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Tough-talking Ofcom boss slaps BT

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Ofcom boss Stephen Carter has squared up to BT over plans to overhaul the UK telco. On Monday BT signalled that it won't comply with new regulatory demands made by Ofcom if such moves are too damaging for its business.

In its review of the UK's telecoms sector last month Ofcom called on BT to give rival operators equal access to its products and services (aka "equivalence") and to bring about "substantive behavioural and organisational changes" within its sprawling organisation. Failure to make these changes would lead to BT facing the threat of being broken up, said Ofcom.

But on Monday BT boss Ben Verwaayen said it would not meet all of Ofcom's demands if it meant damaging its business.

In response, Carter told the Independent today that while Ofcom was happy to enter talks with BT concerning its strategic review of the telecoms sector, BT had no "room for manoeuvre".

"There's a lot of room for discussion. I'm not sure I would describe it as room for manoeuvre. I don't at this stage, and I never have thought, that it's constructive to characterise it as a conflict or a contest. We've had 20-odd years of it working one way, we're trying to suggest it could work another way.

"My own view, and this is one I think shared by many people, and I would include BT in that, is that this requires substantial change in some areas and I think we can make that work. Like everything, the genie is in the detail and right now we're working on that detail."

Critics claim that Verwaayen's comments show that BT is up to its old tricks and playing for time. ®

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