Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Wednesday 11/1/2006It is with great pleasure that I hand over today's diary to Graeme 'Scoop' Wearden, who has reclaimed his middle name in order to go out and do some good old gumshoe journalism at the birth of BT's Openreach. Over to you, GW.

Wednesday 11/1/2006

It is with great pleasure that I hand over today's diary to Graeme 'Scoop' Wearden, who has reclaimed his middle name in order to go out and do some good old gumshoe journalism at the birth of BT's Openreach. Over to you, GW.

For once, I got to a BT official launch on time: 1100 sharp. However, while Openreach chief executive Steve Robertson was supposed to give his speech at 1130, he didn't actually get round to it until 1230. This left me and other hacks with little to do but drink beer and watch promotional BT videos. We did tap our watches occasionally and look impatient, but as one attendee pointed out, "If you've waited 20 years for BT to start playing fair, what's another hour?"

Things started to go all Twilight Zone when they ran a promotional video. A gruff but loveable BT engineer went about his daily duties, failing to fix faults properly and leaving customers without connectivity. It's not that he's a bad person, implied the video, just that in the old BT these things wouldn't get fixed. Especially if the customer affected had sinned and chosen a non-BT ISP. We knew that. You knew that. The shocker is not only that BT knew that, but that it's now 'fessing up on camera.

Having scarred our souls with its searing confession, the video promptly went into full-blown Daliesque surrealism. Our engineer is left a white duck in a will. Being a compassionate, caring, BT type, he promptly nipped down to the local pond to abandon said duck to the elements. But, as luck would have it, there was a lady painting by the pond, and she'd been without broadband for a week because Bad Old BT wouldn't fix a fault on her line. So, she grabbed her paint brush and brandished it at the engineer, insisting that because this was a council pond rather than a BT pond, it wasn't in the council's interests to give BT duck-releasing rights onto the pond, and he's have to go away and look for another pond where…

At this point, me and a bloke from IT Week wandered off, agreeing that as an analogy for the shortcomings of the UK telecoms sector went, this one went rather over our heads. Or, as the man from The Guardian  put it, "what a load of old cobblers".

And finally, thankfully, Roberson delivered his speech, in a room in which BT had installed a chocolate fountain and a stall offering pies and sausages but, thankfully, no duck.

He spent a lot of it denying that BT had been forced into delivering a level playing field, claiming it was all thanks to convergence and people like BSkyB starting to sell movies over broadband. Is this proof that Rupert Murdoch has done some good in the UK?

As Robertson built to a climax, BT press supreme Mike Bartlett took a well-earned break and grabbed a pie. Plunging his fork into the crispy base, he was distracted by Roberson declaring "we're not here today because of management bullshit". Results? Pie all over the table. "Hmmm", muttered an anonymous BT insider brushing the shortcrust pastry from his tie. "Robertson clearly thinks this is an internal meeting."

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