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BT trying for fibre 'monopoly', claims TalkTalk chief

Telcos want to get their hands on BT's pole

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TalkTalk's commercial boss David Goldie has claimed that BT is trying to regain "the monopoly position that it lost many years ago" courtesy of its provision of fibre optic broadband.

In an interview with the Observer, Goldie complained that BT was yet to reveal its duct and telegraph pole interim pricing structure for other ISPs.

The telecoms giant had initially said that the rental prices for rival telcos to carry their fibre via that infrastructure would be published in the summer.

Apparently, details of the pricing structure will now be made available by BT at some point this month, but any intervention from communications watchdog Ofcom - which has previously warned BT not to set its prices too high - could take between a year and 18 months of wrangling.

"I feel it should already have been sorted," Goldie told the Sunday paper. "We are playing in extra time already. Publicly subsidised projects are already being awarded."

BT is spending up to £2.5bn to deliver its own fibre broadband network to two-thirds of UK premises by the end of 2015. It's understood that at least 4 million homes will have fibre-optic cables blown directly into their homes. The vast majority, however, will connect via cabling to street cabinets.

In April this year Fujitsu said it hoped to bring 1Gbit/s fibre technology to 5 million homes in rural Britain over the next three to five years in a £2bn project with TalkTalk, Virgin Media and Cisco.

To achieve that target, the Japanese tech giant said it needed to get its hands on £500m from the broadband cash handed to local authorities in the UK. The project also hinges on BT's Openreach division providing access to its underground ducts and telegraph poles.

"Right now BT knows what its costs are but nobody else does. I look at it from the point of view of the taxpayer and the market and none of them is well served by having a bidding process that favours one party," claimed Goldie.

"BT's is a mother knows best approach. I don't think they are building the right infrastructure for Britain."

BT is pushing for a further £360m from the government broadband cash fund to build its fibre network in some rural areas within the UK. That money is expected to be awarded by councils across England and Scotland over the next 12 months.

Ofcom ordered BT to open its ducts and telegraph poles to ISP rivals in March 2010. It followed two surveys of the national telecoms network, which showed that up to 50 per cent of ducts and poles throughout the UK had spare capacity for more cables.

But Fujitsu and TalkTalk are clearly fretting over how much BT's provision of that infrastructure might cost.

BSkyB became the first major ISP to sign up to a duct and pole sharing three-month trial with BT in April this year.

BSkyB has previously criticised Virgin Media, the country's second biggest telco, for failing to open its network to ISPs.

It's also questioned BT's "far from fair or reasonable" pole and duct pricing plans, but significantly wasn't among the signatories on a letter of complaint sent to communications minister Ed Vaizey earlier this year.

"BT has provided reciprocal wholesale access to its fibre network from the outset. This allows other operators to piggyback off our investment, while encouraging competition and the take-up of fibre services to thrive," said BT Openreach boss Liv Garfield.

"We've also volunteered to provide additional forms of wholesale access via our ducts and poles.

"We expect to announce revised pricing for such access shortly." ®

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