back to article Ofcom promises to have details on duct and pole access by summer

The communications regulator Ofcom has promised to release more details on how it intends to give BT's competitors greater access to Openreach's poles and ducts by the summer. The details follow Ofcom's decision in February in the once-in-a-decade Digital Communications Review to open up BT's network of telegraph poles and …

  1. AndrueC Silver badge
    Meh

    The details follow Ofcom's decision in February in the once-in-a-decade Digital Communications Review to open up BT's network of telegraph poles and underground tunnels to rivals so competitors can connect fibre to homes and offices.

    But they already are opened up. It's not hugely popular so that suggests it needs adjustment to better suit the market but it's not a revolutionary idea. PIA has been around for several years now.

  2. PaulAb

    Whats the betting...

    BT will place some propriety grease on the poles, so no one can climb them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Whats the betting...

      OFCOM is BT's proprietary grease but now the EU are getting involved we might get some changes

      1. MrTuK

        Re: Whats the betting...

        But when we exit EU will it still happen !

  3. chris 17 Silver badge
    Pirate

    So all the other ISP's will hire the cheapest guys they can to take as many shortcuts as they can to stick cables in BT's ducts and along their poles. It'll end in a huge mess with unlabelled cables strewn about saturating available duct and pole space with cables belonging to companies that have gone bust or to operators who have no record their cables are there. Even worse, there is more chance "Bodge it & Cheaply" installers will just cut your connection in favour of their own instead of running new duct as they know their customer (some ISP) won't pay them for a new duct and they will likely get paid again by your ISP to fix your fault that they caused on your connection.

    This is one of the reasons why there is only one transco or one national grid, they don't & can't trust all and sundry to start plugging into their national network (yes gas or electric cables are a bit more cumbersome than phone cables).

    It'll all end in tears once OFCOM/EUOFCOM relax the rules of PIA.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "Even worse, there is more chance "Bodge it & Cheaply" installers will just cut your connection in favour of their own instead of running new duct as they know their customer (some ISP) won't pay them for a new duct and they will likely get paid again by your ISP to fix your fault that they caused on your connection."

      This happens already. Openreach need to get rid of a large number of cowboys.

      "This is one of the reasons why there is only one transco or one national grid"

      Transco and National Grid don't have retail/business sales arms and they are legally prohibited from ever starting up such things.

      Your line of reasoning is actually propping up the arguments that Openreach need to be cleaved off from BT.

      1. chris 17 Silver badge

        @Alan Brown,

        not sure how you got that conclusion, The reason Kelly cowboys and others are bodging BT's physical network is because OFCOM insisted OpenReach do things cheaper, instead of paying career engineers their wages and pensions they pay contractors instead. An independent OpenReach would be under even more pressure to cut costs with no one with any clout fighting its corner. In short an independent OpenReach would be eaten alive by its ISP customers wanting to shave a penny off here or there.

        OpenReach already have a nat grid like product, their wholesale connect, where they do the grunt work for the ISP and the ISP pay for the privilege. ISP's know they can make more money cutting OpenReach out and do so only in the most profitable areas. The leccy billers would do the same if they had the chance.

        its the continual race to the bottom that is stifling investment in the UK network. If all BB was £40 for fast and £39 for less fast both inc line rental with more regulated profit on fast BB OpenReach would be incentivised to rollout fast BB by the ISP's. Offcom won't do something like that though.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          " An independent OpenReach would be under even more pressure to cut costs with no one with any clout fighting its corner. "

          I suggest you look at what happened in New Zealand (but you probably already did and know what happened there)

          That country had the opportunity to let its telco keep the BT/Openreach model or cleave it and chose the latter course.

          With the dead hand of head office removed from the handbrake, Chorus is doing extremely well. ALL those decisions you cite are not dictated by Ofcom, they're dictated by BT and they closely parallel what Spark(telecom NZ) was doing to Chorus pre-separation in order to make it appear as sick as possible (including major campaigns that mades its share price drop 30% of the day of issue). The reality is that 5 years later, Spark is looking decidely ill, whilst almost everyone else is extremely happy with the quality of service they're getting (the lines company went from being unreachable to proactively dealing with customers) and the prices they're paying (dropped substantially from what the monopoly telco was charging.

          New Zealand used to be a poster child for how NOT to privatise your telco, but when they finally took action, they've become an example the UK needs to look at, as when the Telco saw the writing on the wall it tried to sell the BT/Openreach model to the point of voluntarily splitting up operations to stave of government intervention. It was only after assessing BT's ongoing market abuse in the UK that NZ regulators ruled the companies must be completely split.

