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Ofcom announces mechanisms to ensure BT and Openreach comply with the enhanced independence they have committed to

Openreach, and its alleged flaws, have been a consistent target of Ofcom since it launched the first part of its ‘Digital Communications Review’ back in 2015. This Review highlighted Ofcom’s concern that the relationship BT has with its network arm Openreach may be incentivising discrimination against other communications providers, to the determent of competition and service delivery. 

On this basis, in late 2016, Ofcom notified the European Commission of its intention to force the legal separation of Openreach from BT. To avoid such separation happening on Ofcom’s terms, BT Group launched negotiations with Ofcom, which ultimately led to Ofcom accepting voluntary Commitments from BT on measures to enhance the independence of Openreach, on terms agreed by both parties. 

In this latest update, Ofcom has announced that it intends to fully release BT from the Undertakings that underpinned the creation of Openreach (which required Openreach to provide services to all communications providers on an equivalent basis), which are to be replaced by the Commitments offered by BT. Ofcom’s announcement also sets out how it intends to police compliance with the Commitments, and the mechanisms it may use to enforce them.

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