Criticism of performance

BT should sell Openreach broadband service, say MPs

OpenreachMPs are putting pressure on telecoms giant BT  to offload Openreach, its broadband business, following criticism from customers.

The report, commissioned by ex-Tory chairman Grant Shapps and backed by 121 cross-party MPs, says the cabling service which connects homes and businesses had not reached targets despite receiving £1.7 billion from the taxpayer.

Mr Shapps’s report points to 400,000 small and medium-sized companies which do not have access to superfast broadband.

It adds that more than five million customers receive unacceptable download speeds.

The report says that Openreach had suffered from lack of investment and that it needed to be split off from BT. It says Openreach of makes “vast profits and finds little reason to invest in the network, install new lines or even fix faults in a properly timely manner”.

It adds: “We deserve better. We should be leading the world on digital investment and innovation. Instead we have a company that clings to outdated copper technology with no long-term plan for the future.”

Responding to the criticism, Gavin Patterson, BT’s chief executive, told the BBC that more than 90% of UK premises could access superfast broadband. He said that selling Openreach would “create huge uncertainty and create a weaker company that ultimately could be vulnerable to takeover.”.

Copper, he said, was not an outdated technology, and was capable of internet speeds of 500 megabytes per second.

The report comes days after it emerged that BT may be ordered to dispose of Openreach following its £12.5bn acquisition of mobile operator EE. The competition regulator last week approved the merger unconditionally, saying it was satisfied that it would not adversely impact on the market. But analysts say a review of the telecoms sector may reach a different conclusion.

Ofcom, the telecoms regulator, said it is considering forcing BT to sell off the telecoms network and will reveal its decision in a report due next month.


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