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BT Group given final lifeline to improve Openreach performances

BT van

Following the recent Ofcom announcement that confirmed BT Group and Openreach would be given another chance to improve their overall performance; Bluecube Managing Director Paul Reames gives his take on the news...

What's your take on the BT Openreach situation?

PR – My personal take on the latest Ofcom decision is that an opportunity to solve many of the failings of Openreach has been missed. BT are paid billions of pounds to maintain the national network through tax payer’s money and some of the profit they receive from customers. The general opinion amongst independent providers within the industry is that BT is spending billions on the rights for televised football instead of spending the money on upgrading the national communications network. Much of BT’s network is copper based which is 100 times slower than than the pure fibre that other countries already use.

Who does this decision affect in terms of the business sector and why ?

PR - Many businesses in rural areas, particularly in rural counties like Lincolnshire are affected by slow broadband. In 2016 every business needs a fast and reliable connection to the internet in order to compete. Many businesses are hindered by slow broadband options and BT/Openreach doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to address this problem. They seem more concerned in rolling out faster services such as fibre broadband to residential areas, where they can sell on demand services to. Businesses are often left to suffer slow broadband or spend thousands of pounds a year on alternative fast internet products.

How does your business use Openreach currently and why does it have to?

Bluecube have direct access to Openreach and regularly book installation and maintenance appointments for our customers using Openreach as there is no alternative. Service levels are generally poor, if a customer misses an appointment they are charged, if Openreach don’t turn up there is no obvious recourse for the customer and it simply means a delay to the customer. If things aren’t straightforward, as they often aren’t in our industry, speaking to Openreach is very difficult.

Why is the decision not to force BT and Openreach to split not the result that many businesses wanted?

I feel that a totally independent Openreach would be the best outcome for the industry and most importantly the customer. Although Openreach are under Ofcom guidance to offer independence there is still much evidence that BT gets priority over other carriers such as TalkTalk, Sky & Vodafone etc. In 2005 Ofcom broke BT's monopoly by opening up the national network to other carriers but BT is still by far the biggest and strongest player in the market. An independent Ofcom would surely be more focused on developing and upgrading the national network and giving the end user the customer service experience they deserve. Many of our business customers are forced to wait over 3 months for internet connections to be delivered by Openreach. When these customers are paying thousands of pounds per year in some cases, this surely isn’t good enough?

What do you want to happen and would you back another call to see it divided?

I would absolutely back another call to see BT and Openreach divided. At Bluecube we feel that BT “got away with it again” with the recent Ofcom ruling and that the only way to achieve real positive change is to make Openreach a completely independent organisation.