          Openreach as a separate company - like national grid or transco - must have rules preventing majority ownership or rent seeking behaviour, but the NZ experience shows that a free-to-sell Openreach WILL sell to all-comers, actively seeking them out.

          The issue of virgin's cables not reaching everywhere? Not really an issue if Openreach is leasing duct access. Digging up the road is the most expensive part of cabling. Etc.

          The arguments which keep being raised by BT and its cronies/apologists to the effect that Openreach can't possibly survive if cleaved off are looking increasingly desperate, given that experience in other markets has shown this simply is not the case.

          1. meadowlark

            New Zealand has a population of just 3 million people, so separating and allowing anyone access to their equivalent of OpenReach would obviously work. But Britain has 63 million people, with a mammoth amount of ducted cables, telegraph poles etc. in all its cities. London alone is so gigantic, nothing on earth in Zealand could compare.

            So the idea that because it works in NZ, it would work here, is just ridiculous.

            I worked for BT when it was privatised way back in 1984. I thought at the time that it was like running a railway, and some competitor was going to hitch its coache(s) on to the back of our trains. Everyone would then say:- "look, competition works. The new company only charges half of what BT charges !" Since 1912 when telecomms were first nationalised, billions have been spent on the infrastructure and development over the decades, and now everyone is taking advantage of that without paying very much. If these companies were forced to cough up a fair proportion of what has been spent since 1912, they wouldn't have got started in the first place.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Transco and National Grid don't have retail/business sales arms and they are legally prohibited from ever starting up such things."

        That's trunk network though - roughly equivalent to BT Wholesale. Last mile electricity networks are mostly owned by divisions of retail power companies. Where I live, Scottish and Southern Energy.

      3. Roland6 Silver badge

        "Your line of reasoning is actually propping up the arguments that Openreach need to be cleaved off from BT."

        No, more along the lines of cleaving off BT Retail from BT. Because this is more logical, I find myself being highly suspicious of the reasoning behind OFCOM's stance and suspect ulterior motives...

    2. hplasm
      Meh

      BAU

      "So all the other ISP's will hire the cheapest guys they can to take as many shortcuts as they can to stick cables in BT's ducts"

      Taking on BT at their own game, eh?

  4. JimWin

    Separate Services from Infrastructure

    Radio provides airwaves that are regulated by OffComm so that multiple service providers can be allocated specific frequencies for content delivery. The same should apply to wired networks. The devil in the detail is that BT has had a long time to build their own infrastructure so they probably regard it as theirs alone. But now that BT's cabling is now under OpenReach and regulated by OFCOM, the opportunity is there to separate the delivery service from the content services. Simple in principle but probably a dog to get all the interested parties to sing from the same hymn sheet.

  5. Martin Summers Silver badge

    SEVEN Months...

    ...and counting to get a leased line thanks to Openwretch. The sooner they are broken off BT and have competition the better.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: SEVEN Months...

      Separating Openreach wouldn't do what you think - it just means the same outfit has a new owner. That doesn't create any competition - though it does already exist in half of UK homes via Virgin.

      Anyone can set up a telco today but very few do because there's no money in it. The only real way to enable competition in the last mile to flourish would be to make Openreach put their prices up.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is there really demand for access to ducts ?

    At work, we've been told that we are going to have to move to a new service as Vodamoan are shutting down the service we are on. It's part of what was originally Norweb Telecoms (then Yourcomms, then part of Thus, then borged into Clueless and Witless, and finally borged into Vodamoan). So they've got existing ducts and fibre which they are going to abandon in favour of just renting tails from BT.

    OK, there's an element of getting rid of some legacy products with a small installed base - but it does suggest that they don't see much, if any, value in having their own fibre from their own pop.

    And we deal with another site (a business park) where BT have already filled their ducts and so have had to start feeding in lines from the other side of the site to get to not-filled-yet ducts. So good luck renting any duct space there !

    I've with the previous comments hinting that before long there'll be ducts full of unknown cables, carrying unknown services, for unknown companies (who may or may not still exist), to unknown customers. On aformentioned business park, they allow tenants to put (or rather, have put by the approved contractor) their own fibre between buildings. But they've kept no records and as they charge no deposit or rent there is no incentive for anyone to ever remove cable they no longer need. And yes, some of the ducts are now getting a bit full - and no-one wants to pay for the time it would take to work out what's in there and where it goes. An argument for including a metallic conductor in the cable for tone tracing purposes.

  7. EnviableOne Silver badge

    I think there is definatley a case to be made for BT Wholsale and Openreach to be merged and hived off, forcing BT Retail onto a level playing field with the rest of us

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