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Providers defend Fix Britain's Internet campaign following criticism by BT

Tuesday, August 16th 2016 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone have defended their campaign to ‘Fix Britain’s Internet’ following criticism from BT’s chief executive.

The three providers, along with the Federation of Communication Services, launched the campaign last month to “give Britain’s internet users a voice on the future of UK broadband”.

‘Fix Britain’s Internet’ encourages consumers to respond to Ofcom’s consultation on the future of Openreach and whether it should be split from BT.

The campaign claims that BT is “spending billions on buying the rights for televised football rather than investing in Britain’s infrastructure” and that nearly half of rural premises can’t get speeds above 10Mbps.

Those claims prompted BT chief executive Gavin Patterson to write to the companies behind the campaign to complain that they are misleading consumers.

According to the Financial Times, Mr Patterson said in his letter that Fix Britain’s Internet “paints an unfairly diminished view of connectivity across the UK and makes a number of misleading statements”.

In their response, Sky CEO Stephen van Rooyen, TalkTalk chief Dido Harding and Vodafone boss Jeroen Hoencamp say their claims are based on figures in Ofcom reports and BT’s own public accounts.

“Looking ahead, we do not appear to share the same level of ambition for the digital future of this nation,” the letter states.

'A network that still relies on copper'

“We, as a coalition of Openreach’s largest customers, agree with Ofcom’s assessment that a network that still relies on copper, with limited plans to roll out fibre direct to the premise, will not meet Britain’s needs in the future.”

The launch of the Fix Britain’s Internet campaign followed the announcement of Ofcom’s plan to make Openreach a “legally separate company”, while allowing it to remain part of the BT group.

BT’s rivals say a more effective solution would be to split Openreach from BT completely – a view that was echoed last week by former business minister Anna Soubry.

She told the BBC’s Today programme: “Radical action needs to be taken so that we have superfast broadband across the UK.

“It’s outrageous in this day and age that people do not have access to superfast broadband.”

Ms Soubry said BT has already had “enough chances” to improve.

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