back to article Ofcom creates watchdog specifically to make sure Openreach is behaving

Brit comms regulator Ofcom has created a dedicated Openreach Monitoring Unit, in a move reminiscent of the naughty kid at school being forced to sit next to the teacher. The body will watch Openreach to ensure it delivers progress towards its network division becoming legally separate from BT, following the outcome of the …

  1. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How Much Is That Going To Cost....

      One company should not be expected to implement what other companies would expect to be business suicide.

      BT's last mile network which is operated by Openreach is for all practical purposes a regulated monopoly. In return for that monopoly BT & Openreach have to do what the regulator (and politicians) decide. BT as the asset owner gets what the regulator judges to be an economic return on its regulated asset base, Openreach gets paid to extend, maintain, repair and operate the network, as a captive provider to BT. So in that respect, you can't really compare either BT or Openreach to most normal commercial companies.

      The ownership of the network probably won't be changed, because for historic reasons BT have huge pension liabilities and would go bust if they couldn't balance the liabilities against the network income. But Openreach is different. It might be feasible to either sell it or de-merge from BT group, although because it has a single customer it wouldn't attract bids from any respectable company, merely from vultures who think that by sacking a good chunk of the workforce they can make a quick buck. But a more likely scenario is for the regulator to demand that specific Openreach regions have the O&M work put out to tender, to create a market comparison for Openreach.

      So to expect BT to fund the capex of wider roll out of fibre isn't unreasonable, but ultimately the customers will have to pay for that - there's no free money. In terms of the widespread roll out, it would actually be quite easy if Openreach actually did rolling replacement of fully depreciated wire because they could replace wire with fibre as they went along, so gradually installing FTTP. But as far as I can see they don't do that, once the wires are amortised, they just plan to leave them until they go wrong, regardless of the poor performance for broadband. That's something OFCOM could address, but haven't yet.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: How Much Is That Going To Cost....

        BT's last mile network which is operated by Openreach is for all practical purposes a regulated monopoly.

        Only for it's existing subscribers.

        What is a little surprising is that there is little to no competition in new build, everyone seems to be content to allow BT to deploy fibre(*) and thus extend its last mile monopoly...

        (*) Openreach don't own the network, they merely "look after it" [ www.openreach.co.uk ], so I think the physical network is still owned by BT, just that they subcontract work to Openreach...

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: How Much Is That Going To Cost....

        "The ownership of the network probably won't be changed, because for historic reasons BT have huge pension liabilities and would go bust if they couldn't balance the liabilities against the network income"

        This is the same FUD that was used to argue against the splitting of the New Zealand monopoly.

        The reality is that the pensions liabilities mostly accrue to the Openreach side and NZ quickly discovered that a fully independent Openreach (Chorus in their case) is robustly healthy with nothing to worry about.

        Given the level of economic damage that BT have been doing to the UK, the government could underwrite those pensions and it would still be a net benefit to the country if they became 100% liable for them, in a fully independent lineside market.

        Bear in mind that New Zealand is 10% of the population of the UK, with 10% of the population density in most places and a lot of difficult terrain in two islands each the size of Britain. If they can make their version of Openreach commercially viable, then the UK should be a shoo-in.

  2. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Cost of putting new stickers over the BT vans will no doubt be passed onto the ISPs who will pass it on to you and me. Solution? If you see a BT logo on a van, feel free to paint over it your self and when the paint dries use a suitable marker pen and write 'Openreach' on it. That'll keep costs down :-)

  3. Lee D

    In other news:

    - 3 years waiting for a BT/Openreach leased line to a school. In the end we cancelled. At the point we cancelled, there was a plastic tube in four parts laid in different parts of the school, none of it joined together (most of it different sizes and types because of four separate abandoned - NOT failed - installs where the engineers did one job and then walked off-site for "parts" and never came back), none of it had - or could have had - blown fibre in it, all of it was installed in the last month after multiple threats of cancellation. Reason given for delays: None. Until the last month. When there "is no more room at the exchange". Contract cancelled. Engineers still tried to access site to "finish install" a month after cancellation and were shown the door.

    I think BT / Openreach thought we couldn't possibly do anything else so we'd have to come back to them, because all the postcode checkers said nobody else covered us. But Virgin Media installed a fibre in 3 months and that's worked for over 2 years, and we cut all our BT ties because of it (e.g. phone lines, VDSL backup, etc.) - so that's cost them a fortune.

    - Same school, half a mile down the road, bought a new site. Want a line to join the sites. BT/Openreach only company with cabling in the town. We informed them we wouldn't tolerate the same messing about, relayed the entire previous debacle. Ordered in January. Was promised a May install. It's July and they still have not even cleared a route (supposedly the duct in the road is full of "silt") to run the fibre yet, and nobody will be able to clear it before August. I have just sent the email this morning to threaten cancellation of this install too, and booked in a company to provide a microwave link instead, it's apparently being escalated to the director at Openreach.

