Saturday, 23 January 2016

Broadbad - Grant Shapps suddenly interested in broadband

Grant Shapps has led a group of 121 MPs in releasing a report called 'Broadbad' arguing for Openreach, the business unit of BT Group that manages the physical ducts in the ground, cables and exchanges, to be separated from the rest of the Group entirely.

It's discussed in this BBC article - BT should be forced to sell Openreach service, report says

The bottom of the article requests responses, and as a BT Openreach service user here's mine. This also outs me a bit but, hey, c'est la vie.

I have had other thoughts since about the impact this will have on the market, the unexpected side effects, BT's Retail arm being free to more aggressively pursue market share, and other things. The potential for unintended consequences is huge.

Follow the debate on ISPReview, ThinkBroadband and on Twitter via hashtag #Broadbad


I have profound doubts about the BIG report and what they think the results of separation of Openreach will achieve.

I am in no way biased towards or have any reason to be a huge 'fan' of BT or Openreach. I'm the Carl Thomas mentioned here:

You guys have featured me discussing broadband locally on Look North.

My wife has featured on national television.

[Removed link to video for copyright reasons. It's from Super Scrimpers and I'm sure can be found online somewhere :)]

Competition didn't resolve the issues - Openreach did. Due to the asinine way in which our planning and adoption systems run competition couldn't resolve the issues even if it wanted to. Per the below link the estate I reside on is the only one in the area not seeing any competition. illustrates some factual errors in the report. There are a number of others. This is not a serious report, it's politics to justify a pre-determined position. Using for example maps of amount of land mass covered by fixed line broadband is absurd. Obviously where there are no people there's no broadband. Using numbers of people not covered is also misleading. Broadband networks aren't provided to people they are built out to premises.

For all the talk of competition there is no clear indication of where it will come from, or why, apart from Virgin Media, no-one else has been investing.

Surely if Openreach were so poor, providing such abysmal services and failing their customers to such an extent, the door is more widely open to the competition, so where have they been? Mr Shapps is allegedly a huge fan of the open market and in his various online incarnations epitomises finding gaps in the market, regardless of whether they are providing legitimate value, and profiting from them.

TalkTalk don't have the money to invest - they are paying share dividends by borrowing.

Sky have had ample opportunity to invest but have only conducted small scale trials. They have made no commitments but deployed plenty of fibre to the press release.

Vodafone have run no trials to speak of, and again all fibre to the press release. Their work in the Republic of Ireland required co-operation with taxpayer funded electricity boards to use their infrastructure.

The one case I'm aware of where an infrastructure arm has been separated from the rest of the telecomms company there is indeed fibre to the premises being deployed, using taxpayer funding alongside a public private partnership. Such a thing cannot be done in the UK due to EU state aid regulations. Check out Chorus Ltd, New Zealand and their UFB network.

Lastly, a separation of Openreach from BT Group results in Openreach being directly answerable to shareholders. Shareholders are going to want financial returns. Without the rest of BT Group's revenues relying on Openreach network upgrades there is less of a case for them to acquiesce to Openreach investment in infrastructure. There will be less funding for network builds and more attempts to maximise returns on the existing infrastructure.

I am not entirely sure what the political game Mr Shapps is playing is, or how he or others will or think they will benefit, but I don't foresee any way in which the inevitable years of turmoil will achieve any kind of positive result in the short term or medium term.

You can reach me at [Number removed] or [Number removed] if you wish to discuss further.

Kindest regards,


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