back to article Ofcom wants to crack down on pisspoor BT Openreach biz lines

Ofcom wants to impose "strict new rules" on BT Openreach to improve its leased line services to businesses, in draft proposals today recommending faster installation times, lower prices for high-speed lines and greater access to its “dark fibre” network by competitors. In its Business Connectivity Market Review proposals the …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fibre broadband is here!

    (Here as in literally "here". It stops at the green box.)

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dark Fibre

    Don't under estimate the impact of the dark fibre requirement. Currently it is hard for ISPs to get lots of capacity at BT exchanges, especially second tier exchanges, but with open dark fibre capacity upgrades can be done much quicker. Watch out for big changes to network capacity from your favourite ISP.

  3. AndrueC Silver badge

    It was taking too bloody long three years ago when I helped organise installation of a leased line at my old offices, nice to see Ofcom finally acting. 'course whether it will have any affect or not is another matter.

    This could be very painful for BT. Dropping the cost of high speed broadband, and leased lines and giving better access to its dark fibre. Part of me feels like doing a Nelson. Another part of me is wondering where the finance for the next generation of BT's network is supposed to come from.

    1. hplasm Silver badge

      "... where the finance for the next generation of BT's network is supposed to come from."

      Easy. Taxpayer handouts, again.

      Don't expect results though.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Another part of me is wondering where the finance for the next generation of BT's network is supposed to come from.

      Why? As an obscenely profitable quasi-monopoly, maybe the fatcats at BT could pay for it themselves. Return on capital employed for the group is about 20%, which is ludicrously high for a (largely) regulated monopolist, particularly when bank base rates are 0.5%. WTF are BT doing that involves real commercial risk that justifies a ***consistent*** 20% return? The answer is nothing, they're just exploiting the weakness and incompetence of Ofcom.

      Taking Centrica plc as a benchmark commercial operation, their ROCE averages about 10%, but swing wildly between profit and loss. For a regulated sector which produces the sort of low risk consistency of BT, look at Severn Trent plc, and you'll see they are held to account by OFWAT and generate about 7.5% ROCE. That's why Openreach needs to be ring fenced and legally separated from BT plc, but (as we all expected) the useless, useless clowns at Ofcom flunked this yet again only last month. Had Ofcom not blown this, we could have seen them regulated to a realistic return and at say 8% that would have released £1.6bn a year to invest in the network. You might argue that £1.6bn doesn't go far, but you'd need to consider that's more than 10% of BT's net book value of tangible assets, you get that extra spend each year, and it compares to what, about a total BT capex of £2.6bn last year?

      Obviously shareholders wouldn't be happy with a huge cut in the dividend, but since they've been paid a high risk return on a low risk asset for years, I'd lose no tears for them. And it would help discourage BT paying obscene amounts for sporting rights and other stuff. If that's such a good investment, let them go borrow the money themselves.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        " the useless, useless clowns at Ofcom flunked this yet again only last month. "

        It needs concerted action to push this as a commerce/competition issue instead of a telecommunications one. Ofcom is unfit to regulate monpolies.

    3. Bob H

      I believe I've seen BT deliberately not upgrading cabinets to FTTC because they are primarily business customers and they know they'll loose BTNet fibre business. That is one of the bigger crimes here.

      1. Yet Another Commentard

        It would seem that BT uses its own incompetence as a defence against regulation. Which really is an odd old thing.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    48 Days would be delightful

    1Gbs/1Gbs BTNet line ordered in Mid May 2015 (upgrade from 100/100Mbs).

    Order completed beginning of November 2015 (even though a complaint had gone into the CEO at the end of July which he responded to)

    Single analogue line with broadband ordered Mid November, line still not provisioned as of today (this is not a new line, just reactivating an existing one).

    1. Sir Sham Cad

      Re: 48 Days would be delightful

      Your 6 month provision is what I tell our project people the install time is these days.

    2. mrs doyle

      Re: 48 Days would be delightful

      Relocate to B4RNland, we have a gigabit symmetrical here for £30 a month.

  5. PaulAb

    Crock of Sh**

    Bt may well be made to install the connections in this timeframe

    BT may well be told to share the infrastructure

    BT may well still take weeks and weeks and weeks to rectify their installation cock-up's

    BT may well still not take responsibility for anything, progressing you through their 'Escallation procedure whilst you repeat and resend every email you ever communicated to the support tier below the one your at now

    BT will still try to fend you off by any means at their disposal, It's about time they were a thing of the past. ( You know, like Dinasours) and the fossils that run it.

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: Crock of Sh**

      You may well be right, but given the complaints that arise about other service providers I fail to see how any "replacement" for BT could be guaranteed to be any better.

      Come to think about it I cannot see quite how BT could suddenly cease to exist without an awful lot of communications infrastructure simply ceasing to work.

      I wonder if BT is, in fact, no more crap at running things than any other company, whether a telco or not - it's just that BT's shortcomings are less easy to hide. And of course BT is a very convenient Aunt Sally.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Improving infrastructure

    1. Have a war

    2. Lose

    3. Sign peace treaty forbidding military spending

    4. Rebuild modern infrastructure

    5. Repeat when infrastructure becomes dated

  7. msknight Silver badge

    The whole thing is a crock of s**t for everyone

    I'm with Eclipse, and in my area OpenReach rolled out FTTC at the end of last year. Since then, the ADSL drops out infrequently due to interfearence on the line.

