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Price Concerns Hamper BT Efforts to Open its Cable Ducts and Poles for Rival ISPs

Posted: 28th Mar, 2011 By: MarkJ
ofcom fibre optic broadband uk cable duct sharingbt openreach uk fttc broadbandBTOpenreach, which has the responsibility of ensuring that all rival UK ISPs are given equality of access to the local BT network, has admitted that "only one" customer has so far signed up to the terms and conditions of its cable duct and telegraph pole sharing trial.

The duct and pole sharing trial (i.e. PIA - Physical Infrastructure Access) has been designed to make it easier for rival providers to deploy new fibre optic based superfast broadband services around the country, especially in rural areas. However BT has now confirmed that some providers are still unhappy with its initial draft Reference Offer pricing, which was issued in Mid-January 2011 (here).

A BTOpenreach Spokesperson commented:

"We are continuing to work closely with our customers in the Trialist Working Group. All but one of these customers has now signed up to the trial Terms of Reference, but only one has so far signed the Terms & Conditions which are a pre-requisite to participation in the trial.

We know that some customers have expressed concern about the elements of the Draft Reference Offer pricing, specifically of poles and lead-ins."

BT, which hopes to 'soft launch' the new product this summer, has stressed that the trial is vital for establishing final pricing and it "will be unable to do this" if the process cannot start.

Quite how many tears would be shed at BT HQ over a delay is unclear but we suspect it wouldn't be many. However, despite the setback, BT still claims to be "very keen to get the trial underway".

It's understood that the initial scope was for a maximum of three trialists, although BT has since expanded this (at request) to all customers whom would be prepared to participate in all aspects of the process.

A BTOpenreach Spokesperson added:

"We feel this is the best way we can achieve our objective of extending the reach of super-fast broadband by sharing our infrastructure fairly. We maintain our position that the market would benefit from all infrastructure providers taking our lead and opening up their infrastructure for others to use."

Not that price is the only issue. BT warned in January 2011 that it would seek for any ISP taking its PIA product to also open-up their own ducts and poles to rival operators (albeit not during the trial). This is not part of Ofcom's requirement and won't be officially consulted upon until after the new EU Communications Framework has been implemented in the UK by May 2011.
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