Sergey Nivens - Fotolia

BT says it's "absolutely willing" to create independent board to run Openreach

BT Group chairman Michael Rake says the organisation is willing to let an independent board oversee Openreach’s spending and strategy decisions

BT Group chairman Michael Rake said the organisation is open to allowing its infrastructure arm, Openreach, to become more self-sufficient and independent.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4 on 25 July 2016, Rake said the company is willing to establish an independent board of directors to run Openreach, and give the division greater control of how it spends its money.

“We’re absolutely willing to form an Openreach board that will have an independent chairman and a majority of independent directors,” he said.

“We’re willing to give more authority to Openreach in determination of its capital investment programme.”

On top of this, he said the organisation is also keen to make it easier for third-party communications providers, which rely on the Openreach network to deliver services to their customers, to ensure they are getting everything they need out of the partnership.

“We want to formalise more their ability to listen to communication providers, so they’re engaging with them, ensuring we can make sure we’re delivering for them as well as BT Retail.”

Rake’s comments follow on from the publication of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s report into Openreach on 19 July 2016, which called for the subsidiary to be given greater autonomy when it comes to making spending and strategy decisions.

This was on the back of claims made elsewhere in the report that BT had under-invested in Openreach over several years, and has failed to take steps address complaints about the quality of service it delivers.

Read more about BT and Openreach

Rake moved to address both these claims during his time on Radio 4, stating that the company had invested significantly in Openreach during the height of the financial crisis, before conceding that its customer service levels do need to improve.

“We started an investment programme in the height of the recession into fibre – rolled it out to the country – and we spent significant amounts of money with relatively low returns, which has achieved what we think is a very competitive, high-level of coverage and very good prices,” he said.

“However, in this sense, the committee are right – it’s not enough and we need to do more.”

On that point, he said the organisation is willing to ramp up its investment in Openreach over the next several years, which should pave the way for its customer service levels to improve.

“We’re working on a number of different aspects. We’re doing a lot of work on technology platforms to improve the quality of customer service and the customer experience,” he said.

Communications regulator Ofcom is set to deliver its verdict on the future of Openreach tomorrow, having previously ruled in favour of it remaining part of the BT Group.

Read more on Telecoms networks and broadband communications