The first wave of Open Market Reviews (OMRs) have been published by Local Authorities looking to refresh their maps of which areas remain with no plans for superfast broadband services, looking for operators to come forward with their existing coverage and their future plans for the coming three years. Does reviewing the broadband market confirm that a market exists?

On the face of these reviews are very good news – it hopefully means that alternative operators will have an opportunity to protect their footprint from overbuilding by another subsidised operator, and its essentially every operator with plans engages with the process if they are to have any voice later on.

However, the big problem with issuing Open Market Reviews now, before worthwhile data is published detailing which areas have already been subsidised, is that most Local Authorities have appeared closed to investment for the last few years so most OMR processes are likely  to simply confirm that.

That’s not to say that there aren’t organisations out there that would happily invest if they knew where it was safe to do so. A small number of counties may well have a busy time working through the responses but I strongly suspect they will be a small minority. Most are highly likely to get no more than perhaps one or two responses.

If the OMR is to be more than a process step in a chain leading to a procurement to subsidise broadband operators then it needs to be carried out some time after the market has had time to digest which areas can safely be invested in. If not, investment will be lost and the state is likely to be subsidising a market unnecessarily.

Its not just the public sector which needs an open market review – operators need their own, informing them of where the state intends to build.

  1. cyberdoyle says:

    To submit to the OMR an altnet needs to give the council detailed maps and postcode data. The same should apply to BT, and the council should publish that data. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, yet despite requests (demands?) from the Public Affairs Committee we still haven’t seen any useful data from the councils. Therefore very few altnets have been able to access any form of support. Considering the funding was for rural areas its a disgrace that it is all ending up in the copper mine to protect an obsolete infrastructure and monopoly instead of helping drive innovation and competition.

    • Adrian Wooster says:

      BT will almost certainly respond to the OMRs as they did last time – in fact they were about the only organisation that could be relied on to respond. The same can’t be said of the majority of alt nets who largely ignored the process in the past and then had no right of complaint.

      • cyberdoyle says:

        really? so its the councils who are withholding the information then? Now why would they want to stop altnets getting funding?

      • Adrian Wooster says:

        BT’s commercial plans are now pretty much known and are broadly publicly available – most if not all LAs have published they required “Black/White/Grey” maps for their public consultation which include BT’s plans as they presented them at the time.

        What isn’t known in many areas is subsidised roll-out, and this, it is argued, is because the contracts state that the information is “commercially sensitive”.

        Given that parts of the country have now published at least some data and the courts aren’t awash with LA’s being sued, their arguments don’t really make any sense any more, so I think you’d need to take it up with them to understand their motivation.

        But it does have an impact. Where an LA doesn’t publish data on their subsidised roll-out, other operators are likely to hold back investing. Therefore when the councils run a new Market Review it is highly likely to confirm that the market thinks they are closed for investment.

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