BT escapes break-up of Openreach, agrees to open up broadband network for rivals

BT has responded to Ofcom's recent digital communications review in which the regulatory body said that BT's Openreach "must open up its network" to bring in competition and create more choices for customers.

BT says that it is happy to open its "ducts and poles" for other companies provided that they are willing to invest large sums on the same scale as BT's own investments on Openreach.

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"Openreach is the part of BT that runs the phone and broadband network on which most homes and offices rely. Openreach must open up its network of telegraph poles and underground tunnels to allow others to build their own, advanced fibre networks, connected directly to homes and offices. This will help create more choice, while reducing the country’s reliance on Openreach," said Ofcom's digital communications review which was published earlier today.

"Openreach needs to change, taking its own decisions on budget, investment and strategy, in consultation with the wider industry. This would mean Openreach taking independent decisions on where to roll out broadband, how much money to spend on improving service quality and new high-speed broadband technology," the review added.

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BT is committed on maintaining the UK's lead over all other G20 nations in terms of broadband speed and reach, and maintains that huge investments are requires to maintain the superiority in the coming years. At the same time, BT is calling out for greater clarity and certainty in the regulations that govern Openreach.

“Our proposal includes a new governance structure for Openreach as well a clear commitment on investment. Openreach is already one of the most heavily regulated businesses in the world but we have volunteered to accept tighter regulation to bring matters to a clear and speedy conclusion. 

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“We are happy to let other companies use our ducts and poles if they are genuinely keen to invest very large sums as we have done. Our ducts and poles have been open to competitors since 2009 but there has been little very interest to date. We will see if that now changes," said BT through a statement.

Ofcom's review report and BT's willingness to adhere to it has not only given Openreach a new lifeline, but has also provided rivals like TalkTalk, Sky and Vodafone the opportunity to lay their own fibre cables and offer better services than what they are offering now.

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So far, these rivals have been paying BT to use Openreach cables and allege that BT's underinvestment in Openreach leads to slow speeds. However, since they will now invest huge sums on laying new cables and poles, expecting low broadband pricing in the near future could be fanciful at best.

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