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Oftel hurries FRIACO timetable

BT ain't chuffed

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Oftel today published its draft determination on unmetered Net access in Britain drawing a frosty response from BT.

According to one report, a BT spokesman said the publication of the proposals was "premature", a response which only serves to reinforce the view that BT is happier dragging its heels rather than best serving the nation's needs for telco services.

According to the draft Consultation on future interconnection arrangements
for dial-up Internet in the United Kingdom - November 2000,
there will be a fixed number of wholesale unmetered lines (FRIACO) available for ISPs to offer flat-fee access.

One industry expert told The Reg that the "13,500 Tandem Switch 2Mbps ports for all FRIACO traffic" equates to a ballpark figure of around four million lines.

So, if this goes ahead as planned, some four million households could benefit from unmetered Net access - and that's on top of existing unmetered packages (if there are any left by next year).

The question is, is it enough? Some people have raised concerns that there may not be enough lines to satisfy the appetite for unmetered Net access. There are fears that demand will outstrip supply, either causing chaos, poor service, high prices - or all three.

Unfortunately, we'll only know that nearer the time.

However, according to Oftel, this FRIACO thing may only serve as a temporary stop-gap before other initiatives are introduced.

For example, the winged watchdog is also recommending that BT constructs a "separate network to lay over the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) which would carry only trunk Internet Traffic".

If this happens, Oftel recommends that the cost of this investment should be shared between BT and other operators.

This solution, claims the winged watchdog, would alleviate any undue stress on the nation's phone network, which BT warns could collapse if Net users are allowed to run amok.

We watch with interest. ®

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