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BT promises to play fair, in Ofcom appeasement

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BT is offering "transparent and equal access" to BT's local network in a proposed regulatory settlement with Ofcom. It also plans to cut the cost of wholesale broadband, and local loop unbundling (LLU) products, and to make wholesale line rental (WLR) more "commercially attractive".

The string of proposals announced today form part of BT's response to a year-long telecoms review by Ofcom. In November, the regulator rejected calls to break up BT, but warned that it would take action against the former monopoly, unless it made "substantive behavioural and organisational changes" - including giving rivals equal access to its wholesale products.

Responding to Ofcom's demands for "substantive" changes, BT said its proposals form part of a regulatory settlement between the former monopoly, Ofcom and the industry, and provides "all players with the confidence they need and see red tape rolled back where appropriate".

"Central to the proposals are plans by BT to offer operators lower wholesale prices, faster broadband services and transparent, highly regulated access to BT's local network," the telco said in a statement.

BT intends to establish an Access Services division, which will be responsible for ensuring "equal access to the services and assets associated with the local loop". An Equality of Access Board, with two independent members chosen in consultation with Ofcom, would oversee its operations.

"This division would be able to demonstrate that every operator is treated equally and so allow regulation to be rapidly rolled back in other areas. This would greatly simplify the complex mesh of regulation that has built up over twenty years and provide all companies with the confidence they need to make their long-term investment plans," said BT.

Ofcom boss Stephen Carter said: "We welcome BT's structural and governance proposals and its commitment to Wholesale Line Rental and Local Loop Unbundling. However, as ever, real deliveries will require real detail."

A spokesman for internet trade group UKIF told The Register: "On the surface it looks fine but the devil is in the detail."

One senior industry source said BT's announcement amounted to little more than "gobbledegook. It's a joke. Where's the clarity so we can get on with our business?" ®

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