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MP critical of ‘unfair competition’ from BT

Oftel gets ticking off too

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Labour MP Brian White has branded a recent wholesale price cut from BT as "unfair competition" and called on the telecoms regulator to react more quickly to complaints.

He also blamed "BT's dominant position in the wholesale market" as being responsible for current problems concerning the roll out of broadband across the UK.

The comments from the MP for Milton Keynes North East followed formal complaints to Oftel from five telcos (Energis, mediaWays.uk Ltd, Thus, Tiscali and Your Communications) concerning price cuts for BT's wholesale IPStream ADSL product - the wholesale end-to-end service provided by BT Wholesale to the telco's retail operations and other service providers.

The telcos argue that BT has failed to pass on similar price cuts to its wholesale Datastream service - a product that allows other service providers to use their own networks to provide competitive broadband services.

Oftel is currently investigating the complaints.

Said Mr White: "BT is reducing the price of IPStream... but it is not reducing the price of DataStream, which network suppliers use. Telecoms companies that use their own network and therefore use the DataStream product, however, pay a higher price. To me, that is unfair competition.

"The matter has been raised with Oftel, but the procedures by which it is being resolved are far too slow. Again, one of the issues that was raised when we discussed Ofcom was the speed with which such regulatory issues are resolved. Those kinds of barriers cause real problems. When Ofcom comes into existence, we need to ensure that its speed of reaction is far faster than Oftel's," he said.

Earlier in the debate, the e-minister, Stephen Timms, talked up the progress being made in broadband: "It is no secret that compared with a number of other countries the UK has made a slow start with broadband communications" before adding that the UK is now making "rapid progress".

He also announced that "career civil servant", Stephen Speed, has been named as Director of Broadband. As part of the newly created position, Mr Speed is to take overall responsibility for coordinating the implementation of the Government's broadband strategy. ®

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