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Ofcom tells BT to let broadband rivals use its ducts and poles
[October 08, 2010]

Ofcom tells BT to let broadband rivals use its ducts and poles

(Guardian (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) BT will be required to allow competing broadband providers fuller access to its infrastructure, in a move aimed at speeding up the introduction of superfast broadband services across Britain.

As a result of Ofcom's new regulatory regime, published yesterday, competing internet service providers such as TalkTalk and BSkyB will be able to use BT infrastructure - including underground ducts and telegraph poles as well as its fibre-optic network - to channel high-speed broadband to customers.

BT and Virgin Media are the only providers with the infrastructure to offer superfast broadband - defined as 25 megabits per second (Mbps) or more - at present. However, TalkTalk has said it would be the first wholesale customer to use BT's network.

The announcement was welcomed by BT, which added that it had been providing rivals with access to its fibre-optic network for months. And Ofcom's chief executive, Ed Richards, said the development was a "very, very important milestone" in Britain's introduction of high-speed broadband. The proportion of the country where a high-speed service is available lags just behind Portugal but compares favourably with Germany.

BT plans to reach two thirds of the UK with high-speed broadband via fibre-optic cable by 2015; it will be available to 4m homes and businesses by the end of 2010. The company has said it will carry out a nationwide survey to establish demand for the service in different regions.

Stuart McIntosh, a partner in Ofcom's competition group, said that although "duct and pole" access was something the broadband industry had been talking about for years, today's announcement represented a "milestone" in high-speed provision for "the final third" of the UK that fibre-optic cable has yet to reach.

On average, broadband speeds in urban areas are 5.8Mbps, compared with 2.7Mbps in rural regions.

(c) 2010 Guardian Newspapers Limited.

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