BT chief blasts ‘cynical’ Sky for downgrading broadband repairs


The company has downgraded its contract with BT Openreach, the regulated monopoly that owns and runs the national telecoms network, so that broadband customers reporting a fault on their line get an engineer visit within two days rather than one, reports The Telegraph.

John Petter, the chief executive of BT’s consumer business, which is also an Openreach customer, attacked the move in outspoken comments that highlight telecoms industry bitterness amid the debate over the future of Britain’s broadband infrastructure.Sky is campaigning, alongside TalkTalk and Vodafone, for Openreach to be split from BT. As an independent infrastructure owner, it would provide better service and attract investment in broadband upgrades, BT’s rivals claim.

Mr Petter said: “Ofcom’s report makes it clear that millions of customers have been downgraded to a slower repair time but none of our rivals seem to be telling their customers”

“To be complaining about Openreach’s service on the one hand and then choosing in secret to degrade the service to customers suggests a surprising level of cynicism.”

Stephen van Rooyen, chief executive of Sky’s UK business, said the company had decided to reinvest savings from its Openreach contract in its own engineers. They are not able to repair BT’s lines, but can resolve many broadband problems.

Mr van Rooyen said: “Quite simply, Openreach has failed us and our customers. We all know that there are too many late repairs, missed appointments and recurring faults.

“We therefore changed the contract – which was not being delivered – and have stepped in ourselves to provide the level of service Sky customers expect.

“This has required significant investment over and above the fees we continue to pay to Openreach for a sub-standard service. Yet more evidence, if it was needed, of how failed this system is.”

He highlighted Sky’s performance in Ofcom’s customer complaints data. It attracted the fewest complaints, less than a fifth of BT, which attracted the most.

Mr Petter also accused Sky and its allies of misleading MPs and the public over Openreach.

He said: “If the founders of that campaign really cared about customer service why would they be choosing secretly to make it worse to boost their own profit?”

“The campaign has been based around misleading claims that its authors know to be untrue – such as the lie that BT’s sports business is subsidised by Openreach. But this latest finding shows they have sunk to a new low”

His comments are nevertheless likely to feed suspicions that BT’s consumer division and Openreach act in each other’s interests when they are meant to be functionally independent.

Ofcom is now considering responses to its proposal to stop short of full separation but make Openreach a legally separate company wholly owned by BT.

In her speech to the Conservative Party conference, the Prime Minister said it was “just not  right” that “that half of people living in rural areas, and so many small businesses, can’t get a decent broadband connection”.

She added that the Government was prepared to “take big, sometimes even controversial, decisions about our country’s infrastructure”.