BT told to open up its broadband network - so you can have better internet

Should keep Openreach at arms length

Ofcom, the UK's communications regulator, has published a report calling for BT to let rivals use its infrastructure to build their own networks.

The watchdog said BT should do this in order for the UK to "keep up with everyone's expectations" of their phones and broadband by ensuring they get the best reliability and speed.

Ofcom Chief Executive Sharon White said she was "concerned" about a digital divide between people around the country who are able to get decent broadband service and those who are not.

BT's broadband infrastructure is owned by its Openreach division which, Ofcom says, should from now on be run at a distance from BT. However Ofcom did not recommend splitting off Openreach entirely, which would have been better news for rivals such as Sky.

'Automatic compensation'

Nonetheless, Ofcom's decision would make it easier for rivals to lay their own cables using Openreach's infrastructure.

It also says it intends to introduce tougher rules on faults, repairs and installations, as well as more transparent information on quality. Additionally there will be stricter rules on automatic compensation for customers when faults arise.

BT Chief Exec Gavin Patterson responded to Ofcom's recommendation, stating that BT "welcomes" rivals to use the infrastructure, so long as they invest.

"We are happy to let other companies use our ducts and poles if they are genuinely keen to invest very large sums as we have done," he said. "Our ducts and poles have been open to competitors since 2009 but there has been little very interest to date. We will see if that now changes."

Ofcom said it is working with the government to deliver a "universal right" to fast and affordable broadband in every UK home and business.

Ofcom added that it reserved the right to demand a full Openreach spin-off in the future should it feel it necessary to do so.