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The importance of broadband to BT's future strategy lies at the heart of its decision to split BTopenworld and drag it under the control of BT Retail.

BT Retail boss Pierre Danon told The Register: "Broadband is a core business for BT and it can't be left out at the edges."

He explained all parts of the BTopenworld operation that are not subject to regulation by the telecoms watchdog are to be integrated into BT Retail. The rest remains within BTopenworld's control.

In short, if the service on offer is Net access bundled with content then it remains under the BTopenworld umbrella. If the offerings are separate - content or access sold on their own - then it will be rolled into BT Retail.

Mr Danon described today's move as "housekeeping" and was confident that it would pass all scrutiny by Oftel. "Everything is absolutely legal and in line with our licence," he said.

The move is expected to save the company around £10m a year. However, while BT maintains that today's announcement reaffirms the future of BTopenworld others remain sceptical following increased speculation about the future of BT's mass market ISP.

A spokesman for AOL UK said: "...the move doesn't really answer the question over its future or ease customer confusion between BT's different but incomplete offerings." ®

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