MPs call for action against BT's 'natural monopoly' header image

Published: 22nd Jun 2016

BT should be separated from Openreach, its broadband infrastructure division, to address the company's "natural monopoly" over the market and allow more people to receive reliable, high-speed internet access, according to MPs.

The British Infrastructure Group (BIG), which is composed of hundreds of cross-party MPs, published a report warning that millions of homes and businesses are still not receiving fast broadband, despite large-scale public investment.

Titled 'BroadBad', the report claimed that £1.7 billion of taxpayer money has been channelled into the development of broadband infrastructure, but 5.7 million people across Britain are not receiving Ofcom-required speeds of ten megabits per second.

The problem extends to the business community, with 42 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises reporting problems with their internet connections.

It is estimated that this issue is costing the economy some £11 billion.

With the modern economy so reliant on digital infrastructure and the internet, the MPs argued that Ofcom, the communications industry watchdog, needs to take "radical action" to address BT's "lack of ambition and underinvestment".

"We believe that Britain should be leading the world in digital innovation. Yet instead we have a monopoly company clinging to outdated copper technology with no proper long-term plan for the future," they said.

"We need to start converting to a fully fibre network so we are not left behind the other nations who are rushing to embrace digital advancement."

The BIG members called for a "formal separation" of BT from Openreach and a "concerted ambition" to deliver the "broadband service that our constituents and businesses so rightly demand".

According to the key findings published in the report, over 60 per cent of the 5.7 million people whose internet connections do not reach Ofcom's acceptable minimum speeds live in rural areas.

These individuals could benefit from using satellite broadband, which delivers internet access via a satellite dish rather than underground cables.