Ofcom’s decision to order BT to legally separate from its Openreach division has been given a mixed reception by farming and countryside groups.
The telecoms regulator said Openreach, which runs the UK’s broadband infrastructure, should become a separate company within the BT group.
Farmers Union of Wales managing director Alan Davies said: “This is good news, in terms of making the market fairer to other companies and the consumer. However, Openreach is still owned by BT so the devil will no doubt be in the detail.
“What we need here in Wales is fair and equal access to the country’s telecoms infrastructure and this has to be open to BT’s competitors so broadband is available in even the most remote parts of our country.”
In a report in July this year, Ofcom criticised BT for favouring its own retail business when making strategic decisions about new network investments by Openreach.
The regulator has now said it is ‘disappointed’ BT has not yet come forward with satisfactory proposals to deal with the competition issues highlighted in the July report and ‘action is required to deliver better outcomes for phone and broadband users’.
Ofcom is in the process of preparing a formal notification to the European Commission to begin the separation, but it stopped short of cutting Openreach off entirely from BT, a move other telecoms companies have called for.
Instead, Openreach will become a separate company inside the BT group with control over its branding and budget allocation. It will also have its own board with non-executives and a chairperson not affiliated with BT.
The news was given a lukewarm reception from CLA senior business adviser Charles Trotman, who said: “Any formal break between BT and Openreach must not lose sight of the goal to deliver broadband to rural areas.
“Ofcom must make it clear that the conditions of the separation include guarantees for future investment to further support rural digital connectivity.”