Switching penalties outweighed by the benefits of fair and free fibre

I wrote a few weeks ago about the £1.4bn windfall coming the way of fat cat broadband providers happy to hit their customers with above-inflation contract price increases of 20% or more. Is this linked to the provision of faster broadband speeds? Well, no. Customers will carry on receiving the same service at a higher cost, including those who currently get nothing close to the hyperfast speeds offered by gigabit-capable broadband. Worse still, customers wishing to cancel these contracts and switch elsewhere face termination fees that potentially run into hundreds of pounds.

All this is terrible news for tenants already finding it hard to cover rising utility bills and food costs as well as their making monthly rent payments. Even so, there’s been no change of heart from the providers themselves. And despite our continuing overtures to the regulator, Ofcom, no sign of them stepping in to stop it either. 

The good news is that there’s a way consumers can escape these increased costs, boost speeds and save money overall, even when early exit penalties are taken into account. And landlords and property owners are ideally placed to help make this happen.

Fair and free fibre

Doing the right thing for customers hit by the cost-of-living crisis is at the heart of the Fair Fibre Framework, the Hyperoptic programme we kicked off earlier this year. This includes a set of targeted initiatives to bring free connections and community hubs to social housing clients, as well as market-leading social tariffs that open up hyperfast speed broadband to people on lower incomes. 

Now we’re going a stage further with an offer to supply free broadband for up to 9 months – netting off the cost of early cancellation penalties for customers looking to switch.

It’s called Switch Now and it throws a lifeline to households stuck on slow broadband and facing a massive price rise next spring. Hyperoptic’s research found that more than a third of people who say they’re unlikely to switch are put off making the move because of the cost of cancelling their current contact. And a quarter fear a loss of broadband during the changeover.

Switch Now solves these challenges by providing free broadband for up to 9 months, running at the same time as that of a householder’s current provider, guaranteeing no loss of service in the switchover.

Switchers with more than 9 months left on their contracts can also save money by paying the early exit fee to their current provider instead of continuing with their contract, and getting Hyperoptic’s free hyperfast speed broadband at the same time.

How landlords come into the equation

Those in the rented property sector understand the importance of supporting their tenants and this is a great opportunity to do just that. In respect of gigabit-capable fibre broadband, it’s certainly what tenants expect landlords to do. 

Our 2022 survey of 1,000 UK urban renters found that 85% would expect their landlord to agree to the provision of fibre broadband if the opportunity arose. Over a quarter (27%) would complain if they didn’t, and 24% would consider moving.

That agreement is important because the next generation of fibre broadband is being built very close to thousands of rental properties and MDUs – just not yet fully connected to the network. Those last few metres require the agreement and cooperation of landlords and property owners so that network operators can complete the installation and residents can reap the rewards. They can do this proactively by approaching fibre operators that are building networks in their areas, or simply by responding to written site access requests made through the wayleave process. 

It really is as easy as that – no loopholes or hidden costs. And ‘doing the right thing’ extends beyond alleviating price rises to staving off the threat of digital poverty. Our digital poverty research study found that renters who are digitally excluded are likely to earn 10% less than others, have lower educational outcomes as gain access to fewer training and employment opportunities – all of which is a tragedy for them and can impact on their landlords too.

Under normal circumstances, broadband consumers living in the rented sector are actually happy to pay more in rent for access to substantially better and faster broadband services. When asked in February this year, almost 7 out of 10 urban private renters said they would pay a higher rent (approximately 6% more on average) if they had full fibre broadband provision in their building. With winter nearly here and the cost of living crisis biting hard, tenants have made their priorities clear but without support will face some very tough choices.

We continue to call upon Ofcom to urgently review the practice of mid-contract price rises ahead of the major bill increases that will start being delivered in early 2023. In the meantime, please tell your clients about Switch Now and look at your options for bringing hyperfast broadband alternatives into your buildings. 

James Prowse, Regional Development Manager, Hyperoptic

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