Today (March 10) Ofcom announced that BT has agreed to separate legally from Openreach. Openreach will become a distinct company with its own staff, management, purpose and strategy.

The legal separation of BT and Openreach must not distract us all from the rollout of broadband to those communities which are receiving a poor level of service, and who need connectivity now. The Countryside Alliance is concerned that it could take several years for this separation to be completed and challenges Ofcom to ensure the separation is swift to ensure that Openreach can focus on broadband delivery in the countryside.

1.4 million premises remain unable to access broadband speeds over 10 Mbit/s, the speeds required to meet a typical household’s digital needs, which is also the proposed speed of the Government’s Universal Service Obligation. Superfast broadband, measured at 30 Mbit/s, is now available to 89% of UK homes, but only 59% of homes in rural areas are able to access superfast speeds. The Countryside Alliance supports a competitive broadband market, which is not based on just one technology and provides households and businesses with a choice of connectivity, which would benefit everyone both economically and socially.

Head of Policy, Sarah Lee, says

“Separating Openreach from BT has often been presented as the panacea to all broadband woes. I fear that many who expect this institutional separation to make a significant contribution to addressing the frustrations of rural communities without adequate broadband provision could be sorely disappointed.

“Ofcom must now ensure that Openreach places customers at the heart of their decision-making process, as it is vital at the end of this that we end up with a competitive market that delivers the modern digital services and the infrastructure Britain desperately needs.”