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BT's top brass are unable to say whether its ISP, BTopenworld, will still be around this time next year.

Speaking at the e-Summit in London yesterday BT's newly-appointed chief broadband officer (CBO), Alison Ritchie, was asked whether BTopenwaif would still be part of the BT stable this time next year.

Ms Ritchie shrugged her shoulders and said: "Who knows?"

Of course, some might point to this as yet further evidence that BT intends to marginalize its loss-making ISP and, instead, manoeuvre its broadband operation into the heart of BT. After all, broadband is now a central plank of BT's strategy. To place such an important part of its business in the hands of BTopenwoe could be seen as being a tad reckless.

If this is so, then folding BTopenwane into the heart of BT would take someone with immense regulatory skill and knowledge to navigate safely the Oftel-infested waters. Someone, erm, just like Ms Ritchie who, coincidentally, had a spell as BT's director of regulatory affairs.

So is yesterday's failure to say categorically that BTopenwater will still be with us this time next year an admission that things are looking rocky?

No, of course not. For it's clear that Ms Ritchie's response was a result of her new "arms length" role as CBO. For as CBO, she now takes a more lofty, strategic view of BT's broadband strategy and policy. And while she's still chief exec of BTopenwaste, she has handed over the day-to-day running of the business to someone else.

Which is why her answer merely reflects the "impartiality" of her new role. Truth is, BT's CBO doesn't know - can't know - about BTopenweed's future. To do so would surely breach the ethos of the new position. No? ®

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