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Ofcom lifts sword, eyes up BT's duct and pole rental costs

With a knick knack, piggyback, throw broadband folks a bone

By Kat Hall

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In its on-going efforts to break Blighty's broadband dependence on BT, regulator Ofcom has today proposed a cap on Openreach's rental charges for smaller providers accessing its ducts and poles.

The regulator said the changes will result "in material reductions" for the majority of rental charges.

Ofcom's proposals follow its once-in-a-decade Strategic Review of Digital Communications last year, which intended to encourage "a strategic shift" to the large-scale deployment of new ultrafast broadband networks.

At the time that intention was overshadowed by its headline recommendation that Openreach should be legally separate from BT, which the former state monopoly finally agreed to earlier this year.

However, some have pointed out the price itself is not the only issue for alternative network providers seeking to use the former state monopoly's infrastructure.

ISPs can already access BT's ducts and poles via its physical Infrastructure Access, but to date uptake has been low. As well as the cost, operators have complained the infrastructure is not adequately mapped, some of the ducts remain blocked and the process is bureaucratic.

In April, Ofcom said that Openreach should repair faulty infrastructure and clear blocked tunnels on request, and proposed that the associated costs should be recovered from all users of the infrastructure.

"Ofcom is consulting on a range of £4,000 to £6,000 per km as a financial limit for the recovery of such network adjustment costs, with any costs incurred above this limit to be recovered from the telecoms provider making the request," said the regulator today.

The cost per metre for duct access will drop by 46 per cent - 52 per cent to between 29p - 45p annually per metre, while pole access will fall by 35 per cent to £5.74.

The consultation closes on 12 September 2017 (PDF), with the changes coming into force on 1 April next year. ®

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