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TalkTalk: BT is creating fibre broadband monopoly

ISP slams BT for not releasing charges to rent ducts and telegraph poles

UK ISP TalkTalk has slammed rival BT, claiming the telecoms company is creating a monopoly around fibre-optic broadband, which is being funded by the government.

"At all times BT is thinking about how it can recover the monopoly position that it lost many years ago," TalkTalk's group commercial director, David Goldie told the Guardian.

"I don't think that is going to represent good value for the British taxpayer."

BT is currently investing £2.5bn in upgrading the UK's ageing copper network to new fibre optic cables that are capable of speeds 'up to' 100Mbps. The telecoms company hopes its fibre network will reach two thirds of the UK by 2015. However, it is now bidding for some £360m in government funding in a bid to roll-out fibre networks in rural areas.

One of Goldie's biggest gripes is the price BT will charge other ISPs to rent its ducts and telegraph poles that will be used to run fibre optic cables. The telecoms company is due to publish prices this month, and if regulator Ofcom believes they are too high it will intervene, but this could take up to 18 months to resolve.

"Right now BT knows what its costs are but nobody else does. I look at it from the point of view of the taxpayer and the market and none of them is well served by having a bidding process that favours one party," Goldie said.

"I feel it should already have been sorted. We are playing in extra time already. Publicly subsidised projects are already being awarded."

Goldie added that the lack of competition could see Britain ending up with "a second-class network, with fibre laid to the street cabinets, rather than direct to homes".

"BT's is a mother knows best approach. I don't think they are building the right infrastructure for Britain. It is not in BT's interests to create strong competition, so it will have to be led there by Ofcom."

Olivia Garfield, chief executive of BT Openreach, responded, saying BT has provided reciprocal wholesale access to its fibre network from the outset.

"This allows other operators to piggyback off our investment, while encouraging competition and the take-up of fibre services to thrive. We've also volunteered to provide additional forms of wholesale access via our ducts and poles. We expect to announce revised pricing for such access shortly."


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