Image: BT Image: BT

BT has been ordered to open-up its cable networks to competitors by communications regulator Ofcom.

In its report, the regulator said the UK is suffering from a 'digital divide' and believes a decent, affordable broadband connection should be a universal right.

BT's broadband rivals had called for the break-up of BT and its Openreach business, which controls its cables, fibre and network infrastructure. The likes of Sky, Virgin and Talk Talk pay to use the network in order to supply services to its customers. But they argued that BT has underinvested in Openreach, which has resulted in a poor service.

Under Ofcom's recommendations, rather than splitting BT and Openreach, BT will open up the network infrastructure, allowing rival firms to lay their own cables.

The regulator also said it would impose tougher rules on BT over things like faults, repairs and maintenance.

Speaking to the BBC, Ofcom chief executive Sharon White said: "Openreach does need major reform and the key thing is that it's independent so that it responds to all its customers, not just BT.

"If we cannot get the responsiveness to customers that we're seeking, then ... we reserve the right, formally, to separate [BT and Openreach]."

A BT spokesperson said: "Openreach is already one of the most heavily regulated businesses in the world but we have volunteered to accept tighter regulation.

"We are happy to let other companies use our ducts and poles if they are genuinely keen to invest very large sums as we have done."