Belfast Telegraph

Separation of BT and Openreach was ‘long overdue’

Telecommunications

By Scott Ritchie

Telecommunications regulator Ofcom last month ruled that BT must be legally separated from its infrastructure subsidiary Openreach.

It is a significant milestone for telecoms history as it crushes the millstone which has been hampering the growth of independent telecoms providers.

Ofcom had raised concerns not only regarding the company’s ability to improve its service to phone and broadband users, but also the belief that BT has the “incentive and ability to favour its own retail business when making strategic decisions about new network investments by Openreach”.

Its reluctance to undertake the transformation necessary to ensure the UK has the competitive fibre networks it needs for the future has failed to deliver the broadband that consumers and businesses deserve.

The regulator is now preparing to go to the European Commission to try and force BT to legally separate from Openreach.

At the beginning of December, it was revealed that due to BT Openreach missing appointments, more than 25,000 people a week were forced to wait longer than they should for broadband repairs.

The figures obtained by Citizens Advice revealed that over a six month period 20% of repairs to phone and broadband services for both small families and businesses were not carried out on time and more than 6% of installations were delayed.

For a small business, this delay in repairs to communication can be critical to operations and its ability to service customers and clients.

It is estimated that the delays, which affected more than 640,000 people between April and September this year, have resulted in millions of lost earnings.

Ofcom’s decision, whilst long overdue, is great news for consumers but also for independent telecoms companies, such as Connect Telecom, which have challenged the might of BT.

The ruling will ensure a better service for consumers and will be welcomed in rural economies across Northern Ireland and Scotland, who have witnessed a lack of funding by BT due to its ongoing focus on cities.

The separation will allow all telecoms providers to be treated fairly and prevent BT favouring itself. Having discussed the ruling with our customers, they are already feeling reassured and confident that more independents having access to the service should significantly improve the rapidly deteriorating service currently provided.

Separated from BT and operating as a standalone business would require Openreach to be headed by an independent Board of Directors bound by statutory duties to treat customers equally and give a true and accurate view of Openreach’s underlying assets, costs and profits. Only then does it become a more transparent for Ofcom to regulate.

I now trust Ofcom will pursue the complete legal separation of the two companies. 

*Connect Telecom is Northern Ireland’s only Vodafone Platinum Partner and a leading provider of business to business telecoms and IT. For further information about business landlines, mobiles, broadband, cloud or IT services, please visit www.connect-tele.co.uk or text ‘CONNECT’ to 60777

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