Ofcom Orders BT to Open Openreach to Other Firms

By Gary Cutlack on at

Comms regulator Ofcom has finally decided what to do about BT and its Openreach infrastructure monopoly, and the answer is... not much. Save for a few promises about forcing through the "increased independence" of the sibling and opening up more of the network to competitors.

Ofcom's Strategic Review of Digital Communications document isn't all amazing news for BT as there will have to be some changes. The key demand is that: "Openreach must open up its network of telegraph poles and underground tunnels to allow others to build their own, advanced fibre networks, connected directly to homes and offices. This will help create more choice, while reducing the country’s reliance on Openreach," meaning there could be more men in vans plugging things in at your local cabinet to try to make your internet go as fast as it's supposed to.

Ofcom is also looking at compulsory refunds for crappy services, adding: "Ofcom intends to introduce tougher rules on faults, repairs and installations; transparent information on service quality; and automatic compensation for consumers when things go wrong," and only about a decade too late, the regulator says it's going to start forcing BT -- the new owner of EE -- and the other mobile networks to consider rural users, saying: "...when we release airwaves for mobile phone companies, we intend to place new obligations in these future spectrum licences to improve rural mobile coverage."

So there's some work to do, but let BT's been let off the hook for the most part. BT boss Gavin Patterson seems to be happy, saying: "We are happy to let other companies use our ducts and poles if they are genuinely keen to invest very large sums as we have done. Our ducts and poles have been open to competitors since 2009 but there has been little very interest to date. We will see if that now changes." [Ofcom]

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