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Equiinet boss lashes out at 'half-baked smokescreen'

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IT industry entrepreneur Bob Jones has called on the telecoms regulator to make broadband universally available to all in the UK.

Launching a scathing attack on BT, the MD of telecoms equipment manufacturer Equiinet, said: "BT stonewalled when told to deregulate and allow others access to its exchanges.

"It has driven the competition out of business and is being forced to address the issue of building a broadband Britain with a half-baked smokescreen for rural businesses without delivering the benefits their city cousins are receiving.

"It's time to revive the old concept of universal service - providing telephone lines to everyone - with regard to broadband.

"Cellular companies have to provide service to over 95 per cent of the population as a condition for their licences - [the regulator] should extend this requirement to BT if it wants to prevent a two-speed business Britain," he said.

His comments follow BT's announcement yesterday concerning the introduction of a high speed Internet service using satellite technology.

Mr Jones claims the service - which enables users to download data at speeds up to 256 kilobits a second but provides an uplink via a conventional telephone line - is a "hotchpotch" that doesn't really answer the needs of businesses operating rural areas.

However, a spokesman for BT said the telco was dealing with "reality" and insisted that its new service would be attractive to small businesses.

A spokeswoman for telecoms watchdog Oftel said it undertook a universal service obligation (USO) review last year when it was decided that it would not be appropriate to make broadband subject of a USO at that time. ®

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