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Ofcom to deregulate broadband for 70% of UK

But critics claims millions still exposed on pricing

Ofcom is to deregulation wholesale broadband access across much of the UK in a move it claims reflects its success in promoting effective competition between suppliers of high-speed internet access.

While areas with fewer than four broadband suppliers will continue to be supervised, around 70 percent of the UK is deemed to have sufficient competition between suppliers that Ofcom no longer needs to monitor the market.

"This is a major step forward in the UK broadband market reflecting the success we have had in promoting effective competition," said Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards.

"It shows that we are determined to deregulate wherever we can do so in a way that is consistent with the broader public interest. We now need to build on these foundations and see timely investment and a competitive market emerge for next generation access as well."

Rob Barnes, head of broadband and mobiles at moneysupermarket.com, backed Ofcom's move, describing it as "a good sign that the majority of consumers have access to greater choice and better value deals".

However, Barnes stressed that there are still millions of people who don't have this luxury.

"Major providers such as AOL, Tiscali and Talk Talk charge extra for those outside of their LLU (local loop unbundling) network and as a result pass on costs of up to £15 per month. Tiscali, for example, currently cannot serve almost 12 million homes. As a result, its offers aren't attractive to potential customers as they're forced to pay an extra £9 per month. This means millions of people are penalised for living in 'broadband blackspots'.”

Barnes said Ofcom should now switch its attention to tackling the "unfair regional pricing structure".

"To do this it needs to ensure providers accessing wholesale areas are charged a fair amount in order for the provider to then pass on the best value deal to the consumer. Ofcom's latest move might promote retail competition but millions of homes still go without access to the best deals."

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