back to article Shadow minister for Fun calls for Openreach separation

Chris Bryant MP has added his support to the lobby which wants to see Openreach split from BT. This is just one area under investigation as part of Ofcom's 2015 strategic review. The previous review a decade earlier saw Openreach ring-fenced as a separate BT organisation. However, the view of most of its customers – who are …

  1. TheProf

    Question

    I keep reading about the need for rural businesses, usually farmers are mentioned, to have high-speed internet access.

    My question is what advantage would a farmer have with a, say, 50 Mbps connection over a 10Mbps connection?

    1. chris 17 Bronze badge

      Re: Question

      also surely mobile broadband would be of greater benefit to all farmers rather than some fast connection stuck in a farm office when farmer is in his field or tending animals.

    2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: Question

      I suspect farmer's want 10Mb+ compared to the lame 2Mb/s (if that) that they currently get being out in the sticks.

      1. Buzzword

        Re: Question

        That's asynchronous too. Your farmer getting 2Mb/s downstream would be lucky to get 256kb/sec upstream. That makes it hard e.g. to upload a photo of your cow's diseased arse to the vet's office.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Question

          *asymmetric*

    3. Tony S

      Re: Question

      10 Mbps connection in a rural area? I'm betting that there are not too many rural areas where they will get anything approaching 10 Mbps

      I was in a rural area and getting less than 0.1 Mbps for a very lengthy period (just under 18 months) whilst BT hummed and ahhed about replacing the cable that was in a truly appalling condition. When they finally replaced the cable 2 months before I moved away, it went up to a blisteringly fast 1.1 Mbps.

      Worth noting that I was paying the same fee for my broadband as most other people in areas where they could get 10 Mbps.

      1. James 139

        Re: Question

        *raises hand*

        I'm connected to a rural exchange, one with farmers near by, and get 76Mbps as OR upgraded *ONE* of several cabinets to fibre.

        No idea if any actual farmers can get that, theyre probably all on the end of very long lines or on the other cabinets.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Question

      10Mbps - I wish. 256Kb on a good day with a following wind. Rainy days sometimes lucky to get anything at all. That's 256Kb down btw - I suspect we could almost say we were SDSL but only because downstream is so slow it's matching upstream.

  2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Back in the real world

    I wonder exactly how much more effective a separated Openreach would be in rolling out FTTC in rural areas without BT's financial resources behind it. And as for the companies listed as offering FTTP it wasn't clear just what areas AQL & Gigaclear are operating in whilst Hyperoptic does show a map of S England the areas where it's registering interest seem considerably greater than those where it's actually taking orders.

    I doubt that separating Openreach or bringing more companies into the field would help Chris Bryant's constituents. What's more likely is to find them all fighting like rats over the 10% most profitable areas.

    1. nijam

      Re: Back in the real world

      I think you have that back-to-front. Openreach should be separated, obviously, but it doesn't mean that all the (financial) resources stay in BT; most of BT's income comes from selling services carried by Openreach cable/fibre/whatever. Maybe the question to ask is "how will BT keep splashing out on content for yet more superfluous sports channels, without the resources of Openreach behind them?" Without its income being restricted so that BT can fund media content, maybe Openreach could do its job better.

    2. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: Back in the real world

      I think the key point is that we are currently paying for investment (via subscriptions) in to our key internet infrastructure, and what we are getting is a poor investment that is good at helping BT's bottom line.

      FTTP is a clear investment in the future - future bandwidth increases can occur by upgrading transceivers and repeaters. FTTC is trying to squeeze absolutely the last bit out of copper cables in order to maximise return for minimal investment, but the efficiency of the investment is poor and will eventually need to be replaced with fibre anyway - we're just pushing the cost down the line.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Back in the real world

        "FTTP is a clear investment in the future"

        And a remarkably expensive one compared to FTTC. One cabinet enables connection to a whole bunch of premises. FTTP would require each of those premises to have a fibre connection laid. In some cases there may be existing ducting, in others new ground works would be needed. How many premises could be provisioned in this way for the cost of one cabinet? Do you think any of the companies currently offering FTTP will ever offer services to the sorts of rural customers Bryant was concerned about?

        1. Tom 38 Silver badge

          Re: Back in the real world

          Nope, which is why I think that our government should pay for it out of general taxation and provide a backbone which ISPs can pay for access to users.

          IP networks are public infrastructure nowadays, we need to invest in them like we would roads or railways. I would argue there would be a larger uptick to GDP by building a national FTTP network than building a fast train to Birmingham.

  3. Elmer Phud Silver badge

    Father Bryant-Ted

    "He doesn't have a view on the governance of the separated Openreach. He told The Register: "I'm happy to leave the precise structure of Openreach to BT."

    Down with that sort of thing!

  4. Simon Rockman

    According to Think Broadband

    UK FTTP is 0.8 per cent.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      UK FTTP is 0.8 per cent.

