Feeds

BT has until June to resolve 'equal access' issues

Otherwise...

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Business security measures using SSL

A full-scale Enterprise Act investigation that could lead to the eventual break-up of BT will kick-off in June should efforts to introduce greater competition and transparency at the giant telco fail.

The June deadline was set by regulator Ofcom which is studying proposals by BT to open up the former monopoly to greater competition.

At the beginning of February BT announced it was prepared to offer "transparent and equal access" to its local network in a proposed regulatory settlement with Ofcom. It also planned to cut the cost of key wholesale products and create an Access Services division responsible for ensuring "equal access to the services and assets associated with the local loop".

The string of proposals formed 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. Ofcom has always said that its preferred option is "Real Equality of Access", which would give rival operators equal access to BT's network and products.

Updating the industry yesterday on the progress made so far Ofcom senior partner, Ed Richards, said that the regulator was in the "middle of a long and complex process" and that trying to make the UK's telecoms sector more competitive was "taking longer than we thought".

In particular, Ofcom is spending a lot of time wading through BT's lengthy submission.

"That's because we posed BT a unique question: we asked BT's management to provide prompt and clear proposals for the organisational and behavioural changes within BT that we considered necessary for Equality of Access to work.

"And I think we should recognise that in this area we have received a constructive response by BT, which sets out a number of steps which could go some way to resolving this issue. To our knowledge, BT's proposed Access Services Division is the first time this kind of structural regulatory solution has been put on the table by an incumbent in a developed economy.

"We know that the devil is in the detail. We need to spend time reflecting on BT's response and working with BT to understand that detail. Until then, we make no conclusions."

He went on: "As we've said all along, we would prefer a settlement for which there is some significant consensus within the industry...that can be made to work, and that will deliver Real Equality of Access. We're genuinely optimistic that this can be achieved."

However, should Ofcom's optimism be dashed, it will not engage in a protracted regulatory debate.

"We believe that we need to have established whether or not Real Equality of Access is a sustainable approach by the end of June," said Richards. "We would then expect to publish our Phase 3 statement in the summer.

"If in June we concluded that Real Equality of Access was in fact not viable, we envisage that we would at that stage commence an internal Enterprise Act investigation. Should that investigation recommend a reference to the Competition Commission, we expect the timetable for such a reference to be towards the end of the year."

If that were to happen then Ofcom chief exec Stephen Carter believes that responsibility for the failure to come up with a workable solution would be shared across the industry, BT and the regulator. ®

Related stories

UK LLU roll-out 'continues to lag'
BT gutted at Ofcom's 'prolonged misbehaviour' allegations
Energis calls for BT break-up
BT DSL price cut undermines LLU competition
BT promises to play fair, in Ofcom appeasement
Rivals warn of BT 'delaying tactics'
BT faces 'bogeyman' if it fails to open market

Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet

More from The Register

next story
Brit telcos warn Scots that voting Yes could lead to HEFTY bills
BT and Co: Independence vote likely to mean 'increased costs'
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
ISPs' post-net-neutrality world is built on 'bribes' says Tim Berners-Lee
Father of the worldwide web is extremely peeved over pay-per-packet-type plans
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Google+ GOING, GOING ... ? Newbie Gmailers no longer forced into mandatory ID slurp
Mountain View distances itself from lame 'network thingy'
Blockbuster book lays out the first 20 years of the Smartphone Wars
Symbian's David Wood bares all. Not for the faint hearted
Bonking with Apple has POUNDED mobe operators' wallets
... into submission. Weve squeals, ditches payment plans
Vodafone to buy 140 Phones 4u stores from stricken retailer
887 jobs 'preserved' in the process, says administrator PwC
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.