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Labour shadow culture sec calls for BT and Openreach separation

Chris Bryant, shadow culture secretary, has called for BT’s network arm to be separated from the rest of the company. 

The Labour MP for Rhondda congratulated BT, Openreach and Ofcom for achievements so far, which have seen superfast broadband made available to over 80 per cent of the country
 
Too many homes and businesses are still having to make do with last-gen speeds and services, argues Bryant in an opinion piece for the Telegraph. 

“The situation is now so bad that Ofcom’s review should work on the presumption that Openreach should be split from the rest of BT unless their review produces conclusive evidence to the contrary,” Bryant said. 

“At the very least Openreach should be held accountable for its poor quality of service – the delays for repairs, the missed appointments, the months of waiting to switch providers.” 

Ofcom is currently looking at Openreach’s position within the BT group as part of its 2015 Strategic Review. This will set out regulation for telecoms in the UK over the next decade and could see Openreach become an entirely separate entity. 

Bryant also takes aim at Openreach’s record on missed appointments, despite BT’s figures for April-June of this year showing that it’s cleared Ofcom’s targets, and UK Government’s Mobile Infrastructure Project, which aims to patch up rural mobile coverage. 

The £150 million Mobile Infrastructure Project has so far only installed two sites stations, the first of which was set up in September 2013. Since then, a number of delays and discussions have seen the project effectively put on hold. 

Bryant also heaped scorn on the previous administration for ditching Labour’s old plan to have a basic broadband service delivering 2Mbps to all homes by 2012, which would have seen every home able to stream the London Olympic Games on BBC iPlayer. 

Besides closing the rural-urban superfast divide, Bryant doesn’t offer any radical alternatives; he doesn’t appear to be among the Labour activists who drew up the Number One in Digital report, a pre-election plan that called for every home in Britain to have a 1Gbps FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) line. 

BT is currently trialling gigabit fibre broadband alongside G.fast, which has demonstrated download speeds of over 700Mbps in lab conditions. So far only Zen Internet has come out to voice support for BT’s plans. 

Meanwhile, Sky and TalkTalk continue to work on their joint venture with CityFibre in York while smaller ISPs including Hyperoptic, Gigaclear and B4RN roll out gigabit services in the cities and the countryside.  

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