Douglas Carswell

28 JUL 2016

Let's break BT's monopoly - and Ofcom's

BT Openreach delivers woefully slow broadband in much of the country. Its customer service is, by many accounts, sub-par. It's a classic state-backed monopoly. So why has Ofcom chickened out of breaking it up?

By owning the network as well as acting as a service provider, BT has an obvious unfair advantage over its competitors. That can only be bad for consumers – which is why I joined a cross-party group of MPs in signing a report calling for BT and Openreach to be broken up.

But instead of a real change, Ofcom have instituted only a 'legal separation.' BT will still own Openreach, but Openreach will now get a new board of directors ...with the non-execs appointed by BT. It's a façade.

Removing BT's artificial market advantage would have been a start. But even that wouldn't have come close to solving the fundamental problem: the fact that Openreach has a monopoly over the broadband infrastructure.

For consumers to get cheaper, faster broadband, it's that monopoly which has to be broken. We need more broadband networks. Why not allow other companies to run their cables alongside Openreach's?

Ofcom's soft touch points to a deeper issue in the way regulators relate to the market. Too often, Big Business seems to get off lightly, while consumers lose out.

Why?

Partly because there's a revolving door between the regulators and the companies they oversee. It's the crony corporatist cartel at work again.

We don't just need producer competition. We need regulatory competition. Instead of unaccountable, public regulators, we should be looking to create competition between private regulators. The better the regulator at serving consumers' interests, the more it - and the companies it oversaw - would be trusted by the public.

State monopolies are a recipe for failure. To put consumers first, disperse power.

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