Friday, August 14, 2020

IoD welcomes Ofcom’s drive to boost broadband competition

The Institute of Directors has welcomed Ofcom’s Strategic Review of Digital Communications, published today, which outlines measures to improve competition in the UK broadband industry.

Dan Lewis, senior infrastructure policy adviser at the Institute of Directors, said: “BT has been granted a stay of execution, but Ofcom has made it clear that it will keep the axe ready in case Openreach fails to make substantial improvements to the service it offers customers. There remain real concerns about BT’s influence over Openreach and the effect this has on competition in the broadband market, so we welcome the regulator’s decision to shake-up governance at the company.

“Ofcom has also rightly demanded that BT gives rival broadband companies easier access to their network of telegraph poles and underground ducts. There are examples of countries, such as Lithuania and Spain, where easy, low-cost access has dramatically improved the reach of fibre optic cable to homes and businesses and promoted competition. The UK is seriously lagging behind the rest of Europe on coverage of fibre, meaning that even in city centres many customers are subject to grindingly slow broadband speeds.

“Demand for data is growing rapidly, and the only way to future-proof the UK’s broadband infrastructure is through the roll-out of fibre, so Ofcom is right to promote this as an alternative to copper cables. The current set up, with the major broadband provider being part of the same group that owns the cables, poles and pipes, may not in the long term be able to deliver the network that the UK’s rapidly expanding internet economy needs. Even after Ofcom’s changes, BT Group will still extract value from competitors paying to use Openreach’s network, so a full investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority must remain on the table.

“The end goal must be to create a flourishing, competitive market for telecoms infrastructure that moves UK broadband speeds up to the top tier of the global rankings.”

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