Lincolnshire

Onlincolnshire broadband scheme ‘unlikely’ to be affected by BT split from Openreach

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The Onlincolnshire superfast broadband project is unlikely to be impacted by the forced separation of BT and its Openreach division.

BT has been ordered to legally split away from its Openreach branch, which has helped to deliver Onlincolnshire’s scheme of faster fibre broadband to 90% of homes and businesses in the county.

The order has come from Ofcom following pressure from rival companies, however Onlincolnshire has said the ruling is unlikely to impact on its scheme to increase access to superfast broadband within the county.

Steve Brooks from Onlincolnshire said: “The Ofcom ruling is unlikely to have any impact on our work.

“We’ve already brought better broadband to more than 150,000 homes and businesses, so that over 90% of the county now has access to superfast speeds and we’ve recently started a second phase of work that will extend coverage to 95% by the end of 2017.

“Those that can’t get superfast speeds can apply for discounted satellite technology through our website, www.onlincolnshire.org.

We’re confident further funding will become available in future to help us tackle some of the remaining ‘not-spots’.

It was announced in March that BT was under pressure to significantly cut the prices it charges rivals to use business lines.

Ofcom will now proceed with a formal notification to require the legal separation of Openreach from BT, after it failed to offer voluntary proposals that address our competition concerns.

A BT spokesperson said: “We note Ofcom’s announcement this morning, updating on the next steps of the Digital Communications Review.

“We put forward proposals in July that we believe are fair and sustainable, and that meet Ofcom’s objectives without disproportionate costs.

“We are implementing these proposals, and have just appointed Mike McTighe to be the first chairman of Openreach.

“We are in discussions with Ofcom on two outstanding issues, the reporting line of the Openreach CEO and the form of legal incorporation.

“We will continue to work with Ofcom to reach a voluntary settlement that is good for customers, shareholders, employees, pensioners and investment in the UK’s digital future.”

A spokesperson for Ofcom said: “We are disappointed that BT has not yet come forward with proposals that meet our competition concerns. Some progress has been made, but this has not been enough, and action is required now to deliver better outcomes for phone and broadband users.”

The proposal requires Openreach to become a distinct company with its own board.

This would comprise a majority of non-executive directors, including the chair, who are not affiliated with BT.

The Ofcom spokesperson continued: “Openreach would be guaranteed greater independence to make decisions on strategic investments, with a duty to treat all of its customers equally.

“We are now preparing to notify the European Commission of our intention to implement these plans, requiring the legal separation of Openreach to make it more independent.

“Throughout this process, we remain open to BT bridging the gap between its proposal and what is required to address our strong competition concerns.”