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BT ordered to open up broadband network to competitors

BT has been ordered by Ofcom to open up its networks to rival broadband providers.

The UK telecommunications regulatory body has been investigating BT’s Openreach broadband division, which maintains the cables that connect UK homes to telephone exchanges, to see if it’s providing good value to customers and fair opportunity to its competitors.

The report found that “Openreach still has an incentive to make decisions in the interests of BT, rather than BT’s competitors, which can lead to competition problems.”

As a result, Openreach will be required to open up its telegraph poles and ‘ducts’ – the underground tunnels that carry phone lines – to rival broadband providers. This means that said rivals will be able to build their own fibre-optic infrastructure rather than piggy-backing on BT’s.

To that end, Openreach has been ordered to make it easier for rivals to access these channels, which will involve providing a comprehensive ‘digital map’ of its network.

There was a very really possibility that Ofcom would order BT and Openreach to split. However, the conclusion of the report is that BT and Openreach can stay as one.

That’s not to say that there won’t be changes in the way that Openreach is run, after Ofcom found that the network was too reliant on BT for decision-making and budgetary control.

“In future, Openreach needs to take its own decisions on budget, investment and strategy,” says report. Openreach will have to consult its network rivals when making investment plans.

“The new model might require Openreach to become a ring-fenced, ‘wholly-owned subsidiary’ of BT Group, with its own purpose and board members,” reads the report, and Ofcom is keeping the threat of a full mandatory spin-off to hand.

Related: BT EE Merger Updates: What does it mean for you?

Ofcom is also going to be requiring shorter response times on fault repairs and new line installations of BT and Openreach. It’s going to be implementing performance tables, too, so that customers can be fully informed when they shop around for broadband.

Another important measure will be automatic compensation for customers and businesses when things go wrong. You won’t have to go chasing such things yourself.

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