Connected Research

Union policy research in the 21st century

BT’s Undertakings re-prioritised

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Ofcom has today issued a statement concerning the re-prioritisation of BT’s Undertakings, part of which concerns the separation of infomation systems and databases between Openreach and the rest of BT. Ofcom consulted on this issue back in May (blogged about here) and Connect and the CWU jointly drafted a response in July broadly welcoming Ofcom’s move.

The issue essentially considered the relaxation of several of the Undertakings as regards systems separation in return for a set of new commitments to particular service developments. We supported the move on the grounds that allowing systems and information development employees to approach the purpose behind their role from a perspective of writing new software for the new principles under which BT operates, rather than trying to make legacy systems, written in a different era and for different purposes, do things for which they were not designed, was clearly a rational way to deal with the requirement in the Undertakings for separation.

In discussions with BT and other communications providers subsequent to the closure of the consultation, Ofcom has satisfied itself that the delay in meeting separation targets would have a limited impact on competition (and would also be ameliorated by the concomitant service improvements by Openreach), while the overall position had also been strengthened subsequent to the consultation both directly in the Undertakings themselves and otherwise in the production of a separate side letter from BT. Consequently, it has approved the changes. In particular, Ofcom believes that:

The Undertakings will continue to be a comprehensive solution to the competition problems identified as a result of the TSR [Telecoms Strategic Review].

This would seem to be a good outcome both for BT as well as for the rationality of regulation itself, where evident problems appear, to have a focus on a common sense approach within the overall aims while not over-focusing on detailed prescription.

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Written by Calvin

11/09/2009 at 2:01 pm

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