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BT wants service obligations 'relaxed'

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BT wants to see the rules that force it to provide certain basic telecoms services relaxed, reports the FT.

Regulator Ofcom is reviewing the Universal Service Obligation (USO) designed to ensure than basic fixed line telecoms services are available to all UK consumers at an affordable price.

These include ensuring that there are public phone boxes, telephone lines capable of delivering dial up net access, low cost schemes to help those on low incomes and special services for people with disabilities.

Although Ofcom appears happy with the way the USO is currently funded - mostly by BT as it happens - it seems the UK's former monopoly isn't so keen.

It wants to see the funding of the USO changed so that other telcos cough up too. It also wants the chance to remove loss-making phone boxes and wants to means test those who opt for its "light" tariff packages.

The UK's dominant provider - which is battling against increased competition in its retail business - is unhappy that it is having to fork out around £70m a year to meet its USO when other telcos are excused, reports the FT.

The UK Competitive Telecommunications Association (UKCTA) - made up of rival telcos including Cable & Wireless, Colt, Energis, NTL and Thus - doesn't believe the current set-up needs changing.

In a statement the industry lobby group said that the current funding arrangements should only be changed if "a cost benefit analysis clearly shows that BT is significantly worse off continuing to supply the USO".

"We do not believe that this is currently the case or is likely to change in the medium term," it said. ®

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