BT Fights Back In Openreach Debate

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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BLOG: BT CEO Gavin Patterson says demands for pro-investment regulation are not a threat, but it hopes broadband promises will sway debate

“This isn’t a threat,” said BT CEO Gavin Patterson shortly after he unveiled his company’s plans to extend fibre coverage, boost speeds and roll out ultrafast infrastructure – so long as the regulatory environment favoured investment.

For weeks now, BT’s rivals have made no secret of the fact they hope Ofcom’s first major review of the UK communications market will result in the creation of a fully independent Openreach.

The war of words, carried out in official documents and the media, has seen Sky, TalkTalk and others claim BT has an unfair advantage in fibre, harming consumers and businesses.

The Empire Strikes Back

BT EventBT has refuted all allegations, claiming there is no need for breakup, but its charm offensive at London’s iconic ‘Cheesegrater’ skyscraper was used not only to outline its vision for the future of broadband in the UK but also to set its arguments in stone.

Patterson might not be threatening Ofcom, indeed he says he’s had constructive conversations with the regulator, but he is intent on making it crystal clear what he believes BT has achieved under the current structure and what it hopes to do over the next 15 years if it has the regulation it needs.

He said current coverage figures and promises of minimum speeds 10Mbps for all properties, fibre coverage that goes beyond current government targets and the rollout of ultrafast broadband are only possible because of the capital and research abilities afforded to Openreach by being part of BT.

“This is what we can deliver if you give us some regulatory certainty over the next ten years,” said Patterson. “This isn’t a binary decision per se. We’ve set out a vision where we feel we can take digital Britain.

“A lot of the debate today has focused on a small aspect of this and were not talking about how we can kick on.”

The company has moved to quieten the noise made by its rivals before, not least when it said Sky’s claims about BT’s broadband ‘dominance’ were merely a smokescreen to distract from a ‘distorted’ Pay-TV market, but after weeks of open letters and document publications, it has decided to make a stand.

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