Martin Flanagan: BT broadband investment plugs into storm of scepticism

Picture: PA
Picture: PA
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No good deed goes unpunished. BT says it is prepared to spend £6 billion over the next three years on faster broadband and 4G mobile services in the UK.

The telecoms giant has lifted its target for superfast broadband to 12 million homes and offices from ten million, including two million of the fastest full fibre connections to the door.

But joy has not been unconfined. Rivals and commentators have homed in on the fact that gold standard fibre optic lines will only go to new housing developments, high streets and business parks.

Sky and some other rivals believe BT is only doing the minimum to buy off the regulator Ofcom, which has threatened to break up the former state-owned giant if it does not improve its Openreach fixed line network arm. They argue that the latest pledge from BT is a gambit, pure and simple, an attempt to win garlands with headline broadband investment figures that will still leave the UK heavily dependent on copper wire, widely seen as outmoded technology. Perhaps not entirely helpfully for BT, what is being attacked as its limited ambition on fibre connections comes as it yesterday produced a forecast-beating rise in full-year profits to £3.5bn and its highest revenue figures for seven years.

What it has certainly not put to bed is the demand by Sky and others for Openreach to be spun off, pure and simple, to create an independent business that could raise its own capital to get a gear change for the UK’s fibre network.

Morrisons starts to find feet

There have obviously been systemic changes to supermarket shopping in the UK that are irreversible. Online shopping, click-and-collect, the exponential rise of convenience stores, the plunderings of the discounters, etc.

Those changes have put the big incumbents under pressure, but gradually they may just be getting to grips with things.

And Morrisons, the laggard of the pack for quite a few years now, looks like it is getting up with the plot gradually under David Potts, the chief executive parachuted in early last year.

Morrisons has just produced a 0.7 per cent rise in like-for-like sales for its first trading quarter, the second such positive quarter after four years of drift. A modest bravo is seemly.