Openreach provides products and services to communication providers (CPs) on an "equivalent" basis. This obligation is embodied in the BT Undertakings given to the telecoms regulator Ofcom in September 2005.
These Undertakings state that we will provide the same products and services to ALL of our customers on the basis of "Equivalence of Inputs", which means (subject to some limited exceptions):
• at the same prices
• using the same processes
• to the same timescales
We provide different service levels at different prices and Service Level Guarantees, but these are the same for all CPs.
Who checks everything is equivalent?
The Business Integrity team is responsible for ensuring that all Openreach people understand their regulatory obligations and that, as an organisation, our processes and systems enable each and every one of us to comply with them.
The team has a wide remit, which ranges from proactively managing regulatory compliance issues and ensuring the right frameworks are in place to producing meaningful measures which provide peace of mind for the industry that we are acting in an equivalent manner.
The team also runs a customer engagement programme that gathers feedback from CPs and manages the Equality of Access Board and Office whose job it is to monitor BT’s compliance with the Undertakings. The other part of its job is to advise the business on how to deliver products equivalently and actively engage with compliance colleagues across BT.
It’s important that we have an identity that is separate from the rest of BT. This helps us provide all customers with great service – that’s also very visible to end users – in a fair and equal way.
Our fleet of over 27,000 vehicles has the Openreach livery and all of our field engineers have Openreach clothing which clearly displays the Openreach wordmark.
Our frontline engineers have a big part to play. The use of the correct announcement: “I’m from Openreach, here to provide/repair your line on behalf of XYZ Telecom” positions our role and relationship with our customers.
To ensure an effective partnership with Openreach, you should always tell your customers that it will be an Openreach engineer who is going to turn-up to install/repair their phone. This will lead to a clearer understanding and avoid problems when accessing end user premises.
Separating our systems
Openreach is required either to separate or to monitor access to its systems.
"Separation" means that a particular system is only accessible to Openreach people and has been separated from the rest of BT.
For those systems that we can't separate, ie for technical reasons, we have put in place robust user access controls. Regular audits are carried out and reported to the Equality of Access Office to provide confidence in the safekeeping of Openreach information from other parts of BT.
On CSS, no CP can view another CP's orders.
In March 2017, BT reached a voluntary agreement with Ofcom regarding the Digital Communications Review (DCR). This confirmed that Openreach would be set up as Openreach Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary within the BT Group.
As part of the DCR agreement, BT gave Ofcom a set of Commitments to strengthen the independence of Openreach. The Commitments cover how Openreach will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of BT, how we'll work with customers and how we'll work with colleagues in BT Group.
One of our Commitments is to treat all Communication Providers (CPs) equally. Whether we're developing products, agreeing our Annual Operating Plan, making investment decisions, consulting with customers or doing anything that has a customer impact, we do this in a way that's fair to all customers, in an objective and not unduly discriminatory way. We will also continue to provide SMP products on an EoI basis, where applicable, which means that every CP has the same product or service provided on the same timescales, terms and conditions (including price and service levels) by means of the same systems and processes.
More about our Commitments…
Why do the Commitments matter?
- Be a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT, with an independent board to run the company
- Treat all customers equally
- Be more independent in setting our strategy and in our decision making
- Have a new brand that doesn't mention BT
- Have a customer confidential phase for significant investments
- Be transparent in our dealings with BT and disclose any significant information we share
- Sharing information – we are obliged to share commercial information (CI) about things such as product launches with all CPs in the same way to ensure that no-one gains a commercial advantage
- Protecting your information – we have a duty to ensure that your customer confidential information (CCI) is protected, and is not shared inappropriately
- Incentivisation – Openreach people have a Scorecard which reflects solely the objectives of Openreach which reflects our commitment to treat customers equally
What we tell our engineers
You own the relationship with your customers. So when one of our engineers visits your customers' homes and businesses, they are representing you as well as Openreach.
To make sure that our engineers say and do the right thing, we've given them some straightforward Do's and Don'ts that we reinforce through regular training, booklets and emails:
- use the Openreach and CP name when you introduce yourself to an end user
- check the "Additional Customer Details" screen on your laptop before you visit the end user to look for reseller IDs or other important notes that have been added by the CP
- act professionally and impartially when representing a CP
- ask the end user to contact their CP if they want to know the charge for a service
- keep job notes clear and factual.
- recommend the products and services of any CP
- make negative or derogatory comments about any CP
- get involved in pricing discussions with end users
- give end users the Openreach website for pricing information. These prices are the wholesale prices that we charge CPs, not end users.
The main thing we ask engineers to keep in mind is the need to remain neutral when asked anything about a CP and not to enter into any discussions about pricing with the end user.
If you have any questions about engineers visiting your customers, even just to check your understanding, contact the Business Integrity team.
1 Are my orders protected from BT Retail on CSS*?
Yes. We have robust access controls and the Equality of Access Office monitors this. The Equality of Access Board annual report contains further details on this aspect of separation.
*CSS is a workflow and allocation tool used by Openreach to progress CPs' orders
2 Does BT Retail get priority return to service in the event of cable breakdowns or service interruptions?
No. Openreach must recover any cable breakdown or service interruption on a reasonable endeavours basis. This means that whatever can be restored first, must be, regardless of which CP is involved. We don't prioritise other BT lines of business in any recovery. To do so would be a breach of the Undertakings. The only exception to this is where emergency services (so called "blue light" situations) are affected; these are given priority wherever possible.
3 Why can't I have Featureline on WLR3?
Featureline is a BT Retail product. We don't provide or support Featureline.
4 Has Openreach moved resource away from Copper products into Fibre or NGA?
We're committed to a fibre roll out plan in order to support the high speed broadband aspirations of all CPs and we're a key player in the Government's target for Broadband Britain. The engineers that operate the growing fibre network are highly skilled and although they have been selected from the traditional "copper" engineering base, more WLR engineers have been recruited and trained - more than enough replace those that have been trained on fibre.
5 Does Openreach give any priority on Appointment Books?
No. Our appointment books are open for all CPs to book provision activities. These books are updated "live" so when a CP cancels an order, this time instantly becomes available to all CPs. This means that you may sometime see lead times vary when they're long.
6 How do I raise a functionality or product change request?
Openreach operates a Statement of Requirements process which is open to all CPs. You're asked to share your requests with industry colleagues via the appropriate forum group, eg the Copper Products Commercial Group for WLR/LLU, prior to submission to Openreach. Although the process operates on an equivalent basis, the Undertakings permit Openreach to consider SORs on a commercial basis. Details of the process and the various forum groups can be found on the Openreach website.