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Sky, TalkTalk, Vodafone urge ‘radical reform’ of UK broadband

Sky CEO Jeremy Darroch

Sky CEO Jeremy Darroch

The UK broadband market is letting customers and businesses down and it is “time we considered radical reform,” according to the chief executives of Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone UK.

In an open letter published by the Financial Times, the executives and other business leaders said there is an “urgent need for increased competition” and called for UK broadcast regulator Ofcom to ask the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to “undertake a full market investigation.”

“Only the CMA, with the support of Ofcom, can address the structural barriers to competition that will unlock the next wave of investment in communications infrastructure that the country urgently needs. We cannot afford to wait,” according to the executives.

The letter comes as Ofcom carries out a major review of the UK communications market, with one of the topics under consideration being whether BT’s Openreach division, responsible for maintaining the national broadband network, should be split from BT’s other businesses.

The FT letter claimed that BT’s “conflict of interest” is producing a “sub-standard experience for millions of customers” and a “diminished opportunity for alternative providers to compete effectively.”

“There is an urgent need for increased competition so that alternative providers are encouraged to invest and innovate to solve the challenges ahead. These include investment to deliver broadband coverage in hard to reach areas, improved service quality and reliability, fibre products suitable for Britain’s SMEs, and new ultrafast broadband services,” said the letter.

“We do not believe that the fundamental problems identified by Ofcom can be addressed by tinkering with the existing regulatory framework. Ofcom has done a good job of delivering competition on the old copper network, but the powers given to it are insufficient for the new superfast world.”

The letter was co-signed by: Jeremy Darroch, group CEO, Sky; Dido Harding, CEO, TalkTalk; Jeroen Hoencamp, CEO, Vodafone UK; Simon Walker, director general, Institute of Directors; Malcolm Corbett, CEO, Independent Networks Co-operative Association; Chris Bryce, CEO, Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed; and Chris Pateman, CEO, Federation of Communication Services.