      Sounds credible. But that's not "only 0.8% of the population able to access high speed broadband", because almost half the population have access to cable.

  5. Semaj

    Separated or insulated?

    In their current form they are bad enough because they are not allowed to deal with consumers directly.

    Instead, if you want to complain because (in the hypothetical situation of course) they are so incompetent that they would keep sending engineers to the wrong (new build) estate for a whole year, leaving the occupants without even a phone line; the only course of action is to contact those at director level of BT, who of course are on first name terms with those of OpenReach.

    If they are fully split, surely this would just be even worse? Or would they be forced to be accountable to the general public?

    1. billat29

      Re: Separated or insulated?

      "In their current form they are bad enough because they are not allowed to deal with consumers directly."

      If they are split out, that won't change. Their customers are the ISPs not us, the paying public.

    2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: Separated or insulated?

      In their current form they are bad enough because they are not allowed to deal with consumers directly.

      It's a little bit more tricky than that. BT Openreach are only allowed to speak to *their* customer. This may be totally different to the end user of Openreach's service. At my job we've contracted Openreach to do work. In your case, the domestic household was the end user, but Openreach's customer was (I assume) BT. Your problem is/was BT not managing Openreach properly. (I'm not claiming that Openreach are perfect, but with BT in the middle the only thing you can be sure of is something going wrong.)

    3. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: Separated or insulated?

      IMHO The engineers on the ground know their job, and the area too - when they get to stay in it long enough. It is the Time & Motion ethics that causes the headaches. Once an engineer steps across the threshold I am normally pretty confident that, once he has finished, that's it, no more angst. It is getting an engineer on-site that is the problem. Oh, and ensuring that my client does not get billed for a problem that is found to be on BT's side of the demarc point.

  6. Oh Matron!

    Governance...

    Now, please bear with me on this....

    It seems popular to bash BT currently for the lack of rollout to rural locations. There have been various opportunities for councils to bid for cash to get broadband rolled out. Some councils didn't bother

    Open reach have to foot the bill for this, then letting others make the profit, given how Openreach's costs are governed. So, what impetus has Openreach for rolling out into none profitable areas? Probably none

    Okay, so we have a quasi govt department called Ofcom. They could force Openreach to do so. And haven't. Sky could muscle Openreach to do so, and haven't. The govt could muscle Ofcom to muscle open reach to do so, and haven't.

    Let's not forget that it's Ofcom and The Govt who set the targets...

    So, I see lots of calls, especially from the Govt, to break apart BT, yet, and you all know that this is coming, it's the ineptitude of Ofcom and the govt which has got us into this situation

    Please feel free to poke holes in this. I'm sure that it's leakier than Everton's defence...

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Governance...

      It goes further than this. It's not just a matter of setting targets, it's use of resources. The profitability of a project depends on the number of customers who can be connected for the cost of that project. If resources are fixed then to carry out projects in non-profitable areas means diverting resources from profitable areas. That would mean that fewer people overall would get connected.

      Living in a rural area myself I'm quite sensitive to the needs of rural areas but there has to be either a balance. If OR had concentrated on getting the far-flung premises online most people hereabouts would have been/might still be waiting for a connection.

      If there is to be a universal service requirement then more resources are needed. That means either taxpayers money or raising prices so those living in easily serviced areas subsidise those who don't - and for the latter to work that would be the wholesale prices; if just BT end-user prices were to be raised the other providers would just cash in and nothing extra would become available. Cue more complaints about subsidies.

      And just a reminder - any extra cash wouldn't go as far as might be naively expected as it would be being spent where the costs of connecting customers is highest.

  7. Streaker

    Financials and Governance

    Ok break BT / OR up into 2 separate companies.

    Might be worth just looking at the existing arrangements first.

    OR was set up in 2005 as an arms length BT company. In reality it meant that all Orders / Moves / Changes / Faults had to be placed through a common gateway. Every company must use the same Gateway. There is no BT backdoor despite what the conspiracy theorists might think. BT went overboard on compliance and all employees have to comply with the Undertakings in their various forms. Including talking about work in the pub.

    The Financials are in large determined by OFCOM on the regulated charges that every company has to pay, including BT. There is NO VOLUME DISCOUNT.

    Spilt from BT and OR may become an AT&T Subsidiary!!

    Just be careful what you wish for.

  8. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Railtrack

    OFCOM should look across the hall at the disaster that happened with Railtrack and learn lessons from that.

    IMHO, Openreach should be setup as a non-profit. Its board should be made up of representatives of the communications industry (Telcos, ISPs, etc) It's charter/aim/whatever should be to provide the best physical communications infrastructure for the UK. And it should be transparent. Board meeting minutes, strategy documents, financial models, revenue, costs, etc. should all be made public. (Maybe subject to something akin to FoI?) It must be non-discriminatory in who it deals with and what it offers.

    If a local group wants, say, FTTH and are willing to pay, let them!

    I know this isn't perfect, but I think it's the right direction.

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