Ofcom Warn Openreach: ‘No Room for Complacency’

Today, Ofcom have published a monitoring report and begun an investigation on Openreach's independence and service.

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Today, Ofcom have updated the public on the status of Openreach’s independence, and its compliance within the framework provided by them.

Openreach’s independence was established in 2018, a move that allowed Openreach the freedom of its own staff, management, purpose and strategy in the BT Group, and allowed it to really go for its intended purpose. Since the establishment, however, Ofcom have been really breathing down Openreach’s neck to make sure they comply to the guidelines set.

The latest report isn’t too news-filled, with Ofcom declaring that they have found the arrangements to be generally very well-established and embedded throughout Openreach and the further BT.

Despite this, however, they recognise that change within the company, such as new staff or new systems, have led to some issues and complacency. They admit the issues have been swiftly addressed, but not before reminding both BT and Openreach that all necessary steps must be taken soas to ensure ”complacency does not set in”.

The report today also highlights Ofcom’s view on the controversy surrounding Openreach’s recent actions- that being the plans for Equinox 2 and the effects this may have.

Ofcom state their views on whether actions or decisions by Openreach have risked distorting competition and harming the market.

Before talking about all the technical stuff, Ofcom mention BT’s wider competition-related obligations are dependent on the behaviour of the top members- and driven by example. Ofcom have no issue in stating the somewhat over-competitive comments earlier this year from BT’s Chief Executive Phillip Jansen. Jansen was reported as saying Openreach’s fibre push would ‘end in tears’ for competition earlier this year. This statement was a somewhat clear over-exaggeration, caused huge controversy and concern from Ofcom and industry.

Ofcom state that statements such as this are something under strict scrutiny now, and that they would be ‘extremely concerned’ to see comments like this again.

As for the work Openreach are currently doing- that being upgrading the entire UK to digital broadband, rather than the slower systems of yesterday.

This is where Ofcom announce their investigation. Annually, Openreach are set targets for their quality of service standards. The quality of service includes services such as standards for new repairs and new line provision. What Openreach announced to Ofcom was that it had fallen behind on the quality of service standards.

Among others, the targets Openreach must hit are:

  • Ensure that the mean Time To Provide completed orders is no more than 38 days in each relevant year.
  • Ensure that it completes 94% of provisions for MPF and GEA- FTTC Services, on time.
  • Ensure that it completes 85% of its repairs for faults that are subject to Service Managament Level 2, on time.

The way Openreach have fallen behind with each of these targets are extremely minor, often only differentiated by a decimal, but it’s enough to have Ofcom begin an investigation as to why. There’s doubt that any kind of significant action will be taken by the regulator, but it’ll be interesting to see what updates Ofcom will provide.

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