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Ofcom rules BT must open up cable network to improve service

London, UK, Tuesday, 01 March, 2016

Ethernet Cables

The Ofcom ruling comes after much debate, where many have argued that despite having had £1.7bn of tax-payer’s money at its disposal, BT’s Openreach service has failed to improve the broadband service that consumers receive. 

The tax-payer deserves better - is the conclusion that was reached by MPs in a report commissioned by ex-Tory chairman Grant Shapps.  The report, endorsed by 121 cross-party MPs stated that 5.7?million people in the UK, 3.5 of which live in rural areas do not receive the minimum expected download speeds of ten megabits per second as stipulated by Ofcom, and that some customers experienced “no service at all”.   

All of this has created what is called a digital divide, with some getting great internet service and others not. The report highlights the problems for business, the success of which relies heavily on having good and consistent access to high-speed internet. In particular, the report highlights that 43 per cent of SMEs report connectivity problems and 29 percent suffered from poor service. 

What is Openreach? 
Openreach is a subsidiary company of BT, which was formed in 2006 when Ofcom, the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, required BT to allow its competitors access to their fibre cables. This was to ensure equal access to BT’s local networks for telecom operators and to promote super-fast broadband take up nationally. Many had called for a complete break-up, with Openreach being sold off. However, Ofcom have stopped short as yet, of this ruling. 

What does Ofcom’s ruling mean for you? 
For individual households, a failure by Openreach to improve services and provide people with high-speed internet access is not only frustrating but also fails to keep pace with changing consumer habits. Our consumption of music, TV and film, which has seen a surge towards on demand streaming services- simply isn’t ‘on demand’ if one has to wait for two hours to download a movie to watch. 

The idea behind today’s ruling by Ofcom is that rival internet service providers, and particularly smaller providers will be able to act with freedom to meet their customers’ needs.  They will be able to invest and lay their own fibre cables, providing many more people with super-fast broadband, improving their service for existing customers and more broadly, removing the digital divide. 

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