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Broadband providers urge UK firms to have their say on Ofcom’s BT-Openreach proposals

Nationwide campaign seeks to enable UK businesses to make their views known as regulator considers the future of BT-Openreach

The telecommunications industry has launched a nationwide campaign to alert UK businesses about how they can contribute to Ofcom’s 10-week Openreach consultation.

Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone have joined forces with the Federation of Communication Services to launch the Fix Britain’s Internet campaign, which aims to ensure the connectivity needs of UK businesses are taken into account when Ofcom rules on the future of Openreach later this year.

Visitors to the Fix Britain’s Internet website can use a web form embedded in the page to email their local MP and Ofcom about how they think BT’s infrastructure arm should be run in future.

The providers involved in the campaign all rely on the Openreach network to provide broadband services to UK homes and business, but claim it is stopping them from meeting their customers’ connectivity expectations.

“Millions of homes and businesses don’t have the fast, reliable internet they need,” the Fix Britain’s Internet website states. “We think everyone deserves better broadband.

“This summer, for the first time, you have the power to make a difference. Ofcom, the industry regulator, has launched a public consultation on what changes are needed and they want to know what you think.

“If you think your family or business deserves better internet, email Ofcom and have your say. This is a once-in-a-decade chance to make your voice heard.”

On 26 July, the regulator published details of the steps it feels should be taken to reduce BT Group’s hold on Openreach so it can operate in a more independent, anti-competitive way.

Ofcom has proposed establishing Openreach as a standalone legal entity within BT Group, with its own CEO, board of directors and distinct branding.

The regulator is now seeking feedback from the public on its proposals, and Fix Britain’s Internet said it intends to ensure UK businesses are included in the debate.

Read more about BT Openreach

“Ofcom’s proposals simply don’t go far enough, and we know many people up and down the country feel the same way,” said TalkTalk CEO Dido Harding. “This is a once-in-a-decade opportunity for them to tell the regulator directly that they don’t want a half-way house for another decade – they want truly radical change now.

“For too long, UK businesses have been let down by the nation’s broadband infrastructure, receiving poor speeds and even poorer service. How is the UK economy supposed to grow and compete with the rest of the world with one hand tied behind its back by failing broadband?”

News of the campaign came on the same day that the Local Government Association (LGA) called on Whitehall for clarification about when the legal right for householders to access broadband services of 10Mbps will be established as a universal standard obligation (USO).

The proposal was mooted in the Digital Economy Bill, which was presented to Parliament in early July this year.

Timetable of delivery

However, in light of the recent post-Brexit staffing changes at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the LGA is calling on the government to reaffirm its commitment to the pledge with a concrete timetable of delivery.

Mark Hawthorne, chairman of the LGA’s People and Places Board, said the organisation is keen to ensure the recent turnover of staff in Whitehall will not delay the USO’s introduction.

“Equally, while this minimum standard is a good start, it must keep pace with national average speeds and the expectations of households, especially at peak times,” he said. “Without this, there is the real possibility of some areas – particularly in rural and hard-to-reach areas – falling into a digital twilight zone. 

“Achieving 10Mbps should be just the start and something to build on because demand for, and availability of, faster speeds continues to grow. For the farmer applying for funding, the small business processing its invoices or the GP checking the availability of medicines, broadband is communities’ lifeblood.”

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