BT willing to let independent board run Openreach

The company's chairman said an independent body would oversee the infrastructure company's spending and strategy

BT is willing to set up an independent board of directors to run the company's Openreach infrastructure arm, to keep an eye on the spin-off company's spending and strategic decisions.

"We're absolutely willing to form an Openreach board that will have an independent chairman and a majority of independent directors," Mike Rake, chairman of BT, said in an interview on BBC Radio 4. "We're willing to give more authority to Openreach in determination of its capital investment programme."

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Additionally, Rake said he wants to reassure third parties using Openreach's infrastructure, such as TalkTalk, Sky, and Vodafone, that they are able to use Openreach's technology to deliver better solutions to their customers in exactly the same way BT can offer its customers extra-value services built on the infrastructure. There will be no preferential treatment, despite BT owning the offshoot.

"We want to formalise more their ability to listen to communication providers, so they're engaging with them, ensuring we can make sure we're delivering for them as well as BT Retail," he explained.

Rake also touched upon Openreach's investment into enhanced technology, which he admits was not well-managed and meant customer service suffered as a result of the company concentrating on innovating new services rather than quality of service.

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This was discussed in the Culture, Media and Sport Committee's report into Openreach earlier this month that said Openreach should be given more autonomy, but it needed to address customer complaints to ensure it was delivering quality services.

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"We started an investment programme in the height of the recession into fibre rolled it out to the country and we spent significant amounts of money with relatively low returns, which has achieved what we think is a very competitive, high-level of coverage and very good prices," Rake said. "However, in this sense, the committee are right it's not enough and we need to do more."

"We're working on a number of different aspects. We're doing a lot of work on technology platforms to improve the quality of customer service and the customer experience," he said.

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