    Honestly, guys, you have one job, six months warning / three year's warning, and can't do the ONLY THING you need to do to get a decade's worth of leased-line rentals. Just the monthly rental for those missing months would have paid for the entire installation cost. And they are like this BECAUSE the ombudsman / oversight etc. are useless, they think we won't go elsewhere, and so they can screw people over for years and years. Turns out they're wrong, but if businesses are suffering this sort of rubbish, imagine what's happening with all those residential lines and backhaul.

  4. JMiles

    we're watching you...

    ...but we have no clue what we're looking for

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: we're watching you...

      ...but we have no clue what we're looking for but whatever it is it is going to cost you a packet. Don't expect to make any money in the next 5-10 years. Our friends at Sky and Talk-Talk will [redacted]

      There fixed it for you.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: we're watching you...

      > the majority of members having no affiliation with BT Group.

      Yet... Remember BT's gift to Patricia Hewitt. They have Phorm in behaving this way.

  5. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    About time.

    Openreach (or rather the infrastrucutre they are supposed to be maintaining) is a key part of UK infrastructure.

    Yes historically most of it was installed by Bt and its predecessors but it should be open to all comers.

    The trouble is properly setting up Openreach needs something like the National Grid arrangement. Essentially pull it completely off BT, set up a separate pensions arrangement and make it impossible for anyone (especially a foreign company) to gain overall control. IOW running it as a national resource for all of the UK. TBF those resources should also include the Vermin ducts as well, with the beardy ones minions likewise suitably compensated.

    You can be that sounds far too socialist for Mrs May, and far too difficult, even with the help of her noalition colleagues (or the Men of Orange as you might like to think of them).

  6. JimmyPage
    FAIL

    If the government were serious ...

    then all new build houses since (say) 2000 would have been FTTD as part of planning regulations.

    What's that ? They weren't ?

    I guess government isn't serious then. Certainly not worth listening to them when you can see the truth for yourself.

    (And this is one area where you *need* state intervention).

    1. Wensleydale Cheese

      Re: If the government were serious ...

      "then all new build houses since (say) 2000 would have been FTTD as part of planning regulations."

      Yorkshire Cable were rolling that out to existing properties in bits of West Yorkshire back in 1997, so it was possible. Granted, they were only offering TV, not internet services at that time, but it was a start.

      On the other hand, the new build house I lived in before BT's privatisation already had a phone line laid into the house. I still had to face the standard 6 month waiting list for new subscribers.

    2. Graham Lockley

      Re: If the government were serious ...

      http://www.techradar.com/news/world-of-tech/how-the-uk-lost-the-broadband-race-in-1990-1224784

      So much for government intervention.

  7. Captain DaFt

    Huh?

    But the regulator warned: "Should it become clear the new Openreach was not working, or BT was failing to comply with its commitments, Ofcom would revisit the model and consider new measures to address any concerns."

    Is it just me, or does that parse as:

    "If we catch you misbehaving, we'll sit on the naughty step and think about what you've done!"

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ofgem and Ofcom are in the line of fire, the only reason for this.

    Vast sums are being wasted monitoring "up to" Copper Broadband speeds. We don't need more regulation, we need more pure fibre (FTTP) in the ground, and everywhere, it truely is the only thing that matters. It's the springboard for everything in terms of future standards - i.e. better Mobile - 5G Networks, everything. Pointless G.fast is the equivalent of Snake Oil, in comparison.

    It sounds like both Ofgem and Ofcom's roles are in the line of fire, the only reason I can see for this.

    Utterly useless regulation, both narcissistic organisations, that care nothing for consumers, only their own image. With Ofcom, look at the linkin profiles of any of the senior positions in Ofcom, most are Ex-BT, parachuted into key jobs, so BT ultimately sets Ofcom's lax agenda, regards BT.

    Ofcom having no say (wiping their hands, so to speak) in the type of technology being rolled out "technology agnostic", is the ultimate cop out (and done for BT's benefit/Pointless G.fast's benefit).

    Clive Selley is about as BT as you can get. A BT Company man through and through. The idea he can act independently as head of Openreach is well, (to put it nicely) stretching things. He's in that job for one reason alone. To implement BT's Copper G.fast plans in terms of an independent Openreach. The two companies are about as separate as a bi-metalic strip, one bends the other.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Oor Nonny-Muss

        Re: Ofgem and Ofcom are in the line of fire, the only reason for this.

        Lucky you. I get 28M now on a "fibre" line with 1.35km of copper & 75m (yep seventy five whole metres) of actual fibre. When it was installed, I got 45 and that was ok. Now more people have gone "fibre" (same 75m of fibre + up up 1.5km of copper) crosstalk has killed it.

        Proper fibre to the premises needed 10 years ago, not now.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ofgem and Ofcom are in the line of fire, the only reason for this.

