IT IS not so long ago that blanket fibre-optic broadband coverage seemed like nothing more than a pipe dream, especially for those living in Scotland’s furthest-flung corners.

Now, with BT working hand in hand with the UK Government to ensure the infrastructure is in place, it looks like superfast broadband will finally be a service we can all enjoy within the next few years.

While this is obviously great news for consumers, it will also come as a boon for broadband providers, who will be able to reach a wider customer base than ever before.

Loading article content

The problem is that with a larger number of customers, there are more opportunities for things to go wrong, which could explain why some broadband providers have balked at watchdog Ofcom’s plan for an automatic compensation scheme for when things go wrong.

As it revealed earlier this year, the regulator wants providers to automatically reimburse customers for loss of service, delayed installation or missed appointments.

While this would be mandatory, BT, Virgin Media and Sky have come up with an alternative - voluntary - plan that would allow providers to decide compensation themselves.

According to Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy, who said her service dealt with thousands of internet-provider problems in the last year, this would represent “a watered down compensation scheme” that would “short-change customers by millions of pounds”.

Indeed, with the industry proposal outlining a £7 per day payment for loss of service against Ofcom’s planned £10 per day, Citizen’s Advice estimates that the voluntary code could save the industry £52 million a year in potential compensation claims.

But with broadband now seen as essential a service as energy and water - and with customers paying plenty to receive it - surely it is time Ofcom followed the lead of Ofwat in England and Wales by making compensation compulsory.