SMEs should get a better broadband service under plans to shakeup the provision of digital services in the UK, according to a new Ofcom report. Sharon White, Ofcom’s chief executive, said: “We’re pressing ahead with the biggest shake-up of telecoms in a decade, to make sure the market is delivering the best possible services for people and business across the UK.”
The report says in the coming months Ofcom will build on its recent improvement metrics and demand more, including:
- Tough performance rules on Openreach. Later this year we will set out stricter minimum requirements for Openreach to repair faults and install new lines more quickly.
- Performance tables. From next year, we will publish tables on communications providers’ quality of service, showing the best and worst performers on a range of measures so that customers can shop around with confidence.
- Coverage checkers by address. We plan to update our interactive maps to offer even more comprehensive information on mobile and broadband coverage by individual address, not just postcode.
An independent Openreach
In order to better deliver these improvements, the Ofcom report highlights the need for BT’s broadband infrastructure business Openreach to become a legally separate company within the BT Group. It will have its own Board of Directors established and be required to make decisions “in the interests of all Openreach’s customers, and to promote the success of the company.
Chief executive Gavin Patterson welcomed the news: “We have listened to Ofcom and industry and are introducing significant changes to meet their concerns. These changes will make Openreach more independent and transparent than it is today, something both Ofcom and industry have requested.”
‘Mounting evidence of poor service’
The BCC has welcomed the report. Its Director of Research Mike Spicer said, “We have seen mounting evidence that businesses are suffering from poor service standards, ‘not spots’, unreliable connections, and a market structure that fails to offer competition and choice. Any moves therefore to improve investment in digital infrastructure will be welcomed by firms that are desperate to grow and thrive.
“We support Ofcom’s proposal to shift away from the over-reliance on copper-based technologies, and encourage the large-scale deployment of new ultrafast networks. Businesses will welcome the move to a more independent Openreach if it delivers practical results. However, unless firms see improvements in reliability, speed and coverage, their performance, and UK productivity as a whole, will be held back.
“The target of a 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation as a starting point is still not ambitious enough. This must be higher for business broadband, in order to reflect the pace of developments in an