BT and Virgin to vouch for UK’s broadband flair

Billy Bambrough
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BT and Virgin are taking ads out in newspapers across the country (Source: Getty)

Rivals BT and Virgin Media will this week launch a joint advertising campaign to defend the UK’s broadband.

Ads running in newspapers across the country will claim there has been a combined £15bn of investment in the UK’s broadband infrastructure over the past five years and highlight average download speeds are faster than in Germany, France, Italy, and Spain.

BT is currently fighting to hold on to its infrastructure arm Openreach with regulator Ofcom running a consultation on proposed measures to leave it under the BT umbrella.

Read more: BT needs to be open about Openreach aims

All of BT’s rivals, except Virgin Media, rely on wholesale access to the Openreach network to serve their own subscribers.

TalkTalk, Sky and Vodafone – three of Openreach’s largest customers and critics – have repeatedly called for the division to be removed from the BT Group. The three companies launched their own campaign earlier this year called Fix Britain’s Internet, inviting internet users to write to Ofcom and their local MP to complain about broadband service.

City A.M. understands around 10,000 people have contacted Ofcom via the campaign website.

In July Ofcom recommended a set of reforms for Openreach but warned that if BT failed to deliver it would look at so-called structural separation. The consultation is ongoing and expected to close in three weeks time.

Read more: TalkTalk boss says Ofcom's plans for BT and Openreach are not enough

BT was dealt a blow last week after Karen Bradley – the culture, media, and sport secretary – warned BT that Openreach could still be split out to a separate company despite Ofcom’s proposals to leave it as a part of BT Group. As part of Ofcom’s proposals Openreach would have a separate board but have to ask the group for investment cash.

The spectre of structural separation has been hanging over BT for years, with investors desperate for some kind of formal resolution to the debate, which has been repeatedly kicked into the long grass.