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Carve up BT, says Energis boss

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BT should be split in two, Energis chief exec John Pluthero is expected to tell MPs tomorrow.

The outspoken head of the alternative telecoms company is due to appear before the Trade and Industry Select Committee (TISC) as part of its investigation into the telecoms review led by regulator Ofcom.

And unless he has totally altered his view about BT's stranglehold on the UK's telecoms sector, he is sure to tell MPs that prising apart BT's wholesale and retail divisions is the "only logical outcome to the Strategic Review of Telecommunications".

For despite 20 years of privatisation, he maintains that BT is still faced with the same "fundamental conflict of interest".

Pluthero told The Sunday Times: "There's this fundamental commercial conflict that we ask BT to manage today, which is nonsense. On the one hand, BT is in the market selling to customers. On the other hand, it is supposed to be providing its wholesale customers like us (BT's rivals) with competitive deals. If it does that second job well, it is selling its own shareholders down the river."

He's also critical of the compromise option currently being pursued by Ofcom. The issue idea of equivalence (giving companies equal access to BT's products) may be good on paper but he believes it can only ever be a way of "managing the problem". Taking an axe to BT, on the other hand, would solve BT's conflict of interest in a single stroke.

Last month he 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."

Indeed, there are even those among the influential group of MPs who believe BT could eventually split. TISC chairman, Martin O'Neil MP told The Telegraph that, in his opinion, the threat of more regulatory red tape would eventually lead the former monopoly to split itself up.

BT boss, Ben Verwaayen, is expected to reject all calls for BT to be broken up when he gives evidence to the TISC tomorrow. ®

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