        You seem to be confusing Pointless G.fast and FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet). G.fast is normally classed as (more than) 100Mbps+ ultrafast service to distinguish it. G.fast has a very short working range from the cabinet of around 250m (as the crow flies) max (industrial/heavy machiney locations will affect signals adversely)

        What BT fail to state, anything longer than 500m by cable (250m as the crow flies), G.fast is pretty much pointless. You'd need up to 25 nodes in an area just 2Km2, to get blanket ultrafast coverage. Yep, you can do it with less nodes, but it's not blanket coverage, it's then cherry picking the locations.

        You have to make sure firmware between all pieces of G.fast equipment is matched (that you have no rogue devices), and are highly dependent on decent power supplies. Self Powering is not an option (yet). Get it wrong, it's a Can of Worms to fix. And that is just one sample square of 2Km2.

        There is just not the manpower rurally to maintain this type of high maintenance network. BT are lying if they intend to roll this out rurally. G.fast has just being used by BT to delay pure FTTP rollout as long as possible. Rurally, its vapourware, but has it's uses for multiple occupancy.

        It's all a lot of work, especially when some of the headine sweated Gigabit speeds are over very short copper (and good copper at that) cable lengths, which it would be fair easier in reality just to replace the copper with pure fibre.

        Hence, why G.fast is Pointless.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Ofgem and Ofcom are in the line of fire, the only reason for this.

            Bear in mind, there is a shortage in terms of the number of line cards they can currently fit (48) in a G.fast add-on pod (aswell as the distance aspect), so if G.fast does become available, you'd be wise to take it up ASAP (if you had intended to take it at some future point), because there will be physical limit on the number of people that can take the service, early on.

            The irony is, if demand outstripped supply, BT would probably need to use pure FTTP, to add additional capacity, which makes you think why not just do FTTP in the first place, which has no physical distance, power issues or interference issues. You can also get rid of nearly all this pointless "up to" regulation/monitoring, because it wouldn't be needed (on the whole).

            Crucially, we have a problem in that it benefits the regulator Ofcom, in choosing "up to" copper carcass based solutions, because it creates regulatory jobs, when we'd be far better creating pure fibre cable laying jobs.

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Ofgem and Ofcom are in the line of fire, the only reason for this.

        "I think G.Fast delivers fast speeds to the home with reduce costs compared to fibre to the home costs."

        Nope, not at all. It's more expensive.

        The difference is that 100% of the cost of everything can be billed upfront, whereas the cost of fibre has to be amortised over time.

  9. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Of course if you want a truly FTTP solution how will you do the telephone?

    Yes I know, dreadfully old fashioned but they are in fact powered by the exchange.

    Which is why you don't have to keep fitting batteries in them, or they have a second cable running from a little brick plugged into an electrical socket as well to work. There is the option of piezo electric switches which generate enough power when switched to drive the rest of the circuitry (yes they are a real thing).

    I'd love to see a truly passive, light driven landline telephone.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Of course if you want a truly FTTP solution how will you do the telephone?

      I haven't used my actual landline for at least 3 years, it's actually more like 10 years if you count very infrequent use, and there are plenty in the same boat.

      I coudn't care less about the copper "carrier" pair, and many feel the same. BT folk seem the only ones bothered about landlines, today. Ofcom have dragged their feet long enough, in looking to combine line rental charges into Broadband fees. I'd take pure FTTP over FTTC any day of the week.

      BT wouldn't even have a revenue model today, if it hadn't been for rollout programmes like BDUK, especially in rural locations. Income from calls is declining rapidly.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Of course if you want a truly FTTP solution how will you do the telephone?

        You may not care about the PSTN service (and increasing numbers of people agree with you) but equally there are many people who do and for many it is literally their lifeline (look up Careline etc.) and in areas of poor network coverage can be the only means to to make a voice call. Yes BT has a universal service obligation, remove that and see how much quicker fibre gets rolled out when you dont have to supply a voice service.

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Central London - no FTTC

    I live in NW1, in central London. No FTTC for my cabinet (Primrose Hill) and Openreach refuse to install it. Unable to change cabinets even though there is one much closer. My ISP (uno.net) unwilling to help in any way. The result: I get maybe 3 mbps down on a good day and often lose service completely. But I pay the same price as those with better, more stable connections.

    Now that this new "watchdog" comes along, do I get a way to complain about my situation and remedy it? Or is it the same thing where Openreach refuses to talk to individuals, regulators refuse to accept complaints from individuals and ISPs refuse to try to get their customers better service? I suspect this is more of the same.

    Shame on you, Openreach. And shame on Ofcom for allowing this kind of behavior from all parties involved.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. poopoo

    I had a recent broadband land line connection. I was a bit puzzled when the visiting engineer introduced himself as being from BT. A few moments later matters were clarified- he meant Openreach. But IT IS BT and clearly its employees think of it as BT. I tried to free myself of Virgin Media's exploitive pricing a couple of years ago by changing to a non- BT service but Openreach left me hanging and my new supplier could do nothing. I think this was deliberate. Openreach do not communicate directly with lowly end users either so I was stuffed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Openreach twitter account

      Openreach have a separate twitter account now, for company that bases it's income on communication, BT has to be the worst, in terms of setting a good example.

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