In moving into a world of affordable cloud-based services and versatile mobile devices, the way in which we consume Internet access and connectivity will rely on ISPs that can provide a solid, consistently fast and reliable service.

Trefor.net once again welcomes Zen Internet and ISPA Council Member Gary Hough to the page. Superfast Broadband This…, the first part of Gary’s “Broadband Week” post, ran yesterday, and readers wanting a more comprehensive understanding of the piece that follows (and a wee bit more of Gary’s biography) will want to start there.

At the ISP who I work for, we are expecting a real boom in the adoption of superfast broadband over the next few years. In fact, we believe it is likely that 95% of UK households and businesses will take up such offers, though of course this depends massively on the network coverage and rollout of suppliers who can deliver it. And this is where my dilemma lies, because we’re now moving away from the home PC, desktop, archaic server networking that we’re all used to and into a world of very affordable cloud-based services and versatile mobile devices. All of this will become the norm as time goes on, of course, and the way in which we consume our internet access and connectivity will rely more and more on ISPs that can provide a solid, consistently fast and reliable service. Our economic success at the local, national and international levels will become dependent on superfast broadband, without which we all lose out in some way, be that education, business, trade or indeed leisure.

As more and more customers come to enjoy the benefits of faster Internet content delivery, and more businesses discover new and indeed cheaper ways of using the Internet to improve on or enhance their commercial performance, managing bandwidth-hungry customers becomes more and more difficult, especially for the larger ISPs like Virgin Media (the one I employ at home). Based on my own experience, I believe these larger ISPs are likely to continue throttling on the fly to cope with the demand and their network capacity issues, and that the impact on you and I will very much depend on your post code area of residence.

It is unfortunate, but up until quite recently I have been unable to utilise the benefit of a free staff account on fibre from my employer, this due to my local exchange not being fibre-enabled. Now, though, I can at last avail myself of this perk, which gives me one heck of an advantage as my company doesn’t traffic shape or manipulate their broadband services like so many do. Sadly, however, most ISP’s customers don’t have the advantage of a free account nor can they simply switch at the drop of a hat, because typically they are tied into a lengthy contract period. In part, this is because BT charges the ISP heavily for the first 12 months, and this charge gets passed on. As such, on fibre at best the customer is looking at a 12-month minimum contract, which can be quite dire if the service is bad.

Ofcom are partly to blame for this situation, because they really do need to look at the wholesale price charged to ISPs that restricts them from providing an alternative and cheaper service. That said, some ISPs (including Zen Internet, I am glad to say) continue to invest heavily into improving access and ensuring that they can provide the best possible service. To me, this shows a real commitment to existing customers and potential new customers alike, who need to know that the longevity and speeds paid for will be delivered.

With ADSL the market competition was less of an issue, as the biggest providers slugged it out for market share and monthly contracts were easier to come by, but as lengthier contracts remain in place for superfast services the budget you set and the reliability of the service you choose will become far more important.

There is no harm in summing up, though by this point you can probably guess which approach I’m going to take. A strong commitment to providing a better service for discerning customers, along with consistently high speeds and excellent support, as well as a years-long track record of continual investment will see me move my fibre broadband service away from Virgin Media to one supplied, ironically, by my employer.

You should think long and hard about which ISP is really going to be committed to you and your fibre broadband service needs for the next 12, 18 or even 24 months. After all, you’re paying for it and you will no doubt be quite tied to it for the foreseeable future.

Published by Gary M Hough

Internet Regular who works as a regulatory manager for a well known UK ISP. Started off the Internet side of my career in 1996 at Prestel Online before setting up and managing numerous award winning service and support teams for brands and VISP's that include Breathe Online, Planet Online, ScottishTelecom (Demon), Iomart (Madasafish, VirginBiz, Freeserve Virtual Office etc.), Videonetworks (Homechoice) and many more. During this time I have seen numerous changes in the ISP industry, some positive and some less so. I've always engaged in regulatory affairs specific to the ISP industry and have represented companies I've worked for over many years at Industry level including working with the wider ISP community, ISPA, Linx, Government agencies and regulatory bodies such as Ofcom. I'm a keen advocate for self-regulation and the development of the Internet industry as a whole not just the ISP’s I work for. I took up my current role as Regulatory Manager in order to represent Zen as their ambassador within the industry and to Government particularly given the intense scrutiny of our wider industry from within the political and regulatory framework that governs us. Outside of work I'm an avid collector of Punk, Post Punk and New Wave related music and memorabilia hence my interest in online music and the issues associated with file sharing and similar. You'll sometimes see subtle and not so subtle references of this interest in some of my posts and online wittering’s.

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