Chris Bryant MP calls for Openreach to be hived off
The Digital Britain we sit in now is not just the creation of Openreach, it has is the result of decades of regulation and a constant nibbling around the edges as Oftel and Ofcom regulated to allow competitors to try different business models. The previous Labour Government also created the Digital Britain movement with an ambitious due to an incredibly tight time scale for every one to have access to 2 Mbps by 2012 - though at the time of the 2010 election there was no actual plan in place to deliver this and it took until December 2012 for the first FTTC area to go live from the subsequent BDUK process that the coalition settled on and this is still working towards its goals.
Fast forward to 2015 and we now have Chris Bryant who the is MP for Rhondda and shadow secretary of state for culture, media and sport appears to be backing the idea that Openreach should be split off citing in a Telegraph article that 'Yet (The Government) they have already missed their initial deadline of May 2015 and shifted it back by two and a half years to December 2017'.
The problem is that the 90% superfast target has not actually shifted to December 2017, it can be argued that we have missed the May 2015 target, but everything is pointing towards passing the 90% figure in January 2016, which while late is nothing like December 2017. The December 2017 figure refers to the phase 2 target of 95% superfast coverage and in the phase 2 work while it is still dominated by BT offers have started to win contracts.
To some extent we are stuck in the middle of this row since we started tracking the coverage spurred on originally by campaigners who insisted that the 90% target was impossible. The Universal Service Commitment target is an interesting one as we believe that for the UK just 1% of premises can only get 2 Mbps or slower over a fixed line connection, or put another way around 300,000 premises. In the crucible of Lancashire which has some of the hardest working and campaigning FTTH people on the planet, the BT/BDUK project combined with commercial coverage means 90% of the county have the option of a 30 Mbps or faster connection (90.7% at 24 Mbps) and just 0.5% are under 2 Mbps - of course if you are one 2,500 to 3,000 affected then you will be complaining loudly (Openreach FTTP coverage is at 0.29%, B4RN that is not in the figures is around 0.2% but does cover some of the USC areas).
Looking at the shadow secretaries own constituency the 2017 target is already met at 96% with the option of a 24 Mbps or faster connection (95.2% 30 Mbps) and USC coverage is 0.9%.
We hope we are not considered part of the government spin machine as we have no desire to be, and we are area that some of our coverage articles carry an awful lot of statistics but these are only included to help inform and avoid the PR spin going completely mad and without some independent monitoring of the roll-out it would be too easy for flowery language to be used to hide areas where a project is not performing so well.
So in summary for those that have not been helped by Openreach or the BDUK process Digital Britain may appear an abject failure and these people are increasingly vocal as one would expect, but the reality is that we are significantly better off than 3 years ago and if Virgin Media and TalkTalk along with others deliver what is promised we will have 300 Mbps available to two thirds of the UK and 940 Mbps FTTH to one third with in a couple of years even if Openreach was to vanish.