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Energis calls for BT break-up

'Just get on with it'

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Ofcom should "just get on with it" and break up BT, according to Energis CEO John Pluthero. Today he urged Ofcom to reject BT's proposals for a regulatory settlement and instead focus its attention on the structural separation of the UK's former telephone monopoly.

In its submission to Ofcom concerning the Telecoms Review, Energis said splitting BT's retail and wholesale divisions was "the only logical outcome to the Strategic Review of Telecommunications".

The alternative telco reckons that BT's "fundamental conflict of interest" is the "root cause of Ofcom's findings of twenty years of slow product development, inferior products and poor processes".

Over two decades, it maintains, BT managers have simultaneously worn two hats - those of competitor and supplier. The answer is not to buy a new hat stand but to split the two roles - removing the fundamental conflict.

Energis rubbished the idea of equivalence (giving companies equal access to BT's products); this may be good on paper but it can only ever be a way of "managing the problem [but] actual structural separation will solve it once and for all significantly reducing the need for ongoing regulation".

Pluthero said: "Twenty years of hard evidence suggest that we stop deluding ourselves that increasingly elaborate ways of papering over the cracks are in any way useful. BT's proposals prove that structural separation is achievable - we should just get on with it."

A BT spokesman described Energis' call for BT to be split as a "lone voice in the wilderness".

Elsewhere, telco IDT Europe and its UK consumer brand - Toucan - reckons that BT is still reluctant to "voluntarily offer true equality of access to its competitors for fear of the risk of losing market share".

In its submission to Ofcom, IDT said that its preferred outcome for BT was structurall separation - but only if it could be achieved overnight (or very quickly).

"However, the process of separation would be a very complex, time consuming and resource intensive task for Ofcom and the industry. Whilst that process was proceeding over a number of years the limit on the regulator's resources would potentially see other issues falling by the wayside to the industry's detriment."

So IDT argues that BT should be given six months to demonstrate that it can make the necessary changes to ensure greater competition and equality of access: "BT will take a more responsive approach to a decision to implement real equality of access if it understands that its failure to do so and lack of cooperation will result in an Enterprise Act referral."

In response to last week's Ofcom's telecoms review, BT announced a string of proposals offering "transparent and equal access" to BT's local network and the creation of an Access Services division. This will be responsible for ensuring "equal access to the services and assets associated with the local loop". ®

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