Pledging your Voucher - Your Responsibilities
- Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 May 2021 09:27
When you pledge your voucher you are entering into a contract with the installer of the FTTP service (usually this is BT Openreach). Provided they install the FTTP service within 12 months you are then committed to upgrading to a Full Fibre service that meets the DCMS Conditions i.e.
- to a 12 month contract with the ISP of your choice for a fibre connection with a download speed of at least 30Mbits/s, and
- one which at least doubles your current connection speed.
You also commit to completing this upgrade within 28 days of the FTTP service becoming available and to confirm this to the DCMS on demand.
If your current ISP does not provide a Full Fibre service when you need to upgrade then you may also have to cancel your current internet service and take out a new contract with an ISP that does provide a suitable Full Fibre service. You may have to pay a cancellation charge when you cancel your current internet service, and by pledging your voucher you are implicitly accepting that you may have to do this - and yourself pay any such cancellation charge.
See also - Upgrading your Internet Contract
Once you have upgraded then that should be the end of the matter. You can start enjoying the new service. However, what happens if for some reason you do not fulfil your side of the bargain? Perhaps you moved house, or you just couldn't be bothered to upgrade. The answer to do this depends on the type of scheme as discussed below.
You should also be aware that the text on this page both before and after this notice is no more than a summary of our understanding of the matter and cannot be warranted as free from error. It is not legal advice.
"Demand Led" Schemes
This type of scheme is fully funded by DCMS vouchers and the HCC top-up (e.g. the South East Alresford Scheme). If you do not follow through with the upgrade then there could be a funding shortfall and Openreach will not be fully paid for their work. There is an outstanding bill. See the Openreach Terms and Conditions.
It is accepted that there will be some residents that are unable to fulfil the agreement and hence do not upgrade their service. For example, there may be good reasons for unexpectedly having to move house. In order to counter the risk of a resulting funding shortfall, Openreach are demanding that an excess number of vouchers is committed. We understand that the required excess is 30% i.e. if 100 vouchers are needed to cover the cost, then Openreach want to see 130 vouchers pledged before undertaking the work. They will only redeem enough vouchers to cover the cost - the excess is needed to offset the risk of voucher cancellation.
Given the size of the excess, it is thus unlikely that there will be a funding shortfall even if some residents who have pledged their vouchers do not proceed with the upgrade. However, there is still the potential risk of a shortfall if too many residents fail to upgrade.
In such a situation, Openreach would appear to have a right to demand that the residents who fail to upgrade make good the shortfall. Those whom a court would consider had a reasonable excuse may well be able to avoid being included in any such demand. However, those that were considered to have no reasonable excuse may well find themselves having to pay up. For such a reason, you should therefore regard pledging your voucher to be a serious commitment and should not pledge your voucher if:
- You are not fully committed to upgrading to FTTP as soon as it becomes available, or
- You know of any other reason why you might not be able to upgrade to FTTP.
We originally thought that there would be a potential issue if you moved house. However, we have received (26/5/21) updated guidance from Openreach, where they have said:
"if someone has to move that is fine. It is the address that DCMS want to see the connection in and not the individual. If someone moves out you can approach the new tenant to see if they want to be involved and we can change the details on the voucher."
Community Fibre Partnership (CFP) led Schemes
This type of scheme is part funded by the DCMS voucher and with the partnership responsible for making up the shortfall. In this case, any funding shortfall resulting from cancelled vouchers is the responsibility of the CFP. Openreach will redeem as many vouchers as it can and send a bill to the CFP for the rest of the money.
A Community Fibre Partnership is a single legal entity - typically a limited company - but is nevertheless funded by its members. There should be some kind of partnership agreement in place and to which all the company members are expected to sign up to. Typically, this will make them jointly, and probably severally, liable for paying the Openreach bill.
This agreement should also have clauses determining what happens if a member wants to leave the company and what is a member's liability if they fail to upgrade and hence their voucher gets cancelled. You cannot necessary second guess what each CFP will decide. However, most will probably demand that a member that fails to upgrade has to make good any lost funding. There may be exceptions - but that is up to each CFP.