July's FSP Round-Up

Added by Cathy Gerosa | Friday 29th July 2016

July's face to face Fixed Service Providers meeting featured two presentations from Openreach on SOGEA and the role of the Customer Experience Team as well as the usual monthly updates, FSP slides availabile here.

 

We had two very helpful presentations from Openreach and I would encourage you to look at the slides for these in some detail:

SOGEA: this presentation dealt with the reality of plans for introduction/roll-out of the product, the impact it will have on your customers and your WLR base. Openreach are keen to pick up questions now from CPs about the changes and possible impacts, so do please e-mail me and I will pass your questions on to the team.

Customer Experience Team: a detailed explanation of the roles of the team and how they differ from CSO/CMC. Did you know that if you have a direct relationship with Openreach then you should have a named Customer Experience Manager? If you do not know who your named contact is, please e-mail Jill Smith – jillian.smith@openreach.co.uk

If you have any questions about the FSP content please do not hesitate to ask me.

There’s no meeting in August, so the next F2F is 20 September at Simmons & Simmons.

Cathy Gerosa

cgerosa@fcs.org.uk

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Openreach: must do better

Added by Chris Pateman | Tuesday 26th July 2016

So it's out at last:  Ofcom's wonderful recipe for yielding us all the benefits of an Openreach structurally separated from BT, but with none of the pain and heartache associated with actually going ahead and separating it.  Nice job if you can pull it off.  But a bit of a bugger for everyone (well, apart from BT) if you can't.

It may be worth just remembering where we’re starting from:  Ofcom is hardly a disinterested third-party.  When BT gave the ‘Undertakings’ that brought Openreach into being in the first place, Ofcom were co-signatories to the document.  And Ofcom has spent the last 10 years engaged with BT in the process of trying to make them work.  So there is a kind of unwritten cultural Stockholm Syndrome at the heart of today’s rather unambitious pronouncements.

FCS continues to believe the best result for the industry and the nation would be the complete structural separation of Openreach from the BT Group as an industry mutual organization, responsible and accountable to its customers.

We understand Ofcom’s reluctance to force this radical change on the market.  So in the interests of the industry, we worked with fellow Openreach customer organisations (including Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone) to propose a 10-point programme.  We considered these proposals the minimum necessary to achieve qualitiative improvements without taking that final sanction. 

Well, it’s good to see Ofcom agree with so many of our points.  And it’s encouraging to see BT’s initial proposals being dismissed in the Ofcom document as luke warm.  But, then, after all, what would you expect – it’s just their derisory opening bid in a protracted negotiation, made in the knowledge that Ofcom has no opportunity to walk away from the table.

So in that context, we’re concerned that Ofcom’s own opening proposals already fall short on a number of key issues.  Not least the position on the make-up of an Openreach Board, and the puzzling refusal to consider full budgetary autonomy – including allowing Openreach to raise funds in the open market and the quid-pro-quo of BT’s own retail and wholesale businesses being able to source infrastructure services from other providers.  It is hard to see how Openreach can be simultaneously independent and tied to a ‘spending envelope’ and associated cost of capital which might bear no relationship to market rates.

Without a significant strengthening between now and October, when the consultation closes, Ofcom’s proposals represent little more than ‘Undertakings 2’, with a bit of perfunctory window-dressing as a nod to the developments which have taken place within the market since 2005.  As with the original Undertakings, it’s very unlikely that final position will be more than tinkered with for the next 10 years. 

That, of course, might suit Ofcom very well.  It will certainly suit BT.  We are far from convinced it will really suit anybody else.

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Stop me if you've heard this

Added by Chris Pateman | Tuesday 19th July 2016

As an industry, we get so used to living with work-arounds and banging our heads against the wall every time Openreach fall short of expectations, that we can wonder if anyone even bothers to listen.  Then let us take heart!

If not for the fact that it stops short of calling for the immediate structural separation of Openreach from BT, this morning’s long-awaited ‘World-class Connectivity’ report of the Commons Select Committee on Culture Media and Sport almost reads like an FCS briefing paper.  

The committee of Parliamentarians spent six months investigating the state of Britain’s connectivity infrastructure.  It talked to BT, Ofcom, Virgin and Voda and received evidence from FCS, INCA and 100 other organisations and individuals.  It looked at mainstream provisioning, USO, passive infrastructure and the needs of the “last 5%”.  And what do you know..?

“There appears to be compelling evidence that BT Group is exploiting the position of vertical integration to make strategic decisions that favour the Group’s priorities and interests, at the expense of its access infrastructure business.

“BT does not lack access to capital. Its current structure allows it to use Openreach’s utility-type assets to cross-subsidise riskier activities elsewhere in the Group, while significantly under-investing in the access infrastructure and services on which a large part of the public rely.”

Couldn’t have said it better ourselves.  But, of course, we would say that, wouldn’t we?  What is vital here is precisely that it isn’t the industry saying it:  it’s Parliament.

Or how about this:  “The requirement of easy access to BT’s passive infrastructure on reasonable terms is vital, as it will allow network builders to come to better investment decisions. This issue should have been given a higher priority by Ofcom much earlier.  Key to its success will be Openreach providing online access infrastructure maps so that providers can plan their deployments.  Pricing will also need to be regulated in a way to encourage investment.  Openreach’s processes must be realistic and exible to meet alternative network builders’ needs and not just those of BT, and Openreach must demonstrate a willingness to deliver access arrangements that are flexible and encourage take up.”

FCS salutes this report from a committee which has demonstrated itself to be engaged with reality, aware of the taxpayer funding which has been passed to BT and concerned that Ofcom and Openreach have respectively fallen short on oversight and delivery.

The big danger, as always, is that this helpful spotlight on the needs, opportunities and frustrations of our industry will be overlooked among the latest headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s hair style or the mobile industry’s 5G manifesto.  Once again, it’s up to us – all of us – to make sure the policy-makers take it to heart.  Fortunately, we're not alone thgere, either:  FCS and several other customer organisations already have some robust arguments.  Let's make them!

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