Press Release:

FNOs Can do More to Support Consumer Choice

Published on: 2023-09-11

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Fibre network operators (FNOs) can be a stumbling block for consumers trying to change ISPs, according to the Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA). Many FNOs have inadequate procedures for fibre customers to change from one ISP to another, causing them to experience billing problems or extended periods without internet access.

“Many fibre customers already have limited choices because only one fibre network operates in their area,” said ISPA chair, Sasha Booth-Beharilal. “This makes it even more important for FNOs to ensure that customers have a choice of ISP and can seamlessly move between ISPs should they choose to do so.”

FNOs tend to have either insufficient or overly cumbersome processes for handling line migrations between ISPs. Some do not notify ISPs when lines are in process of being migrated. Others have errors in their geodata that can cause an innocent bystander to be disconnected when someone nearby orders a new line. When FNOs do make mistakes, the process to reconnect a customer can take several days and responses to ISPs trying to help end-users are slow.

Booth-Beharilal was quick to point out that FNOs are not always the cause of a problem. “Sometimes it is the customer or their ISP that causes a troubled transfer. Customers forget to cancel their services when moving out, leaving a new tenant struggling to get online. ISPs, like FNOs, sometimes get addresses wrong, which can result in another ISP’s customers going offline.”

ISPA believes that consumers would benefit if FNOs paid more attention to their processes for line migrations, and encourages FNOs to work with their ISPs and with ISPA to improve how migrations are handled. ISPA intends to publish a set of best practice recommendations for the fibre sector soon, and offers the following tips to FNOs, ISPs and end-users:

FNOs should:

  • Double check customer addresses so that the wrong customer is not accidentally disconnected. There is a big difference between 20B Oak Road and 208 Oak Road.
  • Always proactively notify an ISP of a pending cancellation of a line. Don’t make the ISP login to your portal to find out you have cancelled their customer. Make sure the ISP has time (at least 24 hours) to flag a cancellation as a mistake before you proceed.
  • Keep both ISPs informed of the status of a migration, especially if there is any sort of dispute. If there is a dispute between ISPs, attempt to resolve it well before the planned migration date.
  • Acknowledge mistaken disconnections promptly and make sure you have the ability to reconnect those customers within hours, not days. Avoid repeating mistaken disconnections.
  • Make sure you have sufficient support staff and internal processes to deal with escalations from ISPs when mistakes do happen. Do not rely solely on automated processes for dealing with disputes; some require manual intervention.

ISPs should:

  • Double check the addresses of all new customers so that someone else nearby isn’t accidentally disconnected.
  • Respect the wishes of a customer who wants to move to another ISP by notifying the relevant FNO of the correct date and in good time.
  • Not unreasonably block a migration request or use illegitimate proof of residence to retain control of a line.

End-users should:

  • Make sure that your old ISP cancels the line with the FNO on the correct date, if you are changing ISPs.
  • Confirm that the previous tenant (or landlord) has cancelled their service with their ISP, if you are taking over a line from someone else.
  • Do not engage in ISP-hopping simply to try to escape an outstanding bill.

Further Information

For further information, please contact the ISPA secretariat on the Contact ISPA page.