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.