BT Doesn't Have to Sell its Openreach Broadband Network

By James O Malley on at

The telecoms regulator Ofcom will tell BT this week that it doesn't have to sell the Openreach broadband network - despite protests from rivals.

The network has been contentious because if the likes of Sky or TalkTalk want to offer internet service, they still need to use the BT owned network, and pay BT a fee to access it (hence why you're always told you need a BT Line). Arguably, owning the Openreach network is an odd situation for BT to be in, because it also operates as an ISP - thus creating a potentially anti-competitive situation. Insert your own tortured analogy about imagining if Ford owned all of the roads too here.

Virgin Media is the only ISP not in this position, because it has done the hard work of digging its own fibre network.

According to This is Money, an Ofcom report will instead call for "greater separation" between BT and Openreach - presumably to limit how BT could conceivably use its Openreach ownership to unfair advantage when trying to sell consumers on BT over rivals.

The new Ofcom Chief Executive Sharon White will apparently instead call for a "voluntary agreement" with BT over the arrangement. Forcing BT to sell or separate from Openreach will still remain on the table if agreement can't be reached.

The news comes just weeks after BT appointed a new Openreach CEO.

As you might imagine, Sky isn't very happy about this and instead wants a full competition inquiry. This morning CEO Jeremy Darroch wrote a piece for the Times in which he argued that BT's ownership of the network has left Britain in the broadband "slow lane".

The full Strategic Review of Digital Communications report is published on Thursday, so we can probably expect more corporate smack-talk then.