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Vodafone, Sky and TalkTalk say broadband market is 'letting Britain down'

Monday, September 21st 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Millions of customers are being let down by the UK broadband market, according to three of the country’s biggest providers.

An open letter calling for “radical reform” and increased competition was published in today’s Financial Times.

The letter, signed by Vodafone CEO Jeroen Hoencamp, Sky CEO Jeremy Darroch and TalkTalk CEO Dido Harding, says every home and business in Britain deserves fast and reliable broadband access.

It says this is essential if Britain is to become the world’s leading digital economy.

“Unfortunately, today’s broadband market is letting customers, businesses and Britain down. It is time we considered radical reform,” it states.

“Ofcom is currently conducting the most fundamental review of the communications market in a decade, and has identified serious problems with the ownership of the national telecoms network by BT Openreach.

“These include a conflict of interest in the role of BT, poor quality of customer service and difficulties in enforcing the existing regulatory regime.

“The result is a sub-standard experience for millions of customers and diminished opportunity for alternative providers to compete effectively.”

The letter, also signed by representatives of the Federation of Communication Services and the Independent Networks Co-operative Association (INCA), says there is an “urgent need for increased competition” to encourage alternative providers to “solve the problems ahead”.

'Superfast world'

“These include investment to deliver broadband coverage in hard to reach areas, improved service quality and reliability, fibre products suitable for Britain’s SMEs, and new ultrafast broadband services.

“We do not believe that the fundamental problems identified by Ofcom can be addressed by tinkering with the existing regulatory framework. Ofcom has done a good job of delivering competition on the old copper network, but the powers given to it are insufficient for the new superfast world.”

The letter calls the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which is currently looking into BT’s proposed takeover of EE, to carry out a full market investigation.

“Only the CMA, with the support of Ofcom, can address the structural barriers to competition that will unlock the next wave of investment in communications infrastructure that the country urgently needs. We cannot afford to wait.”

Last week, rivals of BT Openreach including CityFibre and Virgin Media formed a group calling for more investment and competition in the communications market.

The Infrastructure Investors Group has pledged to lobby policymakers and industry stakeholders.

Last week BT announced an investment in its UK call centre operation that will create more than 1,000 new jobs and see it answer more than 80% of its customers calls in the UK by the end of 2016.

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