INTERNET FIRMS Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone are, once again, urging Ofcom to kickstart an investigation into BT Openreach, blasting the firm as detrimental to the future of the UK broadband market.
In an open letter published by The Financial Times, the companies - along with the Institute of Directors (IoD) - urge Ofcom to call on the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to conduct a full and thorough investigation of the market, with a view to splitting up BT Openreach into two companies.
"Every home and business in Britain deserves fast and reliable broadband access," the letter reads. "It is essential if Britain is to fulfil its potential to be the world’s leading digital economy. Unfortunately, today's broadband market is letting customers, businesses and Britain down. It is time we considered radical reform.
"Ofcom is conducting the most fundamental review of the communications market in a decade, and has identified serious problems with the ownership of the national telecoms network by BT Openreach. These include a conflict of interest in the role of BT, poor quality of customer service and difficulties in enforcing the existing regulatory regime.
"There is an urgent need for increased competition so that alternative providers are encouraged to invest and innovate to solve the challenges ahead."
The companies perhaps haven't gone the right way about winning over Ofcom, with its letter adding that Ofcom's own powers are "insufficient for the new superfast world".
"It is therefore crucial that Ofcom moves as quickly as possible to ask the Competition and Markets Authority, with its far-reaching powers, to undertake a full market investigation," the letter continues.
"Only the CMA, with the support of Ofcom, can address the structural barriers to competition that will unlock the next wave of investment in communications infrastructure that the country urgently needs. We cannot afford to wait."
BT has responded to the letter, arguing that splitting into two companies would "drag the UK backwards."
"BT has invested £10.5bn of capital into Openreach over the past 10 years and last year we invested more than ever before. This year, our investment in Openreach will be even higher," a company spokesperson said.
"That has helped put the UK ahead of its European peers when it comes to superfast broadband coverage, speeds and prices – and we have outlined plans to go even further and faster.
"We acknowledge that there is more to do on customer service, but Openreach is exceeding all 60 of the service targets set by Ofcom and breaking up BT is not the answer.
"It would lead to huge uncertainty and fundamentally undermine the case for future investment, dragging the UK backwards at the very time it needs important investment in its infrastructure." µ
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