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British broadband revolution threatened by lack of shag pile and smoke alarms

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Britain's plans to open its telecoms market to competition and usher in an era of broadband communications is rapidly descending into farce.

US telcos, Global Crossing and WorldCom, have scrapped plans to install their kit in local changes and offer competitive broadband services directly to consumers from next summer.

According to the FT, both telcos are hacked off with the snail-like pace towards local loop unbundling. They're also dismayed by Oftel's impotence and the regulator's inability to prevent BT from taking any action necessary to protect its monopoly.

To prove a point, BT has said a number of local exchanges are off limits (for the time being at least and until things are put right)to other telcos because the buildings needed to house the kit simply aren't up to scratch. In some cases, they need new anti-static vinyl flooring, kickproof security doors and smoke alarms.

On Monday, Britain's fourth largest international carrier, RSL COM withdrew from the first wave of bidding for entry into a limited number of local exchanges because of Oftel’s "eleventh-hour decision that service providers can only apply for the least populated exchanges as its reason."

Oftel's decision, claimed RSL COM, would force service providers into less profitably exchanges while giving BT a free ride to market new broadband Internet technology in the prime residential and business markets.

It claimed the Government’s vision for a ‘broadband Britain’ was under serious threat from the "toothlessness of its own regulator".

Yesterday, David Edmonds, the head of Oftel admitted that the regulator could have acted sooner to sort out difficulties between rival telcos regarding local loop unbundling. ®

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