Openreach/BT split is happening

Ofcom has put its foot down.

The pressure on Ofcom to split BT from Openreach seems to have bared fruit, as the communications watchdog has announced the split, this Tuesday morning. According to Ofcom's announcement, it will formally notify the European Commission, before proceeding with the split. It said it is still open to suggestions from BT. 

"We are disappointed that BT has not yet come forward with proposals that meet our competition concerns,” Ofcom wrote in the announcement. “Some progress has been made, but this has not been enough, and action is required now to deliver better outcomes for phone and broadband users.” 

Even though BT appointed its first independent chairman to Openreach, Mike McTighe, this wasn’t enough for Ofcom, who wants the board to be more independent from BT. 

“A more independent Openreach would be well placed to invest in ‘full fibre’ broadband for everyone,” it said. 

“Our proposal requires Openreach to become a distinct company with its own Board. This would comprise a majority of non-executive directors, including the Chair, who are not affiliated with BT. Openreach would be guaranteed greater independence to make decisions on strategic investments, with a duty to treat all of its customers equally.” 

Openreach is BT’s arm created to provide all telecoms with the much needed infrastructure. BT’s competitors, however, claim Openreach could have done much more, and could have created a much better network, if BT wasn’t holding it back. BT argued that these claims weren’t true and that Openreach is doing a great job as it is.  

Commenting on announcement Cable.co.uk's Dan Howdle, consumer telecoms expert and Director of Communications said: "It's tough to read whether BT's heel-dragging is as a result of a tactic with the intention to deliberately delay and undermine the process, or whether, rather like Brexit, the process of separating Openreach is simply too vast and complex to be fully planned out in such a short period of time.

"That Ofcom has had to speak out of its 'frustration' suggests to me there is more to this delay than bureaucracy and red tape – that unwillingness to comply is also playing some part." 

Image Credit: Paul Downey / Flickr

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