It's no secret that Sky wants BT and Openreach split up. When Ofcom announced its new review of the UK telecommunications industry, the broadcaster said "structural separation" was vital to address what it perceives as a conflict of interest. Now that the investigation is underway, Sky has published its submission in full with a crucial recommendation: to upgrade the case to a "market investigation reference" with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The company argues that the relationship between BT and Openreach is reducing competition and limiting providers like Sky with its inadequate service. Were the CMA to set up its own inquiry, it could, depending on the outcome, lead to a forced separation of BT and Openreach -- something both parties are keen to avoid.
Sky uses the network infrastructure owned by BT and Openreach to offer its own broadband services across the UK. However, Sky says Openreach "falls far short of an acceptable standard," which gives customers a poor impression of its business. For instance, the company claims that Openreach engineers, in 90 percent of cases, take 10 days or longer to install a new line for Sky. In addition, it says that Openreach changes its agreed installation dates 36,000 times a month, while missing over 5,000 appointments and failing to complete 4,000 jobs over the same period. Sky also claims that faults across the Openreach network are increasing and that they're not being fixed fast enough.
Unsurprisingly, BT is disputing the claims. A spokesperson said Sky was "engaging in selective spin rather than constructive dialogue." The company admitted that Openreach's customer service could be improved, but maintained that a break up wasn't the answer. "It would lead to huge uncertainty and fundamentally undermine the case for future investment," the spokesperson added. Sky is pushing hard for change, but it'll be a while before we know if its efforts have paid off. Ofcom will release a "discussion document" later this summer, but its initial conclusions won't be published until the end of the year. Even if Ofcom were to side with Sky, that would mean another long and arduous wait while the CMA conducts its own review. In the broadband wars, it's all about the long game.
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