In March 2017, BT notified Ofcom of its voluntary commitments to further reform Openreach, making it a distinct company with its own staff, management, purpose and strategy. We set out our view that the new arrangements sufficiently address Ofcom’s competition concerns as set out in our Strategic Review of Digital Communications (PDF, 1.1 MB) subject to BT and Openreach’s continued commitment to the new arrangement.
Ofcom published a statement in July 2017 confirming our decision to release BT from its existing undertakings (PDF, 958.4 KB) once the new commitments are in place.
We also explained how we would measure compliance with the new arrangements and assess whether they deliver positive outcomes for consumers and businesses.
Ofcom established the Openreach Monitoring Unit (OMU) to oversee the new arrangements.
The OMU will assess whether the new rules are being observed and will focus on three key areas:
The OMU will gather feedback from Openreach customers and other stakeholders on how the new arrangements are working. Details on how to get in touch with the OMU can be found below. The OMU will also work closely with Openreach and BT to gather and review relevant information. This will help to assess compliance with the new commitments and evaluate whether Openreach is acting independently of BT and in the interests of all its customers. We will also closely monitor how BT meets its commitment to deliver benefits in Northern Ireland.
In June 2018 we published our Implementation Report (PDF, 349.2 KB), which outlined the key steps taken by BT and Openreach to implement the new arrangements, alongside our observations and external stakeholder feedback. We found that material progress had been made, particularly on culture and leadership at the top. However, we considered there was more to do to fully realise the vision of independence and to achieve better service for consumers.
We published our interim monitoring report in November 2018 (PDF, 948.1 KB), which provides an update on further developments since our June 2018 report, and how the new arrangements between BT and Openreach are working in practice. We remain broadly satisfied with progress, although we recognise the changes will need some time to fully bed in and continued commitment from Openreach and BT is crucial to ensure the new arrangements are a success.
In July 2019, we published our Annual Monitoring Report (PDF, 570.9 KB), which explores how the new arrangements between BT and Openreach are working in practice. We found that real progress has been made implementing the new arrangements, but there is more to be done.
In November 2020, deferred by a few months in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, we published our Annual Monitoring Report (PDF, 466.6 KB) for the period 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020. We found that, overall, BT and Openreach continue to make good progress in strengthening and safeguarding Openreach’s strategic independence. But, as the report sets out, there is no room for complacency and continued focus and vigilance is necessary to ensure progress continues, is fully embedded and sustainable.
Full compliance monitoring reports are published on an annual basis. The work of the OMU will also feed into wider Ofcom work to assess whether the new arrangements are delivering the right results for businesses and consumers.
The new arrangements do not replace existing regulation of BT. Ofcom will continue to carry out other policy and enforcement activity in accordance with normal procedures.
The OMU will not get involved in individual issues arising between consumers and BT or Openreach. And while we are keen to hear from stakeholders about related issues they may be facing, the OMU intends to use this information to inform its broader monitoring and reporting strategy rather than to resolve individual issues. Regulatory disputes between parties should be brought to Ofcom where appropriate under the existing process (PDF, 276.7 KB).
If stakeholders have concerns about specific aspects of the service they have been provided, they should continue to contact BT or Openreach in the first instance. However, we would be keen to hear from stakeholders if they have comments about Openreach’s compliance with the commitments.
If you want to get in touch with the OMU, please email OMU@ofcom.org.uk