Time for a broadband shake-up?

GovernUp, the cross-party independent research project for effective government, today released a discussion paper identifying the need for action on the UK’s broadband market. 

The paper finds that ‘business as usual’ will not be enough to ensure that the UK’s future broadband needs are met, and that a more competitive market is needed to deliver reliable, super-fast connectivity to all UK citizens. 

In particular the paper recommends that as part of its current strategic review Ofcom should refer the broadband market to the Competition and Markets Authority.

Such a referral would identify how serious the issues with lack of competition and under-investment are, and allow a rigorous assessment of what further steps need to be taken to ensure that the UK has a fit-for-purpose, future proofed digital infrastructure.

Nick Herbert MP, Co-Chairman of GovernUp, said: “Getting our broadband market right is mission critical to the UK’s future.  We need to ensure that business and consumers are fully able to take advantage of a rapidly expanding digital economy.

“Yet as this paper shows there are worrying signs that the broadband market is struggling to meet the needs of Britain today, let alone tomorrow.

“Concerns around under-investment, re-monopolisation and the lack of a level-playing field for non-BT communication providers, an unsatisfactory quality of service at the wholesale level, and limited choice for SME and rural customers, are just some of the warning lights that are too important to ignore.

“These symptoms all suggest that serious consideration must now be given to a structural separation of the Openreach network from BT.

“Separation might not be the silver bullet to fix all these issues, but at the very least there is a clear need for the market to be referred to the regulator with the best tools at its disposal to assess the structure fully, and if need be correct it.

“This paper gives policy-makers, regulators and all stakeholders a concise snapshot of what is at stake and a way forward,” Mr Herbert concluded.