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Freeserve slams BT broadband ad blitz

Abusing dominant market position etc.

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Freeserve is considering launching a new complaint against BT following the introduction of its massive broadband advertising blitz.

The UK's biggest ISP believes that the dominant telco is abusing its market position as a residential telephony service provider by offering a broadband service directly to its 20 million or so customers through its "blue bill", instead of through its ISP BTopenworld.

This, claims Freeserve, is anti-competitive and gives BT a huge advantage over rival ISPs who don't have access to such a huge customer base.

According to the Sunday Times Freeserve believes that regulator Oftel is ignoring this alleged abuse of the telco's dominant market position in return for BT being more proactive in rolling out broadband in the UK.

In a statement Freeserve said: "BT enjoys certain unmatchable advantages because of its near-monopoly in residential telephony. BT was gifted these advantages as a former state monopolist.

"The fact that it is now exploiting these advantages to enter the emerging DSL market with the so-called 'No Frills' product should be of utmost concern to the telecoms regulator, competition authorities and public policy makers.

"BT Openworld, which was BT's consumer Internet division, has been by-passed as the provider of 'No Frills' only because it does not enjoy the same unmatchable access to some 20 million phone customers," it said.

Asked whether Freeserve intends to lodge a complaint a spokeswoman for the ISP said: "We've nothing to say on that at this time."

Last month Oftel rejected a string of earlier complaints made by Freeserve in which it claimed that BT's broadband strategy was anti-competitive.

The allegations were raised in April when Freeserve launched a stinging attack against BT, claiming the monster telco was running an "orchestrated campaign of anti-competitive behaviour".

Undaunted, Freeserve has now taken that complaint to the Competition Commission Appeals Tribunal (CCAT) in a bid to get Oftel's decision overturned.

Said Freeserve General Counsel, David Melville: "...BT must be prevented from suffocating healthy competition and from abusing its super-dominant position in voice telephony to achieve a similar position in broadband.

"The UK currently sits on the bottom of the European Broadband League and the UK economy, consumers and content providers alike cannot afford for BT to be gifted dominance in this new market." ®

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