Cross-party group of MPs: BT should be forced to sell Openreach
The British Infrastructure Group (BIG), a cross-party group of 121 Members of Parliament dedicated to promoting better infrastructure across the entire United Kingdom has today released a report (PDF) entitled “Broadbad“, which has determined that some 5.7 million broadband customers (of whom 3.5 mn. live in rural areas0 and 400,000 businesses experience “dire” connection speeds despite quasi-monopoly supplier BT having received £1.7 bn. from the taxpayer to improve services.
In the view of the report “dire” speeds mean that connections do not reach Ofcom’s “acceptable” minimum speed of 10Mbit/s.
Since the UK economy now so reliant on its internet infrastructure, the BIG report contends that the country’s future is being held back by systemic underinvestment stemming from the ‘natural monopoly’ of BT and its Openreach subsidiary. The report concludes that the current situation is stifling competition, hurting ordinary people and in the process limiting Britain’s business and economic potential, costing the UK economy up to £11 bn. per year.
The report calls on the regulator Ofcom to take radical action over the ‘natural monopoly’ too long enjoyed by BT Openreach.
BIG members believe that Britain should be leading the world in digital innovation, yet instead the country has a monopoly company clinging to outdated copper technology with no proper long-term plan for the future. A start needs to be made on converting to a fully fibre network so Britain is not left behind other nations. However, according to the report, this will only be achieved by taking action to open up the sector. Given all the delays and missed deadlines, BIG believes that only a formal
separation of BT from Openreach, combined with fresh competition and a concerted ambition to deliver, will create the broadband service that the country so rightly demands.
According to The Guardian, BT’s response was that it took any criticism seriously, but described the BIG report as “misleading and ill-judged”, claiming the proposal to break the business up was “wrong-headed”. Furthermore, a government spokesman labelled the figures in the BIG report as “entirely misleading”.
Some of the scepticism about the report could be because the BIG group is chaired by former Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps MP, a man with an alleged dubious business record (ably assisted by Michael Green and Sebastian Fox, pechance? Ed. 😉 ).
Other prominent members of the group include the Liberal Democrat former Scottish secretary, Alistair Carmichael, Labour MP Helen Goodman and Douglas Carswell, Ukip’s lone Member of Parliament. A cursory glance of the committee’s membership also revealed 6 local(-ish) parliamentarians: North Somerset’s right-wing former minister Liam Fox (no sign of Adam Werrity. Ed. 😉 ), Cotswolds Tory Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, Chippenham’s Michelle Donelan, Yeovil’s Marcus Fysh, Bath’s Ben Howlett (not to be confused with the Aussie rules footballer of the same name. Ed.) and the eccentric member for Bridgwater, Ian Liddell-Grainger.