Sector - Energy, Fuel & Utilities

Ofcom tells BT they must open up cable network to rivals

Communications watchdog Ofcom has said BT must open up its cable network to improve UK internet connections.

Ofcom has said that BT must open up its cable network, stopping short of demanding a complete break-up of BT, however this is still an option.

BT welcomes the report and said it was happy to let other companies use its network, if they were keen to invest.

Ofcom also reported that there was a digital divide in the UK between those with the latest technologies, and those without, proposing that a decent, affordable broadband should be a universal right.

Rivals had called for a split between BT and its Openreach operation, which runs its cables, fibre and network infrastructure.

It is said by companies such as Sky, Vodafone and TalkTalk who pay to use the network, that BT underinvested in Openreach, which has led to poor service with interruptions and slow speeds.

BT will be told to allow easier access for rivals to lay their own fibre cables along Openreach’s telegraph poles and in its underground cable ducts, with Ofcom intending to introduce tougher rules on BT’s faults, repairs and installations.

It says Openreach should be governed at arm’s length from BT, with greater independence in taking its own decisions on budget, investment and strategy. A complete split between Openreach and BT “remains an option”.

The Chief Executive of Ofcom, Sharon White said: “Openreach does need major reform and the key thing is that it’s independent, so that it responds to all its customers, not just BT.

“If we cannot get the responsiveness to customers that we’re seeking, then…we reserve the right, formally, to separate [BT and Openreach].”

According to Ofcom’s report, evidence shows Openreach still has an incentive to make decisions in the interests of BT, rather than BT’s competitors.

A spokesperson for Vodafone said: “BT still remains a monopoly provider with a regulated business running at a 28% profit margin.

“We urge Ofcom to ensure BT reinvests the £4bn in excess profits Openreach has generated over the last decade in bringing fibre to millions of premises across the country, and not just make half-promises to spend an unsubstantiated amount on more old copper cable”.