Update: Since the original publication of this article, we have a new Prime Minister - Teresa May. During the Conservative Party conference, Mrs May highlighted the plight of broadband in rural areas, and said that "where markets are dysfunctional, we should be prepared to intervene". That bodes well for Sky customers in rural areas, who regularly use the free Sky telephone number to ask what can be done about slow rural speeds.
During the weekend, the Prime Minister set out his stall for the future of British communication, and unsurprisingly, it placed a heavy emphasis on the Internet. David Cameron's pledge of universal broadband sounded, at least on paper like an excellent thing for the country. By 2020, every home and business in the country would have access to a minimum 10Mbps broadband speed. He said "Just as our forebears effectively brought gas, electricity and water to all, we're going to bring fast broadband to every home and business that wants it."
Whilst the government already plans to bring 'fast' internet to 95% of homes, this pledge is about hitting that last 5%, and whilst there's no doubting that it's a good idea, the execution has come under heavy fire, especially from Sky. In a response to the PM's comments at the CBI, Mai Fyfield, Chief Strategy Officer at Sky said: “This is a welcome initiative and fits with Sky's belief that the UK needs to be more ambitious in its digital infrastructure. However, it is unthinkable that Government would hand an even bigger role to BT given problems with the current roll out, its history of poor service and the risk of declining competition. An independent Openreach, freed from the control of BT, would be able to work with the whole industry to deliver the investment and innovation that the UK needs."
This, of course, is not the first time that Sky have openly discussed their dissatisfaction at BT Openreach, having used the Financial Times and Daily Telegraph to push Ofcom towards taking action on the company. Ofcom are currently working on their Strategic Review of Digital Communications, and in their submission to it, Sky made the following claims:
- Almost 90% of all new line installations (into homes or businesses) which required an Openreach engineer to attend took 10 calendar days or longer to complete and almost one in ten installations took over 30 days.
- Openreach misses over 500 appointments every month for Sky customers (leading to huge anger on the Sky billing number) and fail to complete around 4000 jobs a month.
- They also change the agreed installation date for Sky customers on average 12,500 times a month, causing havoc in Sky customers schedules.
- Fault rates have increased 50% between 2009 and 2012, and the company have consistently failed to hit their fault fixing targets.
Aside from being one of the UK's biggest broadband service providers, Sky have an interest in ensuring that broadband speeds are high across the country. Their recent moves in TV innovation have been in the sphere of streaming and On Demand content, like their new Premier League highlights deal. With that in mind, Sky are keen to ensure that everyone in the country has fast enough internet to keep up with this next generation of TV viewing, especially if Sky release a 4K TV service, as they're rumoured to be doing.
We wait and see what Ofcom have to say about Openreach, but Sky remain intent on turning the screws on the poorly run monopoly.
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