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Broadband providers want consumers to help 'fix Britain's internet'

Wednesday, July 27th 2016 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

A new campaign urging consumers to help “Fix Britain’s Internet” has been launched by some of the country’s biggest broadband providers.

TalkTalk, Sky, Vodafone and the Federation of Communication Services (FCS) say they want “to give Britain’s internet users a voice on the future of UK broadband”.

They are encouraging consumers to respond to Ofcom’s consultation on the future of Openreach – and specifically the question of whether it should be split from BT.

Ofcom wants to make Openreach a “legally separate company” while allowing it to remain a part of the BT group.

But a number of BT’s rivals don’t think Ofcom has gone far enough and are calling for full separation.

Chris Pateman, chief executive of the FCS, which represents business broadband providers, said the organisation first called for the full functional separation of BT’s utility arm (now called Openreach) in 2005.

“We have, alas, never had any reason to change our mind. And over the last 10 years, we have watched Ofcom trying to make them work,” he told Cable.co.uk.

“It’s amazing to us that Ofcom should still be trying to make them work now, when it has the option to impose a full structural separation.

“Openreach customers have had enough, and they are not willing to put up with another 10 years of fudge and compromise.”

Mr Pateman said the proposals put forward by Ofcom yesterday amounted to a “watered-down compromise” that would not deliver an Openreach fit for the future.

He said the Fix Britain’s Internet campaign marks a new beginning.

'Our only shot'

“It’s our only shot this decade to move the industry forward. That requires an Openreach that has the autonomy, the vision, the access to capital and the strategic long-term business plan to deliver for customers. Nothing less will do.”

Dido Harding, TalkTalk’s chief executive, said the internet shouldn’t just work for the benefit of one large company.

“It should work for everyone,” she said. “For too long now though, UK broadband users have been let down by promises of improvement which never materialise.

“It’s time for brave, bold action by Ofcom to solve the problem once and for all.

“This consultation on the future of Openreach gives the country a once-in-a-decade opportunity to have their voice heard, so that they can finally look forward to the digital future they deserve.”

A Vodafone UK spokesperson said: “We felt it was important to give individuals, families and small businesses an easy way of making their voices heard to Ofcom on the state of fixed broadband in their area as the regulator consults on the future of BT’s Openreach division.”

Ofcom’s consultation is open until 4 October. Details of how to respond are available on the Ofcom website.

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