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Watchdog to rule on local loop competition

Is the free market to have its day, or will Oftel make dog's breakfast of it?

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Staff at Oftel -- the telecomms watchdog -- were remaining predictably tight-lipped this afternoon ahead of tomorrow's publication of a report into the future of broadband access in the UK. No one at Oftel's kennel was prepared to spill the dog food about what is contained in the report Access to Bandwidth: proposals for action. The crux of the issue, though, is whether Oftel will allow telcos to compete for a share of the SME and consumer market by opening up BT's local network -- aka the copper loop -- when broadband ADSL access is finally introduced. Last December, Oftel published Access to Bandwidth: bringing higher bandwidth services to the consumer in which it sought to examine this whole area. In its very first paragraph the report said: "Oftel's goal is quality, choice and value for money for customers. The promotion of effective and sustainable competition underpins Oftel's approach to regulation." Well if that's the case the whole question of unbundling the local loop will be resolved tomorrow when BT gets told its 85 per cent monopoly of local services has come to an end and it will have to start competing for business just like every one else. We shall see. ®

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