BT chief executive Gavin Patterson has responded to Ofcom’s revelation that is considering a forced sell-off of Openreach, saying he will cease investment and put up a decade-long legal fight.
BT has a near monopoly of the market with Openreach, its division that wholesales access to broadband and telephone lines.
Ofcom’s last strategic review in 2005 saw it repositioned to become a separate part of BT.
However, as part of the 2015 strategic review, Ofcom said it was considering a complete split that would see Openreach sold off. It stated 'concern' for its performance and is considering deregulation and promotion of competing networks in order to incentivise the improvement of its infrastructure.
Patterson told The Sunday Telegraph that if his hand is forced, he will protect shareholders and investment into the digital economy would be at risk.
“This is a commercial enterprise and if there’s uncertainty we will defend the rights of our shareholders, undoubtedly. It puts that investment very much at risk. At the end of it, and if we’re meant to be looking at the next ten years, what do you want to look back on? Do you want to look back at 10 years of litigation and arguments?,” he said.
The situation has resulted in Patterson stalling plans to invest billions into an upgrade to ultrafast broadband.
Until 8 October. Ofcom is seeking views on whether it should separate Openreach from BT.