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After long discussions between Ofcom and BT, Ofcom has finally decided Openreach will remain part of BT.

However, the caveat to this decision is that Openreach must do more to ensure rivals have full and unrestricted access to what is required in order for them to provide full fibre to the premises broadband (FTTP). They must also consult with industry experts before they make any major decisions.

If these terms are not met by Openreach, Ofcom still have the option to separate them from BT.

Strained relationship

BT and Ofcom don’t really have a great relationship as it stands, so there is no doubt Ofcom will be ready to act if they deem Openreach’s efforts to improve not good enough. An example of their differences could be when Openreach proposed ways on how to improve, with Ofcom chief executive Sharon White describing the proposal as a ‘marked-up, tracked change’ version of the original proposal when Openreach was first established. While BT CEO, Gavin Patterson, suggested the proposal was ‘positive’ and included a ‘new governance structure for Openreach’.

Pundits view

Chief executive at rural fibre supplier Gigaclear, Matthew Hare, thinks Ofcom’s terms were correct and reasonable and said ‘BT has to be made to want to do this, and it has to be offered a carrot. BT is too wealthy, too clever and has too many people for a stick to work’.

Dana Tobak, of FTTP supplier Hyperoptic agrees by commenting that ‘Openreach has tended to only reluctantly engage with third parties,” she said. “A big shift in attitude needs to happen to enable them to use their infrastructure.’.

Mark Shurmer, BT group director or regulatory affairs, was keen to move forward, but also argued that they had offered access to third parties for some time. However, critics say the process other companies had to go through to get access was far too difficult and there needed to be more transparency.

Some think that Ofcom should have just split Openreach from BT immediately, but this would likely lead to other shot term issues which had to be considered. So Ofcom have made a reasonably safe, middle-of-the-road, choice.

Further Reading

For more information on the above and also the debate on which communication deliveries to use, please visit: http://www.computerweekly.com/news/4500276370/After-Openreachs-reprieve-what-now-for-the-UKs-broadband-roll-out