Telecoms regulator Ofcom has announced a series of measures designed to hold Openreach to account as it transitions towards legal separation from its parent, BT, including the creation of a dedicated Openreach Monitoring Unit.
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This body will assess whether Openreach is observing the new governance rules, acting independently of BT, making its own decisions and treating all its communications service provider (CSP) customers fairly and equally, as well as considering whether both BT and Openreach are abiding by the letter and spirit of their commitments.
The unit will also monitor how BT delivers on its commitments in Northern Ireland. Because Openreach does not operate there, a new protocol has been set up to make sure consumers and businesses in Northern Ireland receive the same treatment as the rest of the country.
“The new Openreach will be built to serve all its customers equally, acting independently and taking investment decisions on behalf of all its customers,” said Ofcom chief executive Sharon White.
The regulator will also be watching closely to ensure that all users on the Openreach network are receiving an acceptable broadband speed and service quality; Openreach is making a satisfactory contribution to improving fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband availability; it is responsive to different investment models that may be proposed by CSP customers, such as co-investment; and that it is continuing to make improvements to repair and installation times and reducing missed appointments.
The unit will publish its first set of findings six months after the commitments come into effect, and every 12 months thereafter.
Since BT agreed to legally separate Ofcom from its main business in March 2017, both organisations have been working closely together to implement the changes.
Openreach has already appointed an independent chairman and board, established a compliance committee, and started consulting with its CSP customers on finding the best route to delivering widespread FTTP broadband.
“BT has made positive progress towards implementing the reforms. Once they are complete, Ofcom will keep a careful eye on whether Openreach is working for telecoms users, ensuring BT and Openreach live by the letter and spirit of their commitments. If we see problems emerging, we won’t hesitate to act,” said White.