast: Regardless of what the rest of the industry was doing, and regardless of the Ofcom regulations, I would have to pay a cancellation fee or the MAC for my account would be withheld.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
So, Apple won't sell cheap kit? Prepare the iOS garden wall WRECKING BALL
It can throw the low cost race if it looks to the cloud
Time Warner Cable customers SQUEAL as US network goes offline
A rude awakening: North Americans greeted with outage drama
We need less U.S. in our WWW – Euro digital chief Steelie Neelie
EC moves to shift status quo at Internet Governance Forum
Google has spaffed more cash on lobbying this year than Big Cable
Don't worry, it'll be cheaper when they use drones
EE fails to apologise for HUGE T-Mobile outage that hit Brits on Friday
Customer: 'Please change your name to occasionally somewhere'
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?