The British public have long suffered under Openreach, a firm that few had heard of but is currently wholly owned by BT and provides the network infrastructure for much of the UK’s internet. Now BT has agreed to legally separate the company, which should bring competitiveness and further investment into the UK’s broadband network.
BT has held a near monopoly over the UK’s network infrastructure since it was privatised in 1984, and while Openreach does already offer competitors such as Talk Talk and Vodafone use of its network, there have long been claims of expensive fees and a lack of investment.
Telecoms regulator Ofcom had threatened to force BT to legally separate its Openreach business to improve competitiveness, but today BT has agreed to all the conditions requested by Ofcom voluntarily.
The move has been welcomed by BT’s competitors, who see Openreach as central to growth and improvements to the UK’s network infrastructure, which they say has been neglected by BT.
Under the new structure, Openreach will have its own board and make its own investment decisions, with no top-down interference from BT. However, BT chief executive Gavin Patterson admitted that BT would still set its overall budget.
Culture Secretary Karen Brady commented:
“Now we need to see this deal implemented, along with significant improvements to Openreach’s service standards, and increased investment by Openreach in the country’s digital infrastructure.”
Photograph by Elliott Brown