A number of MPs have said they believe a lack of competition is effecting infrastructure investment during a debate on coverage ‘not spots’.
The debate was raised by Conservative MP Matt Warman who was formerly a Daily Telegraph Technology journalist. Warman explained he wanted the debate to examine the benefits of the current infrastructure policy and to call for a ‘not spots summit’.
MPs from a number of parties attacked the lack of competition in the market and questioned whether keeping Openreach as a combined entity was a good idea.
Nick Herbert, Conservative MP for Arundel and South Downs said: ‘Here is a clear case of market failure. The market says that it does not have the resources to supply the remaining percentage of difficult-to-reach households.
‘I believe there is a lack of competition in this area and that a shake-up of the market is needed. It is not satisfactory that 75% of new superfast broadband customers on the Openreach network are BT or BT subsidiary customers. The time has come to persuade Ofcom to take a serious look at the lack of competition in this area and make a referral to the Competition and Markets Authority.’
Labour MP for East Ham Stephen Timms, said: ‘Ministers have lost sight of the lesson that competition needs to be at the heart of telecommunications policy. We have heard lip service paid to competition since 2010, but have seen no serious attempt to drive forward competition in telecommunications —and now we are paying the price, as seen in the complaints aired in this debate.
‘I make no criticism of BT, which has simply done what any effective company would do when presented with a gift horse—it has accepted it. It is now recognised that BT was overpaid for the infrastructure it provided, so it has to start paying back some of the handout it received. Usage of the infrastructure has been a good deal higher than predicted, so BT is paying back some of the windfall it has enjoyed, but I believe only half of it. ‘
Communications minister Ed Vaizey also took the opportunity to call for MPs from both parties to join together to make changes to planning permission so it was easier for mobile operators to put up masts in rural areas: ‘As we look at planning reforms, particularly to extend mobile coverage, I hope that my honourable friend will support me if we make it easier for mobile phone companies to put up masts in rural areas.’