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Openreach rivals say no to more Openreach regulation

Members of the Infrastructure Investors Group pressurise Ofcom to support fairer competition in infrastructure investment with lighter regulation

A group of BT Openreach rivals has formed a consortium to lobby for a communications market that favours more competition and more investment – and proposes that Ofcom should consider lighter regulation of BT’s infrastructure arm.

The Infrastructure Investors Group (IIG) is composed of urban fibre supplier CityFibre, datacentre and cloud connectivity firm euNetworks, mass-market cable broadband operator Virgin Media and dark fibre and backhaul specialist Zayo.

Collectively, the IIG has plans to deploy billions of pounds of capital in broadband projects around the country, creating a significant economic stimulus to the UK.

It believes that, if Ofcom effectively enables its members to make more long-term investments in the UK’s ultrafast fibre infrastructure, it will result in more innovation, customer choice, competition and access to better connectivity throughout the UK.

Group spokesman, CityFibre’s director of strategy and public affairs Mark Collins, told Computer Weekly that the IIG was not about opposing BT for the sake of it.

Rather, he said, it was about ensuring that the voices of other infrastructure investors are heard at a critical moment for UK broadband policy, as Ofcom prepares to publish responses to its Business Connectivity Market Review and forges ahead with its Strategic Communications Market Review.

A key plank of Ofcom’s Business Connectivity Market Review is a proposal for Openreach to be forced to open up its dark fibre network to rivals.

However Collins said this may turn out to be counter-productive, because it risks pushing focus away from the investments in rival dark fibre networks made by IIG members.

“If you create a platform that just drives the providers [ISPs] that don’t build their own networks to one dominant provider’s infrastructure, that risks enabling an infrastructure monopoly for BT,” he said. “By putting in place short-term measures, we risk BT becoming a dominant player.”

“There should be a lighter touch in all areas where there is potential competition at an infrastructure level, and that is predominantly in every urban area in the UK.”

Collins said the IIG would consider speaking up over rural broadband where it made sense to do so – but, because rural investment was overwhelmingly based around state intervention and BDUK was essentially subsidising BT’s network build, the arguments for rural competition were not as strong.

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