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BT circles wagons round Openreach as Ofcom mulls forced split-up

Bloodthirsty rivals cheer at thought of bloody amputation

Digital dark ages

BT also thinks Ofcom has done a pretty good job: “Ofcom have overseen a regime that has balanced investment with competition and we hope it will once again put the needs of the UK and its consumers ahead of those who have tried to keep the UK in the digital dark ages.”

By “dark ages”, BT means those companies which are calling for the separation of Openreach and BT, and goes on to make a point about charging: “The one area where consumers are getting a raw deal is pay-TV."

"There is no reason why UK consumers should pay half a billion pounds more a year than the European average," said BT, and although "Ofcom has said it will consider whether to make it easier for customers to switch in this area, this isn’t enough. Much tougher action is needed to address the fundamental flaws in this market.”

Funnily enough, the major player in pay-TV thinks BT is doing a bad job. Mai Fyfield, Sky’s chief strategy officer, said:

For too long, consumers and businesses have been suffering because the existing structure does not deliver the innovation, competition and quality of service that they need.

We believe Ofcom should now move quickly to ask the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to undertake a full competition inquiry.

In a rapidly changing sector, it is vital for the UK that the national telecoms network delivers a service fit for the 21st Century.

Deep down, the rivals don’t believe that Openreach treats them in the same way as it does BT, hinting that the quality of service for backhaul, times for installation and for repairs tend to favour the Openreach owner.

These are claims which are hard to substantiate. BT CEO Gavin Patterson told the BBC's Today programme that Openreach’s speed of broadband installation for BT and TalkTalk customers was identical.

When contacted by El Reg, a Vodafone spokesman said: "Ofcom has identified serious shortcomings in the performance and capabilities of BT Openreach, which are having a significant negative impact on the UK’s transition to next generation digital communications."

"Radical options should be considered if the UK is going to get the fibre optic broadband infrastructure it needs, which won’t be delivered by allowing BT to keep its monopolistic hold over the means to deliver it," it added.

"We continue to believe that structural separation of BT Openreach is the optimal remedy to ensure all providers reliant on access to BT infrastructure can offer the high quality and innovative services that their consumers and business customers require," it concluded.

The mood is such that it seems hard to believe that Ofcom will ultimately opt for anything but a complete separation, but the regulator is looking for responses. You have until 8 October to let the organisation know your thoughts. ®

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