Ofcom is keeping schtum over BT Openreach plans until end of year

Regulator will then beg for EU permission to act

Telecoms regulator Ofcom will not release details of its proposals for greater structural separation of Openreach and BT until the end of the year.

In February the regulator stopped short of recommending a full separation of BT and Openreach in its Digital Communications Review.

Ofcom will now draft its "proposals for discussion" between October and December, which will go before the European Commission to force the issue of greater independence.

It said: "We will develop detailed proposals to bring about greater independence and autonomy of Openreach for discussion with the European Commission," according to its Annual Plan for 2016/17.

Ofcom will also publish plans to open access to BT's telegraph poles and ducts by competitors as part of its Wholesale Local Access market review, also due in the third quarter of the financial year.

It said enhanced structural separation was needed as it had found evidence that Openreach still has an incentive "to make decisions in the interests of BT, rather than BT’s competitors, which can lead to competition problems."

In a briefing following the publication of its once-in-a-decade review, Ofcom's group director Steve Unger said that in an ideal world the regulator would have recommended a formal separation of the businesses, due to the "significant failings" of the current model. However, the property and pension costs associated with that option led the regulator to reccomend a “formal separation in everything but name” approach.

Ofcom chief Sharon White insisted that formal separation would remain an option for the regulator.

"When we describe this as an option over which we reserve the right, that is genuinely the case. It is not there in the background because we forgot to take it off the table."

Jonathan Oxley, group director for competition at Ofcom, said BT had submitted voluntary proposals for reform but they "didn't cut the mustard."

Also speaking after the publication of the review, Mark Shurmer, BT's group director of regulatory affairs, said BT hoped it could still reach a voluntary agreement with Ofcom.

He said: "The alternative to a voluntary separation is that we would have to go to Brussels. That will be a long process, so it would be in everyone’s interest [to avoid that route]."

He added: "We now need to look at detail of what Ofcom wants to change and see what more we can do." ®

Similar topics

Broader topics

Other stories you might like

  • North Korea pulled in $400m in cryptocurrency heists last year – report

    Plus: FIFA 22 players lose their identity and Texas gets phony QR codes

    In brief Thieves operating for the North Korean government made off with almost $400m in digicash last year in a concerted attack to steal and launder as much currency as they could.

    A report from blockchain biz Chainalysis found that attackers were going after investment houses and currency exchanges in a bid to purloin funds and send them back to the Glorious Leader's coffers. They then use mixing software to make masses of micropayments to new wallets, before consolidating them all again into a new account and moving the funds.

    Bitcoin used to be a top target but Ether is now the most stolen currency, say the researchers, accounting for 58 per cent of the funds filched. Bitcoin accounted for just 20 per cent, a fall of more than 50 per cent since 2019 - although part of the reason might be that they are now so valuable people are taking more care with them.

    Continue reading
  • Tesla Full Self-Driving videos prompt California's DMV to rethink policy on accidents

    Plus: AI systems can identify different chess players by their moves and more

    In brief California’s Department of Motor Vehicles said it’s “revisiting” its opinion of whether Tesla’s so-called Full Self-Driving feature needs more oversight after a series of videos demonstrate how the technology can be dangerous.

    “Recent software updates, videos showing dangerous use of that technology, open investigations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the opinions of other experts in this space,” have made the DMV think twice about Tesla, according to a letter sent to California’s Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), chair of the Senate’s transportation committee, and first reported by the LA Times.

    Tesla isn’t required to report the number of crashes to California’s DMV unlike other self-driving car companies like Waymo or Cruise because it operates at lower levels of autonomy and requires human supervision. But that may change after videos like drivers having to take over to avoid accidentally swerving into pedestrians crossing the road or failing to detect a truck in the middle of the road continue circulating.

    Continue reading
  • Alien life on Super-Earth can survive longer than us due to long-lasting protection from cosmic rays

    Laser experiments show their magnetic fields shielding their surfaces from radiation last longer

    Life on Super-Earths may have more time to develop and evolve, thanks to their long-lasting magnetic fields protecting them against harmful cosmic rays, according to new research published in Science.

    Space is a hazardous environment. Streams of charged particles traveling at very close to the speed of light, ejected from stars and distant galaxies, bombard planets. The intense radiation can strip atmospheres and cause oceans on planetary surfaces to dry up over time, leaving them arid and incapable of supporting habitable life. Cosmic rays, however, are deflected away from Earth, however, since it’s shielded by its magnetic field.

    Now, a team of researchers led by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) believe that Super-Earths - planets that are more massive than Earth but less than Neptune - may have magnetic fields too. Their defensive bubbles, in fact, are estimated to stay intact for longer than the one around Earth, meaning life on their surfaces will have more time to develop and survive.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022