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BT's Chief Executive has warned that rolling out superfast broadband could take longer if its Openreach division is sold off.

Last month, a cross-party report by MPs stated that 5.7 million broadband customers currently have connections that fall short of Ofcom's acceptable minimum speed of 10Mbps. Some 3.5 million of these were said to live in rural areas.

The report therefore suggested that BT and its Openreach subsidiary be separated into two entirely independent companies, as this would end their "natural monopoly" over Britain's broadband infrastructure and lead to greater investment and innovation in the market.

However, BT Chief Executive Gavin Patterson believes the move would be time-consuming and divert funding "away from investment in UK infrastructure at a time when the UK is at a crucial stage of its development as a world-leading digital nation".

"Surely those impatient to see yet more homes and businesses get better broadband would rather that the money, time and effort went into the next stages of superfast broadband, and then into ultrafast?” he said.

Mr Patterson put forward his argument in letters sent to MPs across the UK that have been seen by the Daily Telegraph.

"BT is far from the old-fashioned, unchallenged monopoly some critics seem to suggest," he wrote.

Grant Shapps, the former Cabinet minister who led the report calling for Openreach's separation from BT, has responded by insisting he is a "huge supporter of ambitious British companies like BT doing well".

However, he said there are questions about whether taxpayers' money is being used as effectively as it could be.

Mr Shapps added that BT should not be going into "PR overdrive" following his report and should instead be spending its time and energy resolving the concerns of consumers who want better broadband access.

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