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Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone have written to Ofcom to state how they believe Openreach could be reformed.

Earlier this year, Ofcom published its Strategic Review of Digital Communication, which outlines a strategy to promote the rollout of ultrafast broadband facilities on a large scale, based on cable and fibre lines.

While the regulator stopped short of demanding that Openreach be separated from BT, it did suggest that it be governed "at arm's length from BT, with greater independence in taking its own decisions on budget, investment and strategy". 

Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone have since joined an industry coalition with the Independent Networks Cooperative Association (INCA) and the FCS (Federation of Communication Services) and put together a plan stating how this could realistically be achieved.

In an open letter to Ofcom Chief Executive Sharon White, they stated that Openreach should be established as a legally separate company.

This, they said, is a necessary first step to "true independence", as it will allow it to agree a contract with a customer, employ staff, and own assets, just as any other UK company does.

"Today, these basic functions are all carried out by BT Group on Openreach’s behalf," the plan noted.

Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone have also suggested that Openreach has its own independent Board, with every member being appointed via a documented, independent process in line with the UK Corporate Governance Code.

They suggested that these board members must not be BT executives, hold any position on a BT board or committee, or have held such a position in the previous two years.

The chair of the board would be independent of both Openreach and BT, while the majority of board members would be non-executive directors. 

Openreach's transition to a legally separate organisation with fully independent operations could then be overseen by a newly-established independent body, which would act in an adjudication capacity to help resolve issues that cannot be agreed between Openreach and providers.

Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone went on to stress that Openreach needs to be given the tools it needs in order to successfully operate independently. This, they said, means it should own and control its assets, have its own distinctive and independent branding and be financially independent, with autonomy over its budget.

The proposal stated: "If implemented in full, the plan will create a reformed Openreach capable of delivering better quality services and faster, more reliable speeds for all its customers. Ultimately, this means better broadband and mobile internet for UK households, consumers and businesses - thereby boosting UK competitiveness. 

"Several proposals are modelled on the proven independence arrangements which exist in other UK sectors including energy, media, rail, civil aviation and water markets. And we draw on the experience of other progressive countries such as New Zealand and Singapore, which demonstrate that reforms of this kind this can be achieved without prohibitive cost."

Andrew Griffith, Group Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer at Sky, said: "These proposals can be implemented quickly and will deliver a much needed step-change in the performance of Openreach for millions of consumers and businesses across the UK."

Dido Harding, Chief Executive of TalkTalk, added that it has been "clear for a long time" that the UK’s current broadband infrastructure is not fit for purpose, with promised improvements failing to materialise.

"Customers want to see radical change happening - more investment, better service, more choice," she commented.

"Structural separation remains the simplest, most effective solution, but while Ofcom considers all options, we have set out the bare minimum required to deliver the change customers need."

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