A war of words broke out between the UK’s telecom firms again yesterday, as TalkTalk boss Dido Harding accused BT chief executive Gavin Patterson of “grandstanding” with a series of pledges to improve broadband service unveiled yesterday.
The BT boss said the company wants to “forge an ultrafast future for Britain and stand ready to help government deliver the broadband speeds necessary for every property to enjoy modern day internet services”.
“To achieve this, we need a collaborative effort across industry and government,” he added.
BT has previously come under fire for its ownership of Openreach, the UK’s telecoms infrastructure network and in July Ofcom revealed that it was conducting a review of this situation.
The watchdog confirmed that it was considering separating BT from its Openreach network as the move “could deliver competition or wider benefits for end users”.
The deadline for responses to Ofcom’s consultation on the matter is 8 October, and Harding told City A.M. yesterday that this was most likely the reason behind yesterday’s BT announcement: “The last thing BT wants is for Openreach to be spun off – it’s a hugely profitable part of the group.”
However, she said the pledges to improve are “too little too late”.
Sky is also a vocal supporter of breaking Openreach away from BT, and a spokesperson for the company said yesterday: “For years, BT has been under-investing and delivering poor quality service for customers. What the British broadband market urgently needs is radical reform, not calculated manoeuvring and caveats to protect BT’s self-interest.”
He added: “Only a truly independent Openreach will unlock the investment, innovation and competition required to deliver the digital connectivity of the future.”
Shares in BT fell by 2.3 per cent yesterday.