Ofcom: Oi, BT! Don't be greedy – feed dark fibre to your rivals

TalkTalk, Sky and chums are hungry for speedier broadband networks

Britain's communications watchdog wants BT to open up its fibre broadband network to rival telcos.

The one-time national telecoms giant responded negatively to Ofcom's proposals, which were floated on Friday.

BT claimed that "mandating dark fibre" could "disadvantage" ISPs that do not have the "capability to deploy" the technology.

But budget telco TalkTalk welcomed the plans, which could be applied across the country, except in central London and Hull where "sufficient competition" is already in place, according to Ofcom.

TalkTalk's chief Dido Harding said:

"For too long BT has been able to get away with delivering poor service to Britain's businesses at inflated prices and these recommendations will help drive competition into the commercial market and improve the service they receive."

Ofcom's proposals will go through a consultation stage that ends on 31 July this year. It said it hoped to publish final decisions on dark fibre in early 2016.

BT could be forced to open up access to its rivals as early as April 2017, it added.

The watchdog said:

As part of the dark fibre proposals, Ofcom would require BT to publish a draft "reference offer" for industry, containing wholesale pricing and terms for access, in mid-2016.

This would then be subject to negotiation between BT and other providers, with a view to BT publishing a final reference offer before the end of 2016.

Additionally, Ofcom – in its Business Connectivity Market Review – has pushed for BT's Openreach division to speed up leased line installations for rival ISPs.

It has proposed new, minimum quality of service performance rules, which would force BT to bring its waiting time down to an average of 40 working days by 2017.

Ofcom's competition boss Jonathan Oxley said:

Today’s proposals should help businesses across the UK who rely on high-speed data lines.

We want to see more innovation, faster installations and more competition, by providing operators with the opportunity to deploy the technologies of their choice.

While BT has moaned about the plans to gift its rivals with direct control of connections to its fibre-optic cables, they could have an interesting knock-on effect: the company's proposed £12.5bn buyout of EE may be waved through if more competition for Openreach becomes a reality in Blighty. ®

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