BT Openreach’s lack of transparency over the cost and deployment plans for the Broadband Delivery UK programme is stifling local competition, the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee has said.
BT must invest much more in Openreach programme, say MPs – Photo credit: PA
In its report into ensuring there is proper connectivity across the UK, which called for BT to give Openreach much more autonomy in what it invests and where, the committee said that there is much to be done to ensure rcomplete roll-out of highspeed broadband.
The committee said that the government’s plan to provide access to broadband in what is known as the “final five percent” of homes that are without access – often in rural areas – through a Universal Service Obligation of a minimum of 10Mbps initially is right. However, it added that this will probably need to be increased to 30Mbps by 2022.
In order to reach this target, there will need to be active and willing cooperation of local communities, as well as more thought from local authorities about how to advertise solutions to poor connectivity to those who need it most.
The report also said that local authorities can help by opening up their existing ducts and fibre for their own connectivity, CCTV and other networks to third part providers – Hammersmith and Fulham is already doing this, it noted.
However, the committee’s main recommendations surround BT’s Openreach programme, which it says needs much more investment.
“The shortfall in investment in Openreach could potentially be hundreds of millions of pounds a year,” the MPs said. “It arises because BT appears to be deliberately investing in higher-risk, higher-return assets such as media properties, and not investing in profitable lower risk infrastructure and services through Openreach.”
The report said that if reforms are not successful then the communications regulator Ofcom – which declined to separate BT and Openreach earlier this year – should enforce a full separation.
The report said that a lack of transparency in Openreach’s plans has meant that there is little local competition and has “thwarted other network providers’ planning”.
It also said that the funding model for the Broadband Delivery UK programme allows local authorities to receive a refund from BT when there is higher-than-forecast take up of superfast broadband services, and that local bodies should be able to reinvest this anywhere – not just on BT Openreach.