This article orginially appeared in the Huffington Post.
Fast, reliable broadband is becoming an increasingly crucial part of our everyday lives - from sharing stories and watching our favourite shows, to studying for school or looking for a job. Depending on whether you have it or not, good internet access can have a dramatic effect on the lives of families, and the success of businesses, across the UK.
And for most of us our broadband connection is just like electricity or plumbing. It’s not really something we think about until it goes wrong. Sadly, over the last few years, internet users all over the country have suffered from poor speeds and an even poorer service.
Last week, the industry regulator, Ofcom, set out plans for improving internet speeds and reliability, including changes to the running of Openreach - the part of BT that owns the national copper network. If you’re a broadband customer of TalkTalk, Sky, Vodafone, or BT, then a large chunk of your bill goes to BT for running Openreach. Part of your taxes do too. But the billions of pounds this makes up just don’t seem to be working. Millions of people know that Openreach isn’t up to the job at the moment - and this is because it is being run for the benefit of BT shareholders, not the country. Without some very big changes, that’s exactly what will keep happening.
It’s no secret that the current broadband network isn’t fit for purpose - even the Government has called on the regulator to make radical changes. And, in fairness, Ofcom has come up with some new proposals for the future. However, while these might be a step in the right direction, they are going to add a lot of complexity. They also present BT with huge opportunities to game the system the way they have done so successfully in the past. We don’t think Ofcom have been nearly radical enough. And we don’t think the answer to regulation not working is more regulation. In fact, the fastest, easiest and simplest solution is to give Openreach complete independence from BT, so that they can make the decisions that benefit not just BT, but everyone.
This summer, for the first time, the public has the power in their hands to make a difference. We think it’s time families and businesses up and down the country make their voice heard, and that’s why we’ve launched ‘Fix Britain’s Internet’ campaign.
The campaign gives you a quick, easy way to tell Ofcom how you feel about Britain’s broadband. It only takes 10 seconds to encourage Ofcom to be brave and take the bold, decisive action which could make a real difference to your internet connection.
For too long BT has starved Openreach of the investment it needs, and exploited its control over national infrastructure to serve itself rather than the UK. And this won’t stop until the country tells BT that enough is enough.
To bring about meaningful progress (instead of a complex regulatory fudge) is going to mean some big changes. Ofcom needs as much support as possible if it’s going to be brave enough to take that step. That’s why it’s important that people let the regulator know how important it is they do the right thing and stand up to BT, to make sure you get the faster, more reliable services you deserve.
Whether it’s running a business, doing the shopping, educating our kids or falling in love, the internet is essential to our lives and futures. It shouldn’t just work for the benefit of one large company, it should work for everyone.