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By: MarkJ - 2 August, 2010 (3:51 AM)
rutland telecom isp uk fttc walesUK ISP Rutland Telecom (RT) claims that BT Openreach, which is responsible for ensuring that all rival operators have equality of access to BT's local network, has "caved in" and finally agreed to supply crucial data linking premises (homes/businesses) to BT's street cabinets. The information, which BT has in the past allegedly "refused" to supply, should make it easier for small providers to bring "super-fast" broadband internet services to rural communities.

The data itself concerns Primary Connection Point (PCP) Sub Loop Unbundling (SLU) information, which makes it easier for Rutland Telecom to know where its kit needs to be placed when deploying their own brand of up to 40Mbps Fibre-to-the-Cabinet ( FTTC ) broadband services. The U-turn apparently came during a meeting held in London last week between RT, BT Openreach, Ofcom, the OTA and some other operators.

David Lewis, MD of Rutland Telecom, said to ISPreview.co.uk:

"Our crusades against BT Openreach have always been in the interests of the industry and end users. We never ever give up and are pleased to have finally been vindicated in our mission to put companies like us in a position whereby they can take business off BT retail which helps us justify investing in Next Generation Access for a community.

We want to increase speeds and lower prices for these businesses. These businesses are also crucial in helping communities gather sufficient interest to satisfy companies like Rutland Telecom that it will be viable to invest in doing Fibre to the Cabinet. One major business broadband contract can make all the difference to choosing whether to bring fast broadband to a community. But without the data, in many cases we have not been able to tell which cabinet a particular business is on, and so we have not been able to quote many of the communities who have approached us.

Only now will we be able to tell which premises is linked to which street cabinet and then we can target those cabinets which have businesses on them which are suffering poor speeds and who are paying high prices to BT. The whole community will benefit if we can adopt this approach. The significance of the release of this data should not be underestimated.

BT Openreach should be a facilitator of all this but unfortunately that is not our experience. It took 8 months for Rutland Telecom to fight for the basic post code data which we secured for the benefit of industry in 2009. They tell us it will take at least 3 months to extract this latest data from their database (23 million lines of CSV format files) so in total it will have taken us 2 years to get to the position we wanted to be in. They have agreed to supply smaller areas [region by region] on request and so we have already put our first request in."

Some ISPs believe that BT Openreach has deliberately delayed providing the data in order to protect BT itself, which is something that Openreach has strongly denied. In fact Openreach has been supplying data on a manual, case by case basis, which until recently was enough to satisfy at least Ofcom.

It's understood that Rutland Telecom were instead seeking a more automated system, which BT Openreach claims would not be economically viable due to the small number of SLU customers who had requested it. Openreach admits that this could change in the future if there is enough demand.

A BT Openreach Spokeswoman told ISPreview.co.uk:

"Openreach takes its customer needs very seriously and, where possible, looks for solutions to deliver what their customers require. On this occasion, we have made sure that Rutland's immediate need were satisfied on a case-by-case basis whilst we continued to look for a solution that better suited the customer's specification.

This has now been achieved, as agreed at the Sub-Loop Unbundling Industry Requirements Workshop yesterday. The solution remains manual and "system intensive". The provision of the data will help Openreach customers in their decision making in a more user-friendly format and support their ordering products from the Openreach portfolio, making it a "win-win" for all sides."

The news is certainly positive, especially since BT currently only has a limited scope for tackling the "Final Third" of homes and businesses that reside too far away from its core UK network. We also anticipate that there will be more demand for PCP SLU data, especially when the government begins distributing its Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband funding.
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