BT fights critics with plans to improve UK broadband

22 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

BT Boosts Broadband Plans as U.K. Regulator Considers Split.

BT has pledged to ensure every home in the UK has access to a minimum standard of internet access and to accelerate its rollout of faster fibre connections in an effort to head off criticism over its dominance of the UK broadband market.BT Group Plc, the U.K. phone company facing calls for a breakup from competitors, promised to expand the speed and reach of its network ahead of the communications regulator’s decision about its future.

Gavin Patterson, the chief executive of BT, called for a “collaborative effort across industry and government” and a supportive regulatory and policy environment to help provide faster and more comprehensive internet coverage. The company said on Tuesday it will go beyond the government’s goal of 95 percent coverage for high-speed fiber Internet service and will offer “ultrafast” service with 300 megabits to 500 megabits per second to 10 million homes by the end of 2020. The communications regulator, Ofcom, is carrying out a review into whether the company’s Openreach division, which operates the cable network, should be spun off. Chief Executive Officer Gavin Patterson said Tuesday that BT’s ability to meet the new coverage goals will depend on government support for the company, which has been called too powerful by rivals including Vodafone Group Plc and TalkTalk Telecom Group Plc. “We need Ofcom to focus its regulation toward making long-term commitments and to leave the markets to operate,” Patterson said at a press event in London. BT’s pending £12.5bn acquisition of the UK’s largest mobile operator, EE, which is awaiting regulatory approval, would open up a further battleground between the two companies as Sky also offers mobile contracts via O2.

Competitors that rely on Openreach to offer their own service have complained that BT is slow to repair faults and that its control over the market has resulted in poor network performance. Only a truly independent Openreach will unlock the investment, innovation and competition required to deliver the digital connectivity of the future.” BT is the main beneficiary of the more than £1bn the government is spending to encourage broadband rollout across the UK. However, the company has committed to return some of the funds in areas where fibre broadband take-up exceeds 20% and says it has already paid back £129m.

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