August 12, 2016
UK MP and former Small Business Secretary Anna Soubry has publicly called for BT to be split up, but BT has hit back, questioning the accuracy of her claims.
Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 current affairs programme Today, Soubry claimed BT’s wholesale business, Openreach, hasn’t delivered on its obligations regarding the delivery of ‘superfast broadband’ (apparently defined as 24+Mbps). “It’s outrageous in this day and age that people do not have access to superfast broadband,” said Soubry.
Clearly she was aware that there are plenty of people who do have access to those broadband speeds in the UK, but her issue was with the proportion of people who don’t, which she anecdotally reckoned to be in excess of the 10% of the population implied by BT’s superfast coverage claims. “I seem to meet every member of the 10%,” she said.
BT wasn’t having any of this when Telecoms.com asked them for comment. “99% of premises in Ms Soubry’s constituency can access superfast broadband speeds of 24Mbps and above whilst more than 90 per cent can get ultrafast speeds of 100Mbps and above via alternative [Virgin] networks,” said a BT spokesperson.
“We disagree with Ms Soubry’s comments regarding the separation of Openreach. We fail to see how a smaller, independent Openreach would be able to invest the £1.4bn each year that it does currently.”
It’s not clear what Soubry’s agenda was in deciding to attack BT so publicly, especially since she was also effectively questioning the judgement of the UK telecoms regulator at the same time, after it recently decided against formally separating Openreach from BT. Her Nottinghamshire constituency seems to have excellent broadband coverage and she recently declined a ministerial role. Still, airtime is airtime.
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