One of the questions being considered at the moment is whether BT should be somehow split up, e.g. Openreach, BT Wholesale, BT Retail, all separate actual entities somehow. People have asked my views on this many times.
Sadly I do not think I can provide a concrete answer. For a start, BT "operate" as if they were separate companies - a sort of corporate schizophrenia - so would splitting them for real change the way they operate - possibly not.
The issues come down to the money - at the moment, as a BT shareholder, it makes no odds how much BT Retail pay BT Wholesale or how much BT Wholesale pay Openreach. Such prices can be set as high as they can get away with as moving money within one entity does not really change the company as a whole but gets more money from the other telcos also paying the same price. However, I suspect that is a very simplistic view.
Personally I am not convinced the logical split we have now is in the right place. I can see merit in a near monopoly infrastructure provider if they work for the general good of the telecommunications industry - perhaps as a non-profit organisation even. But should that be at a level that charges for duct space, or for copper pairs, or what? I really do not know.
However, we do have some fun with the current situation. A case that crops up rather a lot where someone in BT Wholesale needs to have some work done to get a fault fixed, and that work is done by "their suppliers", Openreach. But even though BT Wholesale has a service level agreement with us, they have a "contract" with their "suppliers" that does not match that and allows their suppliers to take way longer to fix the fault than has been agreed with us.
They hide behind this as if saying "the contract with our suppliers does not allow us to get the work done any quicker" was actually a valid excuse, and they will even outright say "Openreach is a separate entity"!
Now, if their suppliers were a separate company, you have a situation where they have agreed a service level agreement with us, but then agreed with subcontractors a service level agreement which means they cannot meet the agreement with us. Selling us a service with an unattainable service level agreement would surely be some sort of fraud? Or at the very least a shady business practice.
For example, we sell the "7 hour guaranteed fix" service to our customers for a fee, and even pass on the relatively small pay out from BT for failing to meet that time scale. We buy the "7 hour guaranteed fix" service from BT. But if you do the maths you find that actually we would be better not buying the "7 hour fix" from BT. This is because the pay out is so low that even if BT always miss the 7 hour target we have with our customer, we still make more profit. On top of which BT will sometimes either fix within a short time anyway (if not needing an engineer) so we don't have to pay out, or miss the 20 to 40 hour SLA we have with them normally and so pay us anyway. I would not do that as I think it would be a dodgy and dishonest practice. But it seems like BT think it is quite acceptable as long as they pay the small amount of compensation agreed for missing the target.
However, at present, they are contracting with themselves not a real subcontractor or supplier. I do wonder if legally one can in fact contract with oneself at all anyway?
This means that the engineers and people working for "their suppliers" (Openreach) have agreed a service level with us directly - they are contractually bound to try and fix within the SLA agreed with us, not some fictitious SLA agreed with themselves trading as BT Wholesale.
Trying to get that through to them is really quite hard - the staff have been brainwashed in to thinking they are actually separate entities when they are not. They are simply operating as if they are separate entities. British Telecommunications plc (company 1800000) and Andrews & Arnold Ltd (company 3342760) have a contract and they should adhere to it, whichever part of company 1800000 they represent!
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