Kingston: nobody else wants to provide broadband round here

Fiefdom upon Hull?

Kingston Communications, the UK's only remaining independent local phone company, has hit back at suggestions from an MEP that Hull's businesses and consumers are "held to ransom" by lack of competition in broadband.

The Independent carried a story today that Diana Wallis, Liberal Democrat MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, has written to the European Competition Commissioner to push for an investigation into the broadband market in Hull, where Kingston remains the sole ISP. She called for her constituents to put pressure on regulator Ofcom to address the situation in its upcoming review of wholesale access, which enters consultation in Autumn.

A spokeswoman for Kingston told the Reg that it offers wholesale packages to other suppliers, but that there have simply been no takers.

A statement said: "There is a popular misconception that Kingston Communications prevents other ISPs from providing broadband services in Hull. This is not the case. We are obliged by Ofcom to make wholesale internet products available to ISPs that wish to provide broadband services in this area via our network.

"The broadband market in Hull is open to any ISP who wishes to offer services here. Whether or not they do so is purely a commercial decision for them based on their view of the attractiveness of the market."

On the national BT network, customers have the choice (albeit rapidly diminishing) of dozens of small resellers, or of local loop unbundlers such as TalkTalk and Sky, who cut costs by investing in their own kit in exchanges. Kingston itself has resold BT Wholesale broadband outside its network via Eclipse, which it bought in 2004.

Both models are theoretically possible in Hull, but nobody has entered the market. Fibre-optic cables were never laid in the city either, so Virgin Media is out, too.

Kingston avoided the gradual consolidation of UK telcos early in the last century with a deal cut by the local council in 1914 to buy the local infrastructure. It was privatised in 1999 and became a pioneer of ADSL broadband, but prices have remained higher than elsewhere at £16.99 per month for a heavily throttled "up to" 8Mbit/s connection with a 2GB usage cap. ®

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