    I've spent a few hundred pounds replacing everything, decent consumer spec ADSL/VDSL router, cabling and filter, but it still happens.

    The conversation with the neighbours is that a chunk of my neighbourhood is affected, but lo and behold, those who get fed up enough to pay the extra and go fibre, relieve themselves of the problems.

    Now the sword of damaclese of £200+VAT is dangling over my head, which I must accept before they'll call OpenReach... who will most likely come out, witness nothing, and promptly bill me; such is the nature of intermittent faults. And I mean, this is 2016, who the heck has a portable AM radio to do a REIN check these days? (which will likely turn up nothing anyway, as people on the other side of the road are being affected also, and our microwave isn't even switched on at the wall. *sigh*)

    This whole service is a joke, from beginning to end and the customer ends up footing the bill and the faults will still likely continue.

    Oh, and yes, I tried to involve Ofcom and, no, they don't want to know. The whole business set up is totally bleedin' useless.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The whole thing is a crock of s**t for everyone

      What's the £200 for? FTTC is self-service now.

      1. Tom Chiverton 1

        Re: The whole thing is a crock of s**t for everyone

        "What's the £200 for? FTTC is self-service now."

        call out fee. refunded if it's BT fault.

      2. msknight Silver badge

        Re: The whole thing is a crock of s**t for everyone

        The £200+VAT is the charge if BT come out and determine that the fault isn't on their side of the network, but somewhere in my house.

        As it is an intermittent fault, they're unlikely to find anything when they test the line, therefore I'll be deemed automatically to be at fault.

    2. Bob H

      Re: The whole thing is a crock of s**t for everyone

      OpenReach doesn't have a KPI which includes reliability at any sort of fine level. As long as the bit of copper works when someone from OpenReach tests it then Schrödinger's cable is alive. We need OpenReach to be accountable for uptime as well.

    3. Vic

      Re: The whole thing is a crock of s**t for everyone

      I'm with Eclipse, and in my area OpenReach rolled out FTTC at the end of last year. Since then, the ADSL drops out infrequently due to interfearence on the line.

      I used to be with Eclipse. I had fairly frequent drop-outs.

      I sent them my router logs - clearly showing double-CHAP requests. The first would succeed, the second would fail. But they claimed this was clearly a fault in my equipment, as if there was anything wrong at their end, everyone would be complaining.

      I left Eclipse. I went to A&A. I still use all the same kit[1], but the drop-outs no longer occur...


      [1] They did send me a new router - which would improve my speed. But I haven't quite got round to installing it yet :-)

    4. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: The whole thing is a crock of s**t for everyone

      those who get fed up enough to pay the extra and go fibre, relieve themselves of the problems.

      There is is your solution! If you've got FTTC VDSL2 then why are you still using ADSL?

      The only valid reason is to wait until the FTC service is released to third-parties and so you can get a decent package - given the current offers, £200+vat would buy you 18+ months of FTTC service and bundled modem/router

  8. John G Imrie Silver badge

    A better solution

    Ofcom is proposing that, by the end of March 2017, Openreach must complete 80 per cent of leased line orders by the date it promises customers, rising to 90 per cent from April 2018. Under the new proposals, competitors will also be able to use BT’s fibre-optic cables with their own equipment, rather than rely on BT’s equipment

    For every appointment BT miss they have to refund 100% of the annual cost of the line. For those times where the weather, accidents, etc. get in the way BT can buy insurance like any one else.

  9. Lee D Silver badge

    I work for a private school.

    Before I arrrived, they had waited TWO YEARS for a leased line.

    Nothing was even put on site.

    I made enormous fusses, because it was becoming critical to business operation, and BT started some works.

    SIX MONTHS later, we have an empty fibre tube, in three disparate sections, run through our existing ducting and carried over the existing telegraph cables back to the street. Nothing was joined. Nothing was ever blown down it. Nothing. Just an empty plastic tube in three sections.

    Obviously, we were still complaining all the time. It was at that point, TWO AND A HALF YEARS after the initial order, that we were then told there was "no room at the exchange" and it would be "another six months" (for the sixth time!). I cancelled the order there and then.

    Phoned up Virgin Media. They surveyed within the week. We had an order within the month. They sink underground fibre (much more legal hassle and digging up roads), but we wanted to get things moving so we offered to dig trenches etc. on the property ourselves to help speedinstallation as much as possible. There was hassle with the council and permissions to do so but we pushed and pushed and got the line within six months. Been problem-free ever since.

    BT / OpenReach are a damn shower when it comes to actual provision. In fact, they tried to enter site weeks AFTER we cancelled contract to "finish the installation". We refused them entry.

    All I wanted was something better than the 11Mbps we got from the TWO existing ADSL2+ lines coming into the property, combined. And we're inside the M25. In the end, all they could do was VDSL one of those lines which gave us about 20-30Mbps total, but highly variable. We use it as a backup line and nothing more and have never had to failover to it.

    You'd think that if a large, private school, with obvious need for a leased line can't get anything near provision when a competitor just walks up and does a more difficult install delayed only by minor legal works, they'd want to do something about it earlier than the time you cancel the contract. Apparently not.

    I honestly think they didn't know that Virgin could deliver (because nobody had bothered to ask and the online checker didn't work for our postcode), so they just strung us along for so long because they thought we had no alternative.

    1. Bob H

      Until BT has competition they don't really try.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Getting VM to do anything is a PITA

      We have a VM cable in our street. That's the good news.

      The bad news is that my house was built after NTL did the groundworks.

      There is apparently no provision in the existing infrastructure to extend it 20m to my house.

      They won't cable me up. No ifs, no buts, no 'its gonna cost you', a flat out No.

      So close but so far.

      Thankfully a 4G signal is available everywhere in the house.

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: Getting VM to do anything is a PITA

        Leased lines are a very different kettle of fish.

        Generally you can pay £500-£1000 a month for a guaranteed (with SLA) 100Mbps or 1000Mbps leased line.

        Totally different ball game to strapping onto the local coax DOCSIS runs (even if they are backed by fibre cabinets) to a house that wants to pay £30 a month and get free TV and phone line for that price.

        Hell, our install cost was over £10,000 alone - but that was the same whether we went Virgin or BT.

  10. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Cherry pickers charter?

    they always seem to use ladders round here.

  11. AndrewDu

    I've got an idea how they could improve their hit rate on successful customer visits.

    They could stop leaving useless answerphone messages for me which say "We're coming to install your line at 1pm on Wednesday" WITHOUT saying which of my several open orders at different sites this refers to.

    And they could even call the phone number I give them as the site contact, instead of always calling me even when I'm hundreds of miles from the site or even on holiday. Which then leads to the situation described above.

    They are simply not fit for purpose. All by themselves they probably cost the country a measurable percentage off the GDP every year by their sheer bloody incompetence and the fact that NOBODY else can install a line for you. "Former" monopoly? What's this "former" bit, eh?


    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      > They could stop leaving useless answerphone messages ...

      Lucky you. They could also try posting letters to the correspondence address they've been given, rather than the empty premises the line has been ordered for. If you're lucky the tech will turn up and ring to ask where you are (in which case - "I'll be right there, we weren't told you were coming today"). I'f you're not lucky, they'll turn up, find a locked up empty shop, and piss off without even telling you that they've cancelled the order !

      Of course, that's after you've managed to persuade the local engineering manager that yes, there are actually BT phone cables into the building - and yes, they do come from that BT DP on the wall in the back street. With one premises they point blank refused to accept that it was there without me going and getting the DP number off it !

  12. mrs doyle

    competition is king

    the only way to fix things is competition.

    From being a rural area on dial up, and no hope of broadband, we now have bt crawling all over the place installing superfarce. Putting pcp cabs in tiny hamlets and then a 'fibre' cab next to it. Why? because we built our own real fibre network. We get a gigabit symmetrical for £30 a month. its awesome. B4RN.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: competition is king

      "the only way to fix things is competition."

      And this is why the BT issue should be picked up by the competition commissioner and the commerce regulators - NOT by Ofcom.

      BT's market abuse is costing the economy tens of billions of pounds per year.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: competition is king

        Competition is king of what?

        We've had 'competition' in the telecoms since the 1980's when the government privatised BT and set about regulating the duopoly, in an ultimately failed attempt to create an environment where Mercury could grow into something as big as BT. One of the costs of this introduction of 'competition' was the shelving of BT's fibre plans.

        With hindsight we can see that the government were very shortsighted and should of pushed BT to deploy FTTP/FTTH, if they had done that we might have avoided the cost of ADSL deployment and upgrade...

        So I suggest it isn't BT's market abuse that is costing the economy tens of billions, but the idiots in Westminster...

  13. b_armitage

    Delays for civil works and wayleave agreements

    While civil works and wayleave agreements do hold up a significant proportion of fibre provisions, this explains rather than excuses the delays.

    Openreach's management of civil works is inadequate. In practice, they issue the jobs and wash their hands of the process, leaving their contractors to run rings around them.

    Their wayleaves department generally tends to perform in line with the amount of resources it is allocated.

  14. Roland6 Silver badge

    Ofcom where have you been these last 30 years?

    Interesting that Ofcom seems to have only recently realised that BT sell leased lines and perhaps Ofcom should take a look at this market...

  15. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    > “Dark fibre is a flawed piece of regulation that introduces an unnecessary layer of complexity and will deter others from building their own fibre networks. It is at odds with Ofcom’s recent statements about increasing competition at the infrastructure level. ...

    But in reality it makes no sense whatsoever to have competition at the street cabling level. It makes no more sense than having competition at the street piping level for water and gas, or the street cabling level for electricity, or even at the street level for streets themselves.

    It's a natural monopoly at that level - so it makes sense to treat it as such. All it needs is to effectively regulate any provider to avoid the situation we have at the moment where "independent" BTOR does just what suits it's owners - and the accounting is opaque enough to hide and hidden cross subsidies.

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