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Broadband providers will be forced to provide minimum speed

NORTHERN Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has welcomed communications regulator Ofcom’s announcement that broadband providers will be forced to publish minimum speeds when agreeing a contract with consumers.

If the providers are unable to fulfil that minimum speed then consumers will be free to walk away without penalty. It comes amid continued frustration among islanders at paying the full contract price for broadband from the likes of BT without receiving anywhere near the advertised connection speeds.

The announcement will come into force on 1 March 2019, giving companies a full year to implement changes and train staff to deal with the new requirement.

Carmichael said: “Obviously I would prefer that everyone would have access to good quality, reliable, high speed broadband.  Unless and until that happens, this sort of protection is going to be necessary.

“Broadband is increasingly becoming an essential part of our daily lives, and anything which makes accountability easier must be a good thing.

“This is a strong challenge that has been laid down to broadband providers, and will strengthen consumer protections, meaning that no one is forced to pay for a broadband service which they are not getting.”

Ofcom said providers “will always have to give a minimum guaranteed speed to a potential customer at the point of sale” and if the customer’s speed drops below the promised level, broadband firms “will have one month to improve performance, before they must let customers walk away penalty-free”.

Last week the Northern Isles digital forum heard of continuing frustration for people in the most remote parts of Shetland, including Yell and Unst, at the lack of access to fast – let alone “superfast” – connection speeds.

The Scottish Government has committed to the ambitious target of providing every property in Scotland with 30Mbps connections by 2021.