Nick Thompson, CEO Gradwell Communications adds his voice to the clamour for BT to be broken up.
It is interesting to see that this week, when leaders of both Vodafone and Sky both made a final plea for BT & Openreach to be broken up – http://ow.ly/YS78d, that Ofcom’s findings is that it would not serve the national interest to require BT OpenReach to move to an independent company.
In the wake of the British Infrastructure Group’s recently published report, titled “BroadBad”, highlighting the fact that there are millions currently suffering with dire internet service and coverage due to BT’s failings surely the only conclusion is that UK’s digital infrastructure is in the hands of a congenitally incompetent and incapable organisation. Indeed, perusal of BTs 2015 annual report, which showed Openreach delivering £5bn in revenue and £1.2bn operating profit, demonstrates that in BT’s eyes profit is better than good connectivity.
These results also demonstrate why BT Group is willing to go to war to protect its monopoly on digital infrastructure, why wouldn’t you want to protect 34% of your entire operating profit, especially when it is predicted to rise into 2016. However, viewed through objective eyes surely these financial figures alone make a compelling case for the imperative that both BT and Openreach should be separated.
As a service provider helping over 20,000 small business customers up and down the UK, Gradwell increasingly sees the importance of the upstream speed not just the downstream speed. With Voice Over IP calls and the increasing use of cloud applications such as Office365, the two-way nature of BroadGood mustn’t be overlooked.
The recently published BroadBad report goes a long way to identifying the core problem with BT OpenReach being rooted in services that are not symmetrical. The reality is that BT Openreach’s end to end process continually causes business impacting delays to the end customer and leaves the independent service provider caught in between. Until BT Openreach is a truly independent and accountable commercial organisation, then the sad fact is that Broadbad will continue and the UK will continue to lag the world in digital infrastructure capability.
Criticism is all very well, but you have to propose an alternative and at Gradwell we believe that the accountability we are all longing for could be achieved by following a mutual model, or series of regional mutual models, whereby the business is run by professionals overseen by a broad gamut of local business delegates, possibly even the LEP, acting as a steering board. This would ensure that the small businesses who are far too often left without a voice, are empowered to play an active part in ensuring that UK digital infrastructure moves from BroadBad to BroadGood.