Mighty Blighty broadbanders beg: Let us lay cable in BT's, er, ducts

Complain to Ofcom that telco has 'effective monopoly'


Updated Blighty's broadband providers are once again at Ofcom to do something about the alleged monopoly they believe former national telco BT maintains in the business broadband sector.

Sky, TalkTalk, EE, Virgin Media and Vodafone are all part of the UK Competitive Telecommunications Association (UKCTA), which is pressuring Ofcom to allow other firms to get their hands on BT’s physical infrastructure.

The group claims that business needs have taken a backseat to good consumer broadband and that will continue “as long as BT has control of the basic infrastructure”.

UKCTA wants other firms to be allowed to lay their own cables in BT ducts and use their own equipment to control existing unlit BT cables – aka dark fibre – in order to improve services and competition in the market.

“Openreach has control of the basic infrastructure which most other providers rely on to deliver their services. However, it has consistently failed to meet its own standards on delivery times, fault rates and fault repair times. This failure affects thousands of end-users of UK broadband and telephony services on a daily basis, and gives rise to substantial consumer detriment,” the group said in a statement.

“The SPC Network reports outline six steps which are still needed to ensure a better service from Openreach, mitigating the effect of its effective monopoly position and creating a more competitive market which encourages innovation and quality service.”

This is not the first time that other broadband providers have moaned about BT’s control of the basic infrastructure, though Ofcom has rejected complaints so far. The telecoms regulator has preferred to apply remedies to “active” services as part of loosening the once monopolistic telco’s hold on the market, saying that changing passive access to things like ducts would be unlikely to make the market better.

BT said that Ofcom’s latest market review showed that its share of the business connectivity market was falling, which proves that competition is improving.

"The UK has a vibrant wholesale business connectivity market, with strong competition and innovation amongst a large number of providers,” the firm said in a statement. “We believe that forcing Openreach to offer access to its ducts or dark fibre would increase costs and add extra complexity to way UK businesses are served.

“Regarding service, Openreach is voluntarily publishing our service performance and this reflects our commitment to improving service.”

The company said that the complaints were nothing new and that Ofcom regularly consults on the issue every three years, giving groups like the UKCTA the opportunity to make their case. ®

Updated

Ofcom has been in touch to provide us with this statement: “We already require BT to make its infrastructure available to competing consumer providers. Earlier this month, we began a public consultation on whether we should extend this to business providers, and we welcome all contributions.”

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