News

U.K. telco’s networks arm holds its first board meeting, welcomes independent directors.

Openreach held its first board meeting on Tuesday, in line with commitments made to the U.K. telecom regulator last year, and named the non-BT members who it believes will help highlight its independence from the U.K. incumbent.

Acas chair and former TUC general secretary Brendan Barber and ex-National Grid board member Edward Astle have joined the telco’s board and attended the meeting, which was overseen by Mike McTighe, the one-time Ofcom board member who was announced as the first chairman of Openreach late last year.

Openreach said it will reveal a fourth independent board member "imminently". The new name will have a specific focus on customer service, it said.

As it stands, Openreach has as many independent directors as it does non-independent board members, with CEO Clive Selley, finance chief Clare Sadlier, and BT’s group finance director Simon Lowth also sitting on the board. The arrival of a fourth non-BT member will tip the balance in favour of independence.

The creation of an independent board of directors forms part of the pledge BT made to Ofcom in July when the regulator was pushing for clearer lines of separation between the telecoms incumbent and its networks arm. In November Ofcom declared that BT’s own proposals to strengthen Openreach’s independence did not go far enough and ruled that the two businesses should be legally split. BT, unsurprisingly, opposes the move and is pushing ahead with its own independence agenda.

Repeating the telco’s oft-iterated message of the past year or so, McTighe on Wednesday insisted that Openreach is making progress on customer service and boosting the availability of high-speed broadband, both areas of concern for the regulator and the industry as a whole.

"We need to do more to re-build trust and credibility. This will be the board’s focus," McTighe said, in a statement.

"We are determined to meet our customers’ expectations and to strengthen the autonomy, governance and transparency of Openreach to facilitate the delivery of better outcomes for everyone who has a stake in our business," he added.

Openreach also announced that it will form a number of committees to strengthen corporate governance, highlighting in particular a new Openreach Board Audit, Risk and Compliance Committee (OBARCC), which will hold the business to account, hear feedback from customers, and conduct an annual compliance review.

Share