BT rivals call for CMA probe of nation’s broadband services

21 Sep 2015

In a letter to British news outlet the Financial Times a group of telecom and media companies, along with the Institute of Directors, have banded together to denounce the quality of the nation’s broadband services. The signatories of the letter – which include Dido Harding, chief executive at TalkTalk, the CEO of Sky Jeremy Darroch, and Vodafone UK’s chief executive Jeroen Hoencamp – have called for the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to investigate fixed line incumbent’s BT role in the market. Arguing that BT’s ownership of the UK’s national telecoms network has led to a ‘substandard experience for millions of customers’, the alternative operators have called for a ‘radical reform’ of the broadband sector, adding: ‘It is … crucial that Ofcom moves as quickly as possible to ask the CMA, with its far reaching powers, to undertake a full market investigation … Only the CMA, with the support of Ofcom, can address the structural barriers to competition that will unlock the next wave of investment.’

Notably, the parties suggested that BT be required to divest Openreach, its network division, in order to improve access for alternative operators to the national broadband infrastructure. The letter claimed that there were serious problems linked to BT’s infrastructure ownership, including ‘a conflict of interest in the role of BT, poor quality of customer service and difficulties in enforcing the existing regulatory regime’. In response, BT has been cited as saying: ‘We acknowledge that there is more to do on customer service but Openreach is exceeding all 60 of the service targets set by Ofcom and breaking up BT is not the answer … It would lead to huge uncertainty and fundamentally undermine the case for future investment, dragging the UK backwards at the very time it needs important investment in its infrastructure.’