BT Not Forced To Split As The North Still Suffers From Slow Speeds.

Last updated on April 14th, 2021 at 11:41 am

internetspeed

We recently posted about the broadband speeds in the UK and whether or not BT was doing enough to increase speeds for all. Now, according to data by City Metric, the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ still has some of the slowest internet speeds in the country with Sheffield only reaching speeds of 15.4Mbps compared with 20.4Mbps in London.

“‘Northern Powerhouse’ still has some of the slowest internet speeds in the country”.

Cities in the middle and south of the county mostly run on fibre optic cables, as opposed to phone cables, meaning superfast broadband for Southerners. Major northern cities aside, the issue is that the quality of broadband provided isn’t as high in the northern areas of the country compared to the Midlands and the south. Known as the ‘last mile’ the networks provided by BT are strongest in the south and become weaker towards the north where rival companies such as TalkTalk, Vodafone and Sky pay to use the network. The dip in quality is due to the fact that BT invest in places that will make them the most money; our capital being the obvious place to start.

Ofcom’s long awaited review

As Ofcom’s review of BT is released, Jeremy Darroch, Chief Executive of Sky, criticised BT for not investing enough money in fibre optic broadband. Darroch explained to The Times that because BT owns Openreach, the one national broadband network in the UK, it has the ability to determine how fast it will be. Because BT faces such small competition it can choose to invest, or not, in whatever it wishes with little risk on their profits, “safe in the knowledge that it will keep its captive customers”.

Sky, along with a number of other big names, have been backing calls for BT to separate from Openreach in the past few months in order to widen the market and help deliver speeds of 1Gbps that the UK requires in order to keep up with the rest of the world.

“Underinvestment by BT leaves their competitors unable to provide adequate services”

BT claims to be the only telecoms provider with the ability to manage the vast network efficiently and suggested that Sky and TalkTalk ought to be thankful for the service it provides to them instead of complaining that they’re receiving BT’s ‘sloppy seconds’. BT’s competitors, however, insist that Openreach provides poor service due to underinvestment by BT leaving them with less chance to provide a fast service and make a profit.

2H

Ofcom have now officially reviewed the current monopoly BT has on the UK’s broadband network and decided that, much to the disappointment of Sky and TalkTalk, BT isn’t required to split from Openreach. However, due to BT’s refusal to invest in a fibre optic network, Ofcom wants Openreach to open up its telegraph poles and tunnels allowing competitors to upgrade the network themselves. Though it seems that BT have been dealt with too lightly, they may still be forced to split from Openreach in the future if they fail to create a more independent and fair network for its competitors. Sharon White, Chief Executive of Ofcom, explained that these new proposals would lead to a “fundamental reform” of the entire telecoms market.

Undoubtedly, everyone other than BT will be disappointed with Ofcom’s decision. Tim Farron, Lib Dem leader, said that Ofcom had “bottled it” and missed an opportunity to separate Openreach from BT and create a fairer market. After months of protests by its rivals, BT have too campaigned for the continued ownership of Openreach by promising £1bn of extra investment in superfast broadband.

Ofcom are a powerful independent organisation but their recommendations are exactly that: recommendations. Though their reviews and suggestions come heavily weighted with power they carry no legal requirement. So though it may seem that they have missed a huge opportunity, and they may well have, it does not mean that BT would have actually split from Openreach had that been the suggestion by Ofcom. BT’s PR manager already has plenty to deal with, so perhaps they would have indeed done the right thing, though they wouldn’t have been legally obliged to.

For now the monopoly remains however BT and Openreach will be under more scrutiny than ever in their supposed provision of superfast broadband for all.

Do you think that BT would have split from Openreach had Ofcom had suggested it in its review?

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