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Prospect Union Slams Ofcom UK Probe of BT Superfast Broadband Prices

Friday, May 3rd, 2013 (1:53 pm) - Score 1,477

Prospect, which claims to be an independent union for professionals like engineers, scientists and managers, has warned that Ofcom’s new TalkTalk supported investigation into BT’s “alleged margin squeeze in superfast broadband pricing” could damage investment in the UK telecoms network.

Budget ISP TalkTalk adamantly believes that BT is behaving unfairly and in an ideal world it would like more control to differentiate its own superfast broadband (FTTC/P) services and prices from the standard BTWholesale based mould. Meanwhile BT claims that its fibre optic based internet access products are offered on a “level playing field” to all ISPs.

A quick look at the wider price difference between FTTC services from BT, Sky Broadband and TalkTalk for similar “unlimited” packages suggests a more mixed picture where BT’s rivals are sometimes cheaper, depending on how you balance the costs, special offers and value-added features. Never the less Ofcom has now agreed to investigate the concerns (here).

Dai Hudd, Prospect’s Deputy General Secretary, said (Mobile Today):

Ofcom’s primary task should be to ensure that we get [investment in superfast broadband]. This investigation won’t move us any closer to achieving the superfast broadband infrastructure that we need, so there is no purpose in conducting it. Furthermore, there is no case to answer.

We welcome investment in network supply. But instead of complaining about the perceived shortcomings of the only significant investor we have, perhaps TalkTalk should consider building its own network – and, of course, open it up to all retail service providers as BT is compelled to.”

Some of the comments above could just as easily have been written by BT itself but it’s ultimately for Ofcom to decide whether or not there’s really a case to answer and perhaps their investigation will finally bring some clarity, which is arguable purpose enough for conducting it.

In any case if Ofcom does agree that there’s enough evidence to pursue BT more vigorously, which is likely to be decided before the end of 2013, then there’s every chance that a wider investigation could drag on for years. It’s difficult to know whether this would have any tangible impact on BT’s commercial plans or the government’s related Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) ambitions (so far BT has won all of the BDUK contracts).

The union itself claims to work with BT “at every level, from local reps talking over issues in one building to negotiating teams working at the top level of the company“. Most recently a Prospect rep helped BT to identify and resolve a mistake it made in calculating pension contributions for 1,500 female staff, which resulted in the operator “underpaying the employer contribution to the women’s pension funds while they were on maternity leave” (here).

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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