A group of companies, which includes Sky and Vodafone, have written to Ofcom boss Sharon White to propose ways in which Openreach – BT’s fixed-line wholesale division – can be improved.

Scott Bicheno

May 16, 2016

3 Min Read
Sky and Vodafone resume Ofcom lobbying over BT Openreach

A group of companies, which includes Sky and Vodafone, have written to Ofcom boss Sharon White to propose ways in which Openreach – BT’s fixed-line wholesale division – can be improved.

The other members of the ‘industry coalition’ are TalkTalk, the Independent Networks Cooperative Association (INCA) and the Federation of Communication Services (FCS). Together they claim to represent ‘the interests of the majority of consumers and businesses that rely on Openreach,’ and ‘…the builders and operators of the UK’s next generation digital networks, as well as companies which deliver communications solutions to hundreds and thousands of organisations both big and small.’

Unbowed by this heavy, self-imposed burden the group has also found time to give Ofcom a hand with the tricky business of regulating Openreach, from which its members lease their fixed-line infrastructure. The group notes Ofcom’s decision in February to require further reforms at Openreach and is presumably concerned that BT doesn’t share their sense of urgency on the matter, so is seeking to move things along.

The proposed changes to Openrach take the form of a ten-point plan, detailed below:

Reforming Openreach’s governance so it can act independently

Giving Openreach clear purpose and accountability by:

  1. Establishing Openreach as a legally separate company

  2. Creating an independent Openreach Board

  3. Creating an independent body to oversee the transition and act as an adjudicator

Giving Openreach the tools it needs to succeed

Creating a confident and ambitious Openreach that has the autonomy to plan for the future by:

  1. Giving Openreach full control and ownership of its assets

  2. Ensuring Openreach has its own standalone corporate identity and brand

  3. Allowing Openreach to be financially independent and make its own investment decisions

Creating an Openreach that delivers for all

Making sure that Openreach serves the whole market fairly to improve choice, value and quality for its customers by:

  1. Providing all Openreach services on the same basis, no matter the customer

  2. Ensuring that Openreach consults with all of its customers about its future strategy and proposed investments

  3. Introducing competition to Openreach by making BT Consumer’s procurement truly contestable

  4. Ensuring that Openreach does not inhibit investment by independent network operators

These ten points can easily be condensed into two, which are the same ones they’ve been making for some time: take control of Openreach away from BT and make sure it treats all customers equally.

As ever, BT doesn’t see things that way. “We are in talks with Ofcom, discussing constructive ideas to further enhance the independence of Openreach from the rest of BT Group,” said a BT spokesperson in a statement. “Key suggestions made by other companies today seem incompatible with the legal responsibility that the Board of any listed company has when it comes to stewarding shareholders’ money responsibly.”

Sky has published the full ten-point plan here and Ofcom will feel obliged to at least acknowledge it, with the group’s decision to go public further adding to that pressure. It still seems unlikely that Ofcom will take control of Openreach away from BT and the strategy of Sky, Vodafone and co has now switched to trying to ensure any further conditions imposed by Ofcom are as stringent as possible.

About the Author(s)

Scott Bicheno

As the Editorial Director of Telecoms.com, Scott oversees all editorial activity on the site and also manages the Telecoms.com Intelligence arm, which focuses on analysis and bespoke content.
Scott has been covering the mobile phone and broader technology industries for over ten years. Prior to Telecoms.com Scott was the primary smartphone specialist at industry analyst Strategy Analytics’. Before that Scott was a technology journalist, covering the PC and telecoms sectors from a business perspective.
Follow him @scottbicheno

You May Also Like