We’re delighted by Ofcom’s dark fibre announcement - proposals to grant access to BT’s fibre networks to its competitors and other businesses.
At present, BT still controls a £2bn-a-year market, effectively having the network to themselves across vast swathes of the UK.
We firmly believe that BT should be required to open up access to that network - and now it seems like Ofcom agree with us.
BT was last required to recalibrate its wholesale broadband offering around eight years ago. That change ushered in a whole new generation of services from internet service providers (ISPs) that we now take for granted. FTTC ‘fibre broadband’, superfast broadband at 24MB and above, plus a host of other breakthroughs were made shortly afterwards.
Those technologies simply weren’t available under the previous BT Wholesale offerings before the core broadband network was opened up to ISPs.
It is not just improvements in services and technologies that arise from opening up the BT network - prices are also driven down.
Indeed, the price of our own 1GB business internet offerings dropped form £7,000 per month in 2009 to £300-500 per month in 2015. This is the real effect of opening up the core UK network to true competition and it is to be welcomed.
The £7,000 charge wasn’t based on greed or exorbitant profits but the cost of operating in a market that wasn’t sufficiently open at that time.
Once the core network was opened up, there were real benefits to business in terms of quality - because the internet has become incomparably faster - and price, which is less than a fifth what it was before the recalibration.
Ofcom’s interest in the situation matters a great deal. We’re confident that regulatory intervention in the dark fibre markets would have a similar effect on quality and price. The industry, businesses and consumers would all benefit significantly once again.