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Why Ofcom’s BT ruling is bad for internet users

Written by Sofia Gunnarsson  —  on 3rd November 2018.

There’s been a lot of talk in the press recently about openreach and BT, about issues of ownership of infrastructure and how that affects the roll out of high-speed broadband. But what does it all mean, and how are internet users, and those still waiting to be connected, being short-changed?

Openreach and BT

Openreach is a subsidiary of BT. While BT is an internet and telecoms provider, Openreach is the owner of the pipes and telephone lines that are used to carry phone and internet services in the UK.

Other internet service providers use the copper phone and cable lines to service their customers, but the lines are old, and have been outpaced by more modern forms of internet delivery – such as fibre, and wireless internet.

In 2015, MPs started calling for Openreach to be sold off, as people complained of delays in BT connecting their businesses and residences up to high-speed broadband.

Ofcom’s report

On 25th February 2016, telecoms regulator Ofcom, released its report on the future of BT’s Openreach programme. Many had hoped that Ofcom would demand that BT separate its internet arm away from the rest of the company, instead Ofcom ruled that BT could continue operating as is, it just has to allow other ISPs to use its cable network without delays.

Ofcom has said that Openreach must open up its network of telegraph poles and underground

ducts to allow others to build their own, advanced fibre networks, connected directly to homes

and offices. It also said that Openreach needs to take independent decisions on where to roll out broadband, how much money to spend on improving service quality and new high-speed broadband technology. Essentially it is meant to treat all ISPs the same, including BT.

BT appears to have welcomed this result, saying that rivals were free to make more use of its network, as long as they were: “genuinely keen to invest very large sums as we have done.”

The real question remains, can Openreach put the future of broadband in Britain first when it answers to BT and its shareholders?

What does this mean for ISPs and their customers?

Slower response time to faults

The fact is, the Government has a target to reach and it keeps having to move the goal posts. The roll-out of high-speed broadband has been fraught with delays, due in no small part to the problems cause by Openreach and its monopoly over the telecoms infrastructure in the UK.

In February this year, one router broke down, resulting in hundreds of thousands of internet users (both homes and businesses) losing access to the internet. The problem was experienced across the country – in London, Sheffield, Birmingham and Glasgow. What’s more, BT didn’t repair the fault until 7pm that day – four and a half hours after the failure, leaving homes and businesses offline for half of the working day.

No service

 There are areas of the country that are deemed too remote to make building infrastructure feasible. These hard to reach, remote areas are the kind of communities that we serve at Wifinity. What’s clear to us is that BT will continue to invest in redundant technology like copper lines. It will continue to focus on the areas where it can make the most profit, and it won’t go out of its way to make it easier for other ISPs to service these remote areas and the homes that desperately want connectivity.

If the Openreach monopoly is not addressed, many areas in the UK will continue to suffer from the issues that a lack of internet connectivity causes.

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