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Smug BT crows about broadband numbers

5m milestone passed

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BT's acting all smug today after announcing it will pass it five million broadband connection milestone this week - a year ahead of schedule. Marking the landmark today the former monopoly even managed to get a backslapping quote from PM Tony Blair.

Whether everyone will agree with Blair's sentiments that "it is great news for the whole communications industry that BT has been able to make this announcement a year ahead of target" is debatable.

The battle to get BT to invest in broadband was long and difficult. For many years people in some parts of the country never stood a chance of getting high speed net access. And because BT was the sole provider of DSL, it set the prices - and boy, were they high. Still, the monster telco eventually woke up to the fact that broadband could offset the declining revenues from its traditional phone business.

Still, the progress made to date has been at the expense of wholesale competition - something that is vital for future innovation and pricing. While retail broadband competition is flourishing, wholesale competition continues to be stifled.

The matter is so important communications regulator Ofcom is nearing the end of a lengthy review of the telecoms sector where it called for "substantive behavioural and organisational changes" from BT to ensure that competitors at least get a fighting chance to provide alternative services to the UK's dominant fixed line player.

Broadband is now one of the fastest growing consumer products of all time, according to BT spinmeisters, with a higher take up rate than televisions, CD players, video recorders or mobile phones. A new broadband punter is connected every ten seconds and the last million lines were hooked up in just four months. ®

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