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Telecoms operators can have unescorted access to BT's exchanges telecoms watchdog, Oftel, confirmed today.

The ruling means that operators are not subject to unnecessary costs for providing broadband services over unbundled local loops.

Instead, escorted access will only be necessary where BT requires its own contractors to be accompanied.

The ruling is welcomed by Bulldog Communications, one of the few operators actively involved in LLU. It argued that BT's security fears over the planned installation of a rival telco's equipment in BT exchanges - known as "co-mingling" - was little more than a "smokescreen".

It's argued consistently that BT should treat local loop operators as it treats itself.

Richard Greco, CEO of Bulldog, told The Register that he was delighted with Oftel's decision which had been made despite sustained pressure from BT.

"Oftel has done the right thing," he said.

"But BT is still foot-dragging and we must keep the pressure up," he said.

A spokesman for BT said he was "disappointed with the decision" and said the telco would have to work through the implications of the ruling.

Privately, though, BT is furious at the decision and maintains that its opposition to unescorted access to its exchanges is perfectly valid.

But its protests were dismissed by David Edmonds, head of Oftel, who said: "Oftel has decided that approved staff working for an operator must be treated in exactly the same way as an approved contractor working for BT.

"These arrangements will not jeopardise the security at BT's exchanges or of the wider telecoms network," he said. ®

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