BT has said it is willing to give more independence to its Openreach division as the firm looks to head off the threat of the unit being turned into a separate company.
Ofcom will publish a long-awaited report on Tuesday into the future of Openreach and how it should be managed. Many rivals to BT such as Sky and TalkTalk argue that it should be spun out of BT.
MPs have also urged BT to “get its house in order”, saying that the current management of Openreach lacks transparency and hinders other firms’ investment in broadband infrastructure.
However, BT chairman Sir Mike Rake told BBC Radio 4 on Monday morning that this would be the wrong decision for the future of the UK’s digital infrastructure given the investment BT has committed to Openreach.
"We believe very strongly, looking at it from a country perspective, that this would be the wrong time to break up BT and would distract us from the remaining investment to get superfast and ultrafast broadband right across the country in the next two to three years," he said.
Furthermore, as a sop to Ofcom, Rake explained that the company is willing to turn over much more control to Openreach as a unit within BT.
"We're absolutely willing to form an Openreach board that would have an independent chairman and a majority of independent directors. We're willing to give more authority to Openreach in determination of its capital investment programme," he said.
“We want to formalise more their ability to listen to communication providers so they’re engaging with them, ensuring we can deliver for them as well as for BT Retail.”
Rake also admitted that BT customer service, including Openreach, is not good enough, but that plans to bring all call centre staff back into the UK will help with this situation, as it has already done for EE.
Whether such concessions, no doubt already put forward to Ofcom during its consultation phase, are enough to stop a split remain to be seen. The report is due Tuesday so BT does not have long to